BWW Interviews: Ashleigh Gray About FROM PAGE TO STAGE
Hi Ashleigh! Tell us a bit about the musicals you're showcasing.
The three musicals being presented are Beowulf in Soho, by Nicola Jane Buttigieg; Dancing Shadows, book by Ariel Dorfman, music and lyrics by Eric Woolfson and Van Winkle by Caroline Wigmore. What's so great about this showcase is that all three pieces being presented couldn't be more different. The style and content of each varies a lot, so our audiences can expect to hear a wide range of music. We go from American folk to electro metal to 80s pop, all in one evening. It's been quite a challenge, to which our MD, Inga Davis-Rutter, has risen brilliantly, to work on three such different styles within one rehearsal period.
But even with such diversity, our director, Simon Greiff, has managed to create a way of presenting all three pieces, which are also each at different stages of development, in a way that best represents them all. So musical theatre lovers will be able to sit back and enjoy something new and in some cases very different, and hopefully Industry based members of the audience will be able to recognise the potential in each. I think it's going to make for a very interesting and entertaining evening.
Do you have a favourite song that you're performing?
As part of this amazing West End repertory cast personally selected by Simon, we are all getting the chance to explore various roles across the three pieces, which you don't often get the chance to do and has been a real pleasure. My favourite song that I perform has to be Watching The Door, from Van Winkle. This show is an American folk musical, a style I really enjoy. The whole show actually reminds me of my childhood and being in the back of the car listening to my mum playing her John Denver cassettes. Ah, the good old days! There's something really soothing and honest about that kind of writing I feel.
Jodie says her favourite is one of yours - what's your favourite that someone else is singing?
That's funny as my favourite is one of Jodie's numbers from Dancing Shadows. It's a very emotional ballad sung by her character, Cinda. It's a beautiful lyrical number but with a rather dark text behind it and Jodie delivers it so beautifully, it's lovely.
You've been much in demand lately, what with panto and green-ness and climbing stepladders - has it been frantic or is it just nice to be busy?
It's been lovely actually; frantic but lovely. It seems jobs in this business are a bit like buses, nothing for ages and then they all come along at once. I've been very lucky that I've managed to fit everything in to be honest. What's been great, much like our Page to Stage showcase, is the diversity of everything. It was wonderful as ever, to revisit and return to playing Elphaba in Wicked late last year, an incredible show that's is still going strong and that I will always be incredibly proud to be associated with. But it was equally as wonderful to be part of the cast developing Cool Rider for the stage, singing a score which had never been performed since the original film sequel in 1982. So going from Witch to Fairy to Pink Lady across the space of three months has been fun. They say variety is the spice of life; I would definitely agree there.
As a Grease 2 obsessive, Cool Rider's return is very exciting for me - were you a fan of the movie?
I certainly was! I was a massive Grease fan anyway but when I discovered Grease 2, I remember
loving it just as much, if not a tiny but more. There's something that little bit more risqué about the sequel, what with the motor bikes, the leather and of course the infamous sex ed lessons. Doing Cool Rider last month at the Lyric Theatre for one night was an incredible experience. Never in a million years did I think singing a song whilst climbing a stepladder would bring so much joy to so many people. It was brilliant.
What's next for you?
Well, due to popular demand, Cool Rider is coming back to the West End for a week-long run, this time at The Duchess Theatre, from the 14th April, so I'm very much looking forward to getting my Pfeiffer on, once again! Other than that, who knows? I just need to wait for the next bus to come along!