InDepth InterView: Linzi Hateley Talks New 54 Below Show, Plus CARRIE Memories, LES MISERABLES, LONDON ROAD Movie & More
Today we are talking to an accomplished and charismatic West End and Broadway star who originally made a name for herself on both shores as the title character in the infamous page-to-stage adaptation of Stephen King's CARRIE who has since gone on to achieve acclaim for numerous starring roles in the UK ranging from LES MISERABLES to JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT to CHICAGO as well as the original West End casts of THE SECRET GARDEN, MARY POPPINS, and, most recently, LONDON ROAD - Linzi Hateley. Shedding some light on her unforgettable West End and Broadway debut as well as bringing us all the way up to the present day commenting on her hotly anticipated return to New York later this month with her new cabaret show at 54 Below, titled TRUE COLORS: LIFE SINCE CARRIE, Hateley grants a rare all access pass to her career onstage and onscreen. Besides all about TRUE COLORS: LIFE SINCE CARRIE and CARRIE itself, Hateley also recounts her experiences participating in the original cast of a number of notable West End and UK productions, including THE SECRET GARDEN, MARY POPPINS and more, as well as stepping into long-running hits like LES MISERABLES and CHICAGO. Also, Hateley shares first news of the forthcoming feature film adaptation of UK hit LONDON ROAD and how her stage role will be adapted to the big screen iteration. On the topic of screen roles, Hateley also offers the 411 on her participation in the smash hit cinematic version of international stage hit LES MISERABLES and voices her thoughts on the movie musical revolution in general as well as looks back at her participation in A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MUSICAL onscreen. Besides all of that, Hateley reflects on her work in the Stephen Sondheim revue MOVING ON and offers opinions on some of her most cherished studio recordings, as well. All of that, a look ahead to starring in Cameron Mackintosh's upcoming UK tour of BARNUM, reminiscence of participating in the National Theatre's recent 50th anniversary celebration and much more in this wide-ranging chat with an astonishingly versatile and always engaging West End and Broadway leading lady.
More information on Linzi Hateley's SINCE CARRIE at 54 Below is available at the official site here.
A Song Of Endless Wonder
PC: I've spoken to both Betty Buckley and Barbara Cook in this column about CARRIE: THE MUSICAL, so I am privileged to now be talking to you about it - certainly, to quote the slogan, "there's never been a musical like her," before or since.
LH: [Laughs.] I'm sure everybody's view on it is quite different! Obviously, considering I was so young, my sort of memory of it is probably slightly covered by naiveté - and there's just the whole experience of it being quite sort of bizarre for your first job, really.
PC: To say the least.
LH: The best thing that came out of it was the fact that I got to work with the likes of Barbara Cook and Betty Buckley, though - I think that I learned more on my first job working with them than I have on everything else since.
PC: You were so young at the time.
LH: I was 17 - 17. The funny thing is that I have a daughter now who is two years younger than when I did CARRIE and I look at her and I sort of think, "My God, in a couple of years time she will be the age that I was when I was in New York sort of dealing with a completely bizarre and outstanding experience." It's quite a young and tender age, really.
PC: Did your inexperience make you more or less willing to go along with some of the tricky technical aspects of the show? That gigantic white staircase almost decapitated Barbara Cook, after all.
LH: Well, I think that when you are younger things like that really don't bother you as much! If they asked me now to stand on the stage with a huge staircase coming down over my head, I probably would go, "Excuse me? Is this a very good idea?" But, at 17 and not knowing any different, I sort of just remember thinking, "Oh, I guess this is what happens." [Laughs.] So, no, I didn't make any fuss - I just sort of went on with it. To be honest, I think I was probably more terrified at times of Betty than anything else - she was so committed to her role and just so terrifying! I remember thinking, "We are just pretending, aren't we?"
PC: In "And Eve Was Weak" you get thrown into that basement!
LH: [Laughs.] I remember joking with her at the time and us both saying, "It was probably a blessing in disguise that we came off that quick!" One of us might not have survived otherwise! [Laughs.]
PC: Did you ever actually have a fully-rigged bucket of blood at the prom like in the novel and film?
LH: No, it was always somebody running onstage and dumping the blood on my head - we always did it that way. By the time we got to New York, it became a lot more blood, though. Of course, sound wasn't as developed as it is these days, so every time they dumped the bucket of blood on me, it would affect the microphone. In "The Destruction" I always sounded distorted because I was covered in this gloopy blood. Everywhere they tried to put the microphone always ended up having this same problem. I'm sure nowadays they would have a better solution.
PC: Do you pride yourself on being on the cover of NOT SINCE CARRIE by Ken Mandelbaum? Do you have any memories of that photo shoot?
LH: I do! I do. I remember for that whole photo shoot they had me looking sort of scary and doing all these different things all day, and, then, at some point near the end of the day, somebody made me laugh and they got that photo - and now it's on the cover of that book! Of course, I wish the sort of iconic image from the show was slightly more serious, but obviously it works very well for the nature of that book.
PC: CARRIE was co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and you just starred in LONDON ROAD at the National Theatre. Have you conquered all the great British theatrical institutions now?
LH: Yeah! Yeah! [Laughs.] I've worked my way through it, I suppose - after 26 years! But, with an experience like CARRIE early on in your career, I think you either kind of say, "I am going to give up because this isn't the life for me," or you say, "OK, I've learned from that and I'll take it onboard and then just see what happens next." And, fortunately for me, it seems that things have turned out pretty good on the whole.
PC: And how!
LH: I mean, it's been quite a long career, yeah - and I think that that in itself is success. But, to answer your question, Pat: yes, it's been an interesting journey from the RSC to now.
PC: Many fans around the world no doubt know you from that exceptional production and subsequent definitive recording of JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT that you did soon thereafter.
LH: Yes, I think you may be right about that. That was actually a wonderful time for me because it was one of those shows where, even though it was an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, they thought that it probably would only do a short stint. And, so, we were at the London Palladium - which, in our country, is no doubt the finest theater to work in - and it was this massive, massive hit. So, we went from doing a six-month contract to nearly two years. It was a wonderful, wonderful production to be a part of.
PC: CARRIE was technically not your West End debut, correct?
LH: Well, I did ANNIE as a kid - but, it was before I properly started out as grown-up, as it were. When I did CARRIE, Cameron Mackintosh saw me - thank God - and he offered me Eponine in LES MISERABLES right after that. So, then, after CARRIE on Broadway, I came back to London and did that - which was a great time to do LES MIZ because it was only in its second year. It was just amazing. Plus, for me, it was really my first West End job - I was 18 and I was actually starting to earn some money, which is something I hadn't done before, so it was a really good experience.
PC: You recently revisited the world of LES MISERABLES by appearing in the film version. Was that enjoyable for you?
LH: Well, to be honest, the film experience is obviously something totally different to anything you would experience onstage. I only did a tiny bit in the movie - I think I just had a couple of days on set. So, I really didn't feel like I had a lot of time to really get into it or anything. But, I actually just went back into the West End production of LES MISERABLES last year and did Madame Thenardier, which was just completely bonkers! [Laughs.]
PC: I bet! Did you have a blast?
LH: I did! It was so fun to kind of go back all these years later - I think it had been 24 years or something - and do this show that you did when you were just this little 18-year-old. It still amazes me that, all these years later, the audiences still absolutely adore it. It is one of those shows that never dies, really.
PC: Madame Thenardier is such a scene-stealing role - some might even say show-stealing, actually, despite the limited stage time.
LH: Yeah - it was certainly much different than anything else I had ever done. Obviously, I'd never say that I was ever necessarily the perfect casting for Madame Thenardier or anything, but I really just fancied doing something very different like that. I've been very lucky over the last couple of years that I've been able to really vary the roles that I play, so when the opportunity came up to do it I just thought, "What the hell?! It's going to be something completely different and nobody will ever expect me to do it." Unfortunately, I only did it for about four months - about half my contract - because I was sort of whisked off to the National to do LONDON ROAD. It was a short contract, but it was a lot of fun.
PC: How have you seen audiences change since the mid-1980s, particularly insofar as texting and general behavior?
LH: Well, to be honest, it was noisy back in '87 - at least on Broadway! [Laughs.] I always remember feeling at first like, "Oh, my God! Is this what audiences are really like?!"
