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‘Vanities’ the musical - An interview with singer and actress Lauren Samuels

24 September 2016 | Stephanie Brandhuber

Lauren Samuels rose to fame in 2010 when she became a finalist on BBC1’s Over The Rainbow, where Andrew Lloyd Webber oversaw the search for a new Dorothy to star in his revival of The Wizard of Oz. Since then, Lauren has taken the theatre world by storm, starring in Bend it Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre) and The Buskers Opera (Park Theatre), among others. Her most recent credit is playing Mary in Vanities, an American musical about the lives and friendship of thee Texas cheerleaders who remain close over the course of the next thirty years. We catch up with Lauren to talk about Vanities and her experience of playing an all-American girl.

London Calling: You play a character called Mary in Vanities. Could you tell me a little bit about her?
 
Lauren Samuels: Mary is certainly the most sexually liberated of the three girls and certainly doesn’t mind sharing her thoughts on men. She likes to shock I think. She’s the one out of the three girls who says, you know what, I’m not going to stay in Dallas, I’m going to go off to Europe and meet loads of men and in the end she ends up opening an erotic gallery. So you know, for the time that the play’s set, she’s certainly the most cheeky.
 
LC: And do you identify with her in any kind of way?
 
LS: [Laughs] Well, I’m not about to open up an erotic gallery! But I grew up with a mum who was a nurse so we’ve always been, as a family, very open to talk about anything, which I suppose is very similar to Mary. And I don’t shy away from anything really.
 
LC: What first attracted you to the role?
 
LS: Before I even read the script or heard the music, I loved the idea of working at Trafalgar Studios; I’ve always wanted to work in that space. I’ve seen some great work there and I thought yeah, I really like that space, so that drew my attention to it. And then, having read the script and realising that it would be about three women, I thought, this is going to be really good with three strong, empowering lead women roles. I also liked the idea that we would go from the 60s right through to the 90s and have this huge journey as actors to be able to play all of these different ages and different times in the women’s lives.
 
LC: You mentioned that you were particularly attracted to performing at Trafalgar Studios. What makes it such a great venue in your opinion?
 
LS: I just think it puts on really great work. It’s right there in the centre of town and I’d recently seen The Spoils there and I was like, I really want to work in this theatre, it seems really cool.
 
LC: What’s the chemistry been like between you and your co-stars Ashleigh Gray and Lizzie Connolly?
 
LS: It’s been amazing! We’ve been so lucky to all get on so well. With only having two weeks of rehearsal it was very stressful, so luckily we all got on really well. They’re both hilarious women so we all just have a laugh together, and we’ve all been very supportive of each other.
 
LC: Vanities is set in Texas. Did you struggle with the Texan accent?
 
LS: It’s funny because I’d never actually tried to do a Southern American accent before, and I found that I wasn’t that hopeless at it which was good. We were all going a little bit too far with the accent to start with. We sounded like these sort of ridiculous, panto Texan cartoon characters so we had a dialect coach who came in and pointed us in the right direction. But actually, I love doing the accent; it’s now one of my favourites.
 
LC: Vanities was first performed in 1976. Do you think the themes and the tone are still relevant today?
 
LS: Absolutely! The main theme of the show is the friendship between the three women and I think we all have those friends that you grow up with from a young age but then don’t necessarily have anything in common with other than your history as time progresses. So I think that’s incredibly relevant now, same as it was then.
 
LC: The musical is very “all-American”, has that translated well to a British audience?
 
LS: I think the British audience finds it funnier almost because of all the Americanisms that we don’t experience here. I think it’s very appealing to a British crowd.
 
LC: Vanities is drawing to a close soon, what’s been one of your best memories doing this production?
 
LS: Oh god, so many! What’s been great about it is that the three of us have been able to have journeys with these characters. It’s a shame it’s ending soon because now we’re like, oh I finally know who Mary is, I finally know who Cathy and Joanne are. We have such a good time on stage together that when we press the go button at the start of the show it’s two hours and then we’re like, oh it’s finished! So it’s like this wonderful rollercoaster that we all go on together. I’ll miss the collaboration with the three of us, we just have such fun together.
 
Vanities is playing until October 1st at Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY. Tickets can be booked online.
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