LOVE NEVER DIES' Summer Strallen On Ramin, Sierra, Shrek And Those Little Women Rumours...

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Hi, Summer...this is a lovely room!

It is, isn't it?  I'm very pleased with it.  I actually prefer it to my Sound Of Music room.  When people come in, I don't have to shout through three doors, which I used to hate, because, hello, I have to sing!  And it's all cosy and nice.

You've made yourself at home already with your pictures and cards.

Usually I don't, really.  I think because this company is really nice and a family, I've really settled in in that respect.  I practically live here now.  I'm here all the time because Sierra [Sierra Boggess] lives up in town.  We're such good friends that I'm up here all the time, coming in for tea with her.

So there's a nice company dynamic?

Yes!  I'm listening to Hair The Musical at the moment.  I'm so stagy like that.  Gavin Creel was Bert with Scarlett [Scarlett Strallen, Summer's sister] over here [in Mary Poppins], and and he's over again too.  I think they have matinees on Thursdays so I'm very excited about going to see that.

I've seen your show twice so far - once in previews and once on press night, and it felt like a very different show the second time round.

It is.  Oh, my goodness, we were in every day during previews.  Everyone was really tired.   Even characters have changed - Jack [Jack O'Brien] is so unbelievably intuitive about every character.  He would just come in and say, I want you to try this.  It would be a completely different thing.  When he explained it, there was method in it.  We trust him so wholeheartedly that we just did it.   It's just kind of settling down now.

It must be a difficult process to go through, creating a role, and the hype...

And recording as well, because we didn't really have Jack's input.  From that, it's very different.  To me, I can honestly say it was so much fun.  Meeting Sierra and Ramin [Ramin Karimloo], who are two of the best people I've ever met in my life, and Joe [Joseph Millson], a fantastic actor - being able to work with them and feeling like we were all going through the same thing was great.  Ramin and Sierra - they've got so much on their shoulders, but they didn't make it seem like that at all.  We were all very much invested in it.  It made the process easier, really.  We just had such fun.  It being such a dramatic piece, we had to keep our humour levels up.  We are all very silly!  We're like class clowns, all of us!  That kept the morale up. It starts from the top.  It's best for them to be happy because it filters through into the company.  That's exactly what Sierra and Ramin have done.

In terms of your character, I felt that you had the hardest job!  In the original, Meg is like a cipher.  She's Christine's friend and that's it.

A lot of people have said that!  To be honest it was easier for me because I didn't have to play to anything.  She has changed.  Everyone changes in the space of six months, a year, let alone 10 years.  I did have the freedom to be somebody else.  The wonder of Meg is that she does not know who she is.  When Christine turns up, she remembers her former self.  Sees confused by the fact that she's now something she didn't really think you ever wanted to be, a showgirl, taking her clothes off to get approval from someone, she doesn't really know why she wants to gain his approval, but she does.  It's a constant confusion for her. 

The first one for me was like a blank canvas.  She doesn't really have much personality.  As you say, she plays the role of Christine's friend.  When you lose touch with a friend for 10 years, through no fault of your own, obviously it's going to be quite difficult to get back to where you were anyway.  At the end, what happens is her anger at the Phantom and the world, I don't think it's got anything to do with Christine, which is why it's so tragic.

I think that scene is quite tricky.  It could come off as being melodramatic.

Yes!  I hope, I don't know, do I?!

No!  But it must be a difficult line to tread.

I think if I'm invested in it, I have to be invested in it, which is hard work.  I can't be thinking about what I'm going to get from the supermarket between shows.  I can't do it.  Some roles you can do that with.  I try to be as truthful to the text as I can.  In the final scene, she's not trying to be dramatic.  She does put the gun to her head, she is going to do it but she doesn't know how to do it, and in the second time is when he is saying put the gun down, she knows she hasn't cocked it that time, she realises she doesn't want to do it but she still wants to get his attention.  So it changes.  At the beginning she is going to do it, she's going to throw the kid off the pier and shoot herself.  There is so much in there, and behaviour can stay weighted because there's a lot in it, the psychological traits in it, not hand-to-the-head melodrama.  She explains it to him because no-one's ever asked - it is literally her just saying this is why I want to kill myself, this is what has to happen because I can't do this any more, which is an awful thing to feel, there's no way out.  She explains about the men and all that, which, going through when you're 25, in a strange country, with a mother that is emotionally unavailable, it's a horrible place to be.

It must be quite an emotionally draining part to play then.

It really is.  It's quite hard to get the tears back out in the second show of the day because you're letting everything out.  Unless you are in that place and you're depressed, and thankfully I'm not, I'm very much the opposite, it's quite draining.

Let's talk about the quick change routine for Bathing Beauty.  That must have been fun to learn!

Fun might not be the word I would use...  It was interesting because we had to work it out with the director and choreographer.  They are not experts and it's an expert field, the illusion that we're doing in Bathing Beauty.  So it was a long process and there was a lot of changing of the costumes and pre-testing and then for girls in the number, because they have to do it, the responsibility falls on them, unfortunately, I only have one of the changes myself.  And I'm a complete control freak.  I apologise now formally to the girls if I was ever a little bit stressed!  But I am a self-confessed control freak and it kills me every day that I can't do it myself!  We've now got the knack of it, and that's what's great.  When the swings go on, it's quite nervewracking for them.  We all bond together and hope for the best.

You don't see that kind of vaudeville very often.

No, no, it is a variety show, isn't it?  A lot of people who have come to see the show have said it's a nice bit of light relief at that point, then it all comes crashing down!  The show does need it after everything that happens.  You would have seen the other version as well.  I much prefer the second one!  I'm not shy, I'm not a prude, so I don't mind doing the topless stuff.  The boys love it and it gives them a little treat.  I just close my eyes and think of England.

Yes, I saw both versions, and the second time round I was just thinking hang on, it wasn't like that had last week...[The first routine to Bathing Beauty was much more tame; the current version has Summer topless at the end of the song!]

My mum was thinking that at the same time!  What is my daughter doing?!?  We changed it because it needed to be more raunchy.  I say in the first scene, I could show a bit more skin, that would surely bring 'em in, and then I was putting more clothes on!  It seems silly!  I think it was Glenn Slater's idea; he said you've got me to thank for that, and I said yes, I'm sure I have, Glenn!  Personally, for an actress, with this text, you just can't lose, I don't think.  It's very easy to play.  Andrew asked me to do the CD and I was really excited about the prospect of it and then when they asked me to do it there was no doubt that I would be doing it. 

Your involvement with the whole show has been quite lengthy.

Gosh, yes, since 2008.  I wouldn't change it.  It's wonderful.

How long is the contract for?

A year, but I've got my fingers crossed for the Broadway section! 

There have been rumours linking you with other shows...

No...

One that's been mentioned is you doing Little Women with your sisters.

Oh, well... perhaps I should keep quiet about that!  We looked at the script.  It wouldn't be us producing or anything, we would just be involved.  I loved the score. But it's another Sutton Foster role!  There were rumours about her being up for Meg, and I thought perhaps she'll be taking over one of mine for once!

If Shrek comes over, maybe you can play Fiona!

That's another little thing that might be nice - I would be interested in that!

Summer Strallen plays Meg Giry in LOVE NEVER DIES at the Adelphi Theatre.

 



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From This Author Carrie Dunn

Carrie is the UK editor-in-chief for BroadwayWorld. After spending her formative years reading books and ending up with a Masters degree in English literature from (read more...)