PC: In that regard, CARRIE was generally the exception, though, not the rule!
LH: Yeah, it was. In America, I think that with CARRIE you either loved it or you hated it, so the audience response was so mixed and very, very vocal. I remember I was quite shocked! Then, when I came back to the West End, suddenly I felt like, "Oh, the audiences are quite quiet here!" [Laughs.]
PC: Have you gone back and watched the complete Stratford video of CARRIE that is on YouTube or any of the others?
LH: Yes, I have seen it... but not for very long. I looked so bloody awful on it, to be quite honest! [Laughs.] I hope that I have improved with age.
PC: The score fit your glorious voice so expertly. Did you ever get to hear anyone else sing the songs?
LH: No, I didn't. I recently heard the recording of the revival that was sent to me through the writers of CARRIE and I enjoyed it, though. I could see that there were lots of improvements. For me, it's so close and so raw that I don't think that I can be that comfortable with looking at it fairly - that's not true with other shows I have done; I am not precious about them. But, there is something about CARRIE and how it was sort of cruelly taken away so quickly and I was so young when I did it that I think it's left me with a scar. That's the best way I can put it. It's a funny one - I feel sort of quite strange about it, honestly.
PC: While you and Barbara Cook displayed palpable chemistry, your rapport with Betty Buckley was off the charts. Would you agree?
LH: Oh, well, listen: Betty is just phenomenal. There is absolutely no getting away from it. So, I think I was just sort of like a sponge - I just went with her and instinctively sort of reacted to her and what she was doing the way that I thought she would want me to. It created this kind of dynamic duo. It's funny, because I've seen Betty since and we've kept in touch - she was just here in London last year - and whenever we meet there is always a very special bond there because of that experience. It made us very close.
PC: It was so legendary when you two reunited at Carnegie Hall and sang the CARRIE songs again.
LH: Oh, yes! I got thrown under a piano! [Laughs.]
PC: No way!
LH: Yes! That's how it was staged - or, at least how we did it! Honestly, though, it was quite cathartic getting to do that concert with her - doing CARRIE stuff again in New York and trying to put a bit of closure on it. I think that when you have worked so hard on something and then it is taken off so quickly, you don't really have time to recover from it properly, so I think that the chance to go back and do something like that with Betty again was such a lovely thing to do and I think that it really just put a bit of closure on the whole CARRIE experience for us.
PC: Hopefully someday you two will record your mother-daughter scenes for posterity - those four songs are basically a mini-opera in and of themselves, anyway.
LH: Yes, I hope so, too. I remember when Betty came over to London to do SUNSET BOULEVARD, I was in something in the West End at the time, too - I can't remember what it was - and I remember thinking, "Here we both are! I just wish somebody would do a massive, amazing concert version of this and get it recorded!" Because, at least then, it would be there for the fans who loved what we did. But, it never happened, unfortunately.
PC: Are you excited about revisiting so many of these scores that we are discussing now that you are doing your cabaret show? Do you enjoy doing one-off concert events and whatnot in general?
LH: Well, it suddenly seems like that's the thing to do - cabaret is becoming quite popular in the West End right now and I think that's drifting over from your way. So, yes, I think that there are quite a few people like me who have done a lot of roles in musicals and if there aren't the parts around at the time then it is really useful to have another outlet - and cabaret seems to be a really popular and useful route. For me, I was a little nervous about doing my first show because I didn't want it to seem self-indulgent and all of that. I think that there is a skill in doing cabaret and I wasn't sure if I had that skill to pull it off, but I did one at the end of last year here and my agent got a director involved who devised it for me and made it into a celebration of all the things that I've done over the years. I'm still sort of quite new to it, but I felt like if I did it in London that it would be really nice to do it in New York - and, hopefully some of the old CARRIE fans will come out of the woodwork and come see it.
PC: Who did you work with in shaping the show?
LH: I worked with an American director named Joseph C. Walsh. He was the director and basically already knew my work, so he went through all of the shows that I have done and all of the recordings and sort of devised an evening for me - with a loose kind of story of my life until now, in musicals.
PC: Your solo albums are magnificent, as well - you tackle Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and Bette Midler on those, to name but a few. Do you consider them inspirations to you?
