BWW Interview: Ashley Roberts Talks WAITRESS at Adelphi Theatre
Ashley Roberts is a former member of the Pussycat Dolls and Strictly Come Dancing 2018 finalist. She is now preparing to make her West End debut in Waitress, playing the role of Dawn. Ashley spoke to BroadwayWorld about joining the cast.
Congratulations! How do you feel about joining Waitress?
Thank you! I'm nervous and excited. Getting to know [Lucie Jones and Marisha Wallace] has been great. The cast is fantastