Ashleigh Gray Talks COMPANY at Aberdeen Arts Centre

Ashleigh Gray Talks COMPANY at Aberdeen Arts Centre

BroadwayWorld catches up with Wicked's Ashleigh Gray about taking on the role of Amy in Company at Aberdeen Arts Centre from February 1.

What attracted you to the role of Amy?

I've always loved Company. I was involved in a production of the show during my training, at Guildford School of Acting, in which I played Marta - but coveted the challenge in playing Amy. Her number "Getting Married Today" is an absolute gem of a song to perform, as an actor, so I jumped at the chance when it came around.

On the surface Amy appears to be an absolute nutcase. A frantic, jittery, hopeless mess, which is always fun to play. But it's been so much fun working on the material and trying to delve a little deeper into it.

Stephen Sondheim is such a truthful writer, he does 'human' very well. So it's been a joy balancing the madness with the real Amy. I'm not regretting taking on this role, even having recently got engaged myself and knowing I'm going to have a job on my hands convincing my fiancé that I won't be acting this way when we get married!

What are your favourite numbers from the show?

"Poor Baby" I love, those lovely jazzy tones, it's just gorgeous. And I can't listen to "Sorry - Grateful" without welling up! But without a doubt "Being Alive" takes the number one spot for me. Quite simply, it's a masterpiece.

Are there any particular challenges that come with the role?

Learning so many words, remembering them in order, getting them out in time and breathing. Plus I have to strut around the stage like a woman possessed. I'm sure not a show will go by where I won't stand in the wings going over it before I walk on stage. It really is a huge challenge but one that I'm enjoying. I'm usually the ballad girl, so this is quite different!

Why do you think the show has had such longevity?

The show was originally written in 1970 but it doesn't feel dated at all. I guess because it's centred around love and relationships, it feels so ageless. I can certainly relate to most of the characters in Company and that's what I think audiences have, and will continue to enjoy so much.

There's a real truth and depth to Company. The musical was developed from a play, and so there is a real honesty to it which I think touches people. Sondheim's music on top of that lifts the whole thing. I think Company is an experience, more than a show. You'll definitely go on a journey with Robert and see yourself and your own personal experiences in it, along the way.

How does the production differ from other productions of Company that have been staged?

Our wonderful director, Derek Anderson, brought us a very clear idea and concept for this production, which I won't go into, for fear of spoiling it. But it's safe to say that with Derek's vision, along with the lighting and design, it's going to be quite a show. And we have one hell of a cast! All top of their game, it's such an honour to be sharing the stage with such a fantastic bunch of actors.

Why do you think it is important for productions like this to be staged all around the country rather than just in London?

London isn't convenient for everyone and just because you don't live there, doesn't mean you should be deprived of good theatre. I myself probably wouldn't have developed my passion for theatre, were it not for amazing touring productions coming to Edinburgh when I was growing up.

I think it's important for productions like this to be seen, not only so people can enjoy them but also to inspire and excite people about this industry. Nowadays, it's all too easy to sit in front of your telly and get wrapped up in reality TV or talent competitions.

Nothing compares with real, live theatre. To be able to bring something as complex and inspiring as Company to places outwith London, is really a pleasure and so, so important.

The cast features yourself alongside Oliver Savile and Jacqueline Hughes who have all performed in Wicked - did you ever perform in the show at the same time or is this your first time working together?

Throughout my long association with the show, sadly I never had the pleasure of seeing Olly "Dancing Through Life" in those jodhpurs, but I've no doubt he was a fabulous Fiyero. Likewise, with former Glinda, Suzie Mathers; I'd heard so much about them both, it's great to be finally working with them.

Jax and I toured the UK with Wicked in 2014/15, where she was the standby to my Elphaba, before going on the play the role herself on the international tour, the year after. So obviously we never got the chance to perform together. She's a dear friend and it's an absolute joy to be sharing the stage at the same time on this one!

If you could reprise one role from your career as a one-off, what would it be?

Ooh, that's a toughie! I've played some amazing parts over the years, all of which I've loved and have a special place in my heart. I've been lucky enough to reprise the iconic 'Green Girl' so many times, which is always a pleasure.

But I have to say, Stephanie Zinone in Cool Rider was something else. Never have I known an audience have so much fun during a show. And to be whooped and cheered whilst climbing a stepladder and/or being dressed as a Christmas tree, is something that I'll never forget. That show was so much fun I would never say no to revisiting it.

Was there any particular theatre show you saw that made you want to pursue performing?

So many! I watched all the old movie musicals as a kid but when I played Brigitta in my local am-dram production of The Sound of Music at the age of nine, I knew I was hooked.

I'd go and see everything that ever came to the Edinburgh Playhouse. I think I saw Phantom of the Opera 14 times. I was obsessed with it. The idea that this was a job to these people was amazing to me. Luckily I had a music teacher whose sister was a West End performer, so all of a sudden it became a real possibility. Once I found out the 'hows', there was no stopping me!

What's next for you after the Company run?

Who knows! After coming straight to Company from a run in panto, it might be quite nice for a little breather. I did my first television job late last year, which I thoroughly enjoyed and would love to do more of. We'll see...watch this space!

Company is at Aberdeen Arts Centre 1-10 February

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From This Author Natalie O'Donoghue

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