LH: Well, I don't have one particular person I look up, but I suppose you would say that I am inspired by a number of female performers that I feel can vocally move me. I think that it is just such a wonderful gift to have that - you know, there are so many wonderful female vocalists out there that you can't help but be inspired by them and admire them.
PC: Do you anticipate recording this 54 Below show at some point?
LH: Well, we did a live recording of my TRUE COLORS gig in London and we are planning to record this as well to see how it comes out. You know, sometimes you can get something in a live recording that you never can in a studio - in a studio, sometimes it can really lose the spontaneity of something that it only has when you do it live. So, yes, we are hoping to record the 54 Below show and see what we get from that and hopefully put it out as an album at some point.
PC: Have you ever been to 54 Below before?
LH: I haven't, actually, but a good mate of mine is Frances Ruffelle and she said nothing but wonderful things about it after having done her show there a couple of times. She said, "You really should do this there - it's a lovely venue." So, I'm nervous, but I'm looking forward to it.
PC: I am a huge fan of A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MUSICAL which you did the film adaptation of, so I was curious if you will perhaps be doing any Alan Menken in your TRUE COLORS: LIFE SINCE CARRIE show?
LH: A CHRISTMAS CAROL with Kelsey Grammer - oh, yes! I'm Mrs. Cratchit in that. I love "A Place Called Home" - that's so gorgeous. I've never done any of those, but now that you suggest it, I probably should!
PC: Did you enjoy filming that?
LH: Oh, yes! I actually remember we filmed it in Budapest and it was baking hot, but we had all this pretend snow and winter coats and everything while we were sweating buckets! But, it was lovely - it was like the cream of the West End and Broadway getting together for a big party! It was fantastic.
PC: Have you seen the finished film?
LH: Yes, I have. I was actually quite amazed - it was very nicely done and I am so glad that I was a part of it. The funny thing is, when you do something like that you are never sure if it will actually be seen or anything, and, now, every year it is shown everywhere at Christmas. So, every year now, I get texts and Tweets and all kinds of messages around that time of year saying, you know, "Oh, I just saw your Mrs. Cratchit again!" [Laughs.]
PC: I love your recording of "I Don't Remember Christmas". Have you ever considered doing a full-out Christmas album or show?
LH: I haven't yet, but maybe I should! That could be a lot of fun.
PC: I also adore your recording of the revue MOVING ON and your performance of my personal favorite Sondheim song, "Water Under The Bridge". Could you tell me about recording that?
LH: That's so interesting that you bring up that song because it's one that so few people really know about unless you are a sort of massive Sondheim fan. We were delighted to do that, though - I remember when we were doing MOVING ON, we all thought, "Wow! This is a really, really brilliant number."
PC: Did Sondheim come to see the show himself?
LH: Yes, he did. He actually came and worked with us at rehearsals, too, and we chatted a bit. It was priceless, really - having a day's rehearsal with Stephen Sondheim. You can't buy that! [Laughs.]
PC: Priceless, indeed.
LH: That's a great number, though - "Water Under The Bridge". Great number. It should be done a lot more. But, then again, maybe it's nice that it's one of those hidden gems that not a lot of people know about, you know?
PC: Sondheim in a pop vein, no less!
LH: Yeah! It's a very sexy sort of song, isn't it? I mean, I'm a massive Sondheim fan, so I notice how it does have a very different feel to it than a lot of his other material.
PC: It's not too far removed from "Sooner Or Later", which you also sing so fabulously!
LH: Aww, that's so sweet of you to say.
PC: Will that be something we can look forward to in your 54 Below show?
LH: It might be! It might be... in one capacity or another! [Laughs.]
PC: It seems a pre-requisite that all musical theatre performers must do at least one Sondheim song in their cabaret show, after all.
LH: It is! I think you're right. It's required at this point. I think it would be wrong for me not to! Honestly, I am just looking for it to be a warm and honest evening and share a bit of myself with New York - it's been a while.
PC: Do you ever do "Being Alive"? That could be sensational.
LH: No, I haven't done that one yet, though I agree it's a glorious song. "Not A Day Goes By" would be another good one, I think. Actually, speaking of Sondheim songs, I headlined this concert called SONDHEIM WOMEN last year and I ended up doing "Send In The Clowns" at that, which was the first time I had done it.
