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Interview with Laura Pitt-Pulford

7 August 2015 | Becca Johnson

Laura Pitt-Pulford is a seasoned musical performer, having played roles in shows such The Sound of Music, The Light Princess and Mack and Mabel. London Calling caught up with her to talk about her new role in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre summer musical.

London Calling: Hi Laura! You’re starring as Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Open Air Theatre this summer. How is it performing in such a unique venue?

Laura Pitt-Pulford: Oh it’s incredible. I was just saying the other night; I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to beat it. I don’t ever want to work indoors again! It’s amazing to be able to see the crowd and the sky. I’m not used to being able to see all the audiences’ faces, as obviously, in a theatre it goes dark and you don’t see anything. I thought it might throw me a little, but it’s so joyous being able to see how much they’re enjoying it!

LC: British Summer weather does tend to be unreliable. What happens in the event of bad weather?

LPP: If it’s horrendous and it has been all day then we do obviously get rained off. But we don’t make that call until right at the top of the show. So we still come in and we get ready, as if we’re about to do a show, and take it from there. Notoriously, British weather can be very unpredictable and one minute it’s raining and the next it’s sunshine. We’ve had a couple of shows when we’ve had a slight downpour but it’s actually fine, and occasionally quite beautiful! We had this amazing moment the other day where it was quite overcast for the scene where they get married. Then the sun just came booming out as soon as the wedding started, it was like it was meant to be!

LC: Have you seen anything previously at the Open Air Theatre?

LPP: I’ve been to so many things here actually. I always come to the summer musical and I saw Peter Pan and The Seagull this season as well. Every time I come and see a show here I’ve always thought, “Oh god I’d love to work there” so I feel very lucky to be spending the summer here.

LC: The choreography from the original 1954 film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is famously impressive, what was it like learning the dances for this version?

LPP: It was wonderful, it was tough, but it was wonderful. Alistair David, our choreographer, just breathed fresh air into this piece and completely made it his own. The film is always a hard act to follow and he’s put his own stamp on it. It’s been challenging, really challenging. He’s really pushed everybody and even now we’re still getting notes and perfecting, which is good for us all.

LC: The original film was one of many Hollywood musicals released in the 1950’s ‘golden era’. Are there any other classic films from that period you’d love to be in an adaptation of?

LPP: There are so many, I love all the films from then. Calamity Jane, another Western classic. Singing in the Rain, which is one of my favourite film musicals ever. What really makes Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is everyone used to watch it. Everyone I speak to says, “Oh I used to watch that when I was a kid” or “I love that film” and they always remember the barn dance. So, it’s lovely for families to come and witness something they’re so familiar with on stage in a big production.

LC: Last year you were in critically acclaimed new musical The Light Princess at the National Theatre. How does performing a new musical compare to performing in a classic?

LPP: Well, with a new musical there are always so many changes, in rehearsals you’re always learning new material. You’re being told, “Right, that’s gone. You’ve got something new now, you need to learn this.” Whereas, with a musical that’s been done many times it‘s already tried and tested. But there is something exciting about the challenge of doing a show that’s been done quite a lot, which Seven Brides has, it’s making it your own and putting your stamp on it. That’s the challenge for doing a production like this.

LC: When an audience has a certain set of expectations?

LPP: Absolutely, you’ve got to breath new life into it somehow and I think Rachel Kavanaugh has, I really trust she has. It certainly feels that way.

LC: Which would you say you prefer doing?

LPP: That’s such a hard question.  There’s nothing better than originating a role, of course, and being the first person to play something. It’s nice to work very closely with the writers and occasionally have a very strong input into your character and have it be built around you. But there is also something wonderful about doing a piece from a film that I love, and I’m now able to play a part in.

LC: What have you seen recently that you would really recommend?

LPP: My goodness, I haven’t had a life! Let me think... I saw Beautiful, I thought that was wonderful and Katie Brayben the lead was just exquisite. I also saw the new musical The House of Mirrors and Hearts at the Arcola recently; that was great. I’m a huge supporter of new writing, and it was lovely to see something like that be given the chance to be put on, and in place like the Arcola, which is a wonderful venue.

LC: You’ve played a number of different roles in a variety of shows including Maria in the Sound of Music. What would say you dream role is?

LPP: I’m a huge Sondheim fan, as is the rest of the world, so I would love to play Dot in Sunday in the Park with George. So maybe one day, if someone would like to put that on!

LC: I suppose it’s not done very often...

LPP: It’s not, no. Apart from the version with the wonderful Jenna Russell, who did an amazing job on it. It’s such a wonderful show. Of course, when I’m older I have so many roles that I want to play!

LC: So you’ve got them lined up?

LPP: I do! I just pray that they’ll come around at the right time.

LC: And a tough last question to finish with! What would you say your favourite musical of all time is?

LPP: It’s has to be Follies. Follies was my first ever professional show at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton. It was actually my favourite show before I even did it, so to have it as my first job was just incredible. It’s a really wonderful and incredibly moving show.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 29th August 2015. See the website for more information and to book tickets.

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