PC: Were you nervous?
LH: To be honest, I was! You know, you sort of think at first, "Oh, it's done to death!" But, then, when you start to do it, you just realize what a wonderful number it is. I actually remember seeing a documentary in England about Judi Dench when she did A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and she does the most wonderful rendition of "Send In The Clowns" in that where she hardly sings a note but it is just breathtaking.
PC: And she just recreated it onstage at the National Theatre 50 gala.
LH: I know! I know! I was there! [Laughs.]
PC: With LONDON ROAD, yes?
LH: Yes, with LONDON ROAD. Right now, as a matter of fact, we are getting ready to do the film version of that. It was a massive, massive success in London, so we are making a film version of it now. Before that, though, they asked us to be a part of the National Theatre 50th anniversary.
PC: Did you have a ball?
LH: I did! They actually roped us into doing all sorts of things! I had this one little bit where I was in PRAVDA with Ralph Fiennes - I was like, "Oh, my God!" [Screams. Laughs.] So, I ended up doing all different kinds of little bits and bobs in it. It was so surreal - everywhere you looked there was another sort of amazing person. You know, I was sitting eating lunch with Dame Judi Dench! It was brilliant - just brilliant.
PC: Was working with Nicholas Hytner a thrill, as well?
LH: Oh, yes. He is just the most lovely, lovely man. The whole thing was so amazing - and, broadcast live around the world. You might think that he might have been a little bit nervous, but he was as calm as anything. He seemed to just totally love the whole experience and just made everybody on that stage very, very relaxed and confidant. It was one of the highlights of my last year - it was an honor to be a part of it.
PC: What can you tell me about your role in the film version of LONDON ROAD?
LH: Well, in the stage version of LONDON ROAD we play a lot of different characters, but for the film we are only allowed one character, so they are bringing in other actors for the other parts. In the film, I am playing Helen, who is one of the residents on London Road. It's a great part and I am thrilled to bits to be a part of it. It's thrilling.
PC: Is it going to incorporate musical storytelling in the same manner that the stage show did?
LH: It will. I don't know if you can really call it a full-out musical, but it's just its own unique something or other. It's very, very tricky - even compared to Sondheim. Very conversational - sort of like speaking to music or something. I felt like I had to learn a new skill to do it, honestly.
PC: Have you ever considered doing a one-woman musical ala TELL ME ON A SUNDAY?
LH: Well, I've never done TELL ME ON A SUNDAY, even though it would be nice to do, but I did do something called LOVE SONGS, which was written by Charles Hart. That was a one-woman show I did in London a few years ago. I really, really enjoyed it, but it was a limited run and we didn't expect it would run and run anyway. Charles Hart was wonderful and it was beautiful, beautiful music and I enjoyed doing it very much.
PC: Are you a particular fan of any up-and-comers?
LH: Well, in speaking of Charles Hart, who wrote the lyrics for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, when I was in LES MIZ as Madame T, one of the people they brought over to do it at the time was Sierra Boggess, who of course did LOVE NEVER DIES and PHANTOM at the Royal Albert Hall. She is just the most fabulous, gorgeous, completely bonkers person I have ever met in my life! She just lights up the stage. She is a very, very special person and performer, I think. She's a great girl. I am a big fan.
PC: How about a CARRIE concert with you two?! Would you ever actually consider playing Margaret?
LH: [Sighs. Laughs.] Well, since you asked, I'll tell you that a few people have mentioned this idea to me recently. I guess I would never say never, but it would be strange ground to go over, I think. I don't know - I never say never. It would be quite funny if I ended up playing the mother now, I guess. Would it be a good idea, though, or would it be some sort of curse? I'm not sure. The most frightening thing is that I am actually older now than Betty was when she played my mother! [Laughs.]
PC: Can you give us any specific hints about what we can expect in your 54 Below show later this month?
LH: Well, this cabaret show was basically sort of an experiment to see if I could do cabaret, so we thought the best way for me to introduce myself to that world would be by doing stuff that people know me for doing. So, it is very much a journey of my musical theatre career and most of the material is stuff that I have done along the way...
PC: Some THE SECRET GARDEN material, I hope? "Hold On"?
LH: Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah. Gorgeous music - absolutely stunning. And, that was my first show back after having my daughter, too, so it is a strong memory that I have - going back to work, but now as a mom. I remember at the time feeling like, "Oh, this is different!"
PC: They rewrote quite a bit of THE SECRET GARDEN for your production in the UK, did they not?
LH: They did. They made quite a few changes for the London cast. I think they felt it was appropriate to make some changes for London, though I think they were happy with what they had already. It was certainly a different version, though.
PC: Having participated in the original cast of MARY POPPINS, I was curious if the Sherman Brothers were allowed to attend rehearsals given the various legal issues involved precluding that?
LH: They were there, but I don't think they were in rehearsals. I think they were sort of kept away until it was all put into place and then they were allowed to come in and see it and share what they thought.
PC: SAVING MR. BANKS has brought all their history with P.L. Travers to the forefront again recently, of course, so I was curious.
LH: Yeah, I know. I remember that they were around, but there weren't there for the very first initial rehearsal process. They came in later, closer to when the show opened.
PC: Since you are known for your voice, I was curious how you became involved with such a dance-heavy show such as CHICAGO?
LH: Well, I always sort of danced - and I trained to dance - but I never looked like a dancer. When I was a teenager, I was the chubby kid who kind of just had a really good voice, so CARRIE was perfect for me. But, then, I grew up and the chubby part of me disappeared. And, for me, the most fun part of my career is challenging myself to do as many different types of roles as I can. So, to go from Mrs. Banks in MARY POPPINS to Roxie Hart in CHICAGO was so fantastic. It fills me with excitement that I can pull off both those sorts of things. I was thrilled to get CHICAGO. Of course, Ruthie Henshall is a friend of mine - she did Velma and I did Roxie; we've known each other for years. I am a big admirer of her work. So, I just went in for it. I had already done ON YOUR TOES with Adam Cooper - a phenomenal dancer - and I got really thin and fit doing that, so it felt like, at the time, "If I am going to go in for CHICAGO, now is the time to do it. This is a good time to do it." So, I went in and I got the job.
PC: What was the experience like for you?
LH: I have to say, it was probably one of the most exhilarating things to do - it's very strange playing something so far removed from who you are as a person. I felt liberated by the whole thing, really - I loved going up onstage every night as Roxie Hart and then waking up in the morning and doing the school run, you know? It was like, "If anybody here saw what I was doing onstage last night they wouldn't believe it!" [Laughs.] I loved it.
PC: CHICAGO is one of the movie musicals to kick off the modern revolution we are currently experiencing. Thoughts on the trend?
LH: I think it's a good thing. I mean, it's nice that musicals are now being so celebrated. I think in America, they sort of always have, but in England, theatre is looked upon wonderfully, but sometimes musicals aren't always looked upon in the best light, so I think that right now musicals are very much of the moment and that's a good thing. Of course, there will be times when people will be playing parts in film musicals and you will think, "Oh, God, I know someone who would be so much better for that part," but you understand the reasons why they are doing it. They need to have the big names in there to draw in the audiences. Generally, though, I think it's a good thing, though - a very good thing.
PC: What about live singing, such as that in LES MISERABLES?
LH: With the live singing thing in LES MIZ, I think that on the whole it really did help - that is was live. It felt more spontaneous. We are doing LONDON ROAD in the exact same way - there is some ensemble stuff that is being pre-recorded, but all of the lead singing is being recorded live. It just breathes so much more and has a much more natural sound when you listen to it. Pre-recorded singing just never sounds as fresh as it does in something like the LES MIZ film.
PC: Lastly, tell me about reteaming with Cameron Mackintosh to do the upcoming BARNUM UK tour.
LH: I'm thrilled to be chosen to play Chairy in the first major UK tour! It's a wonderful part. Rehearsals start in August. Honestly, it's always nice to be chosen by Sir Cameron Mackintosh... so finally I'm joining the circus!
PC: You're better than ever, Linzi - no small feat. Thank you so much for this today.
LH: Oh, thank you, too, Pat! This was such a pleasure and you were a joy to talk to today. Bye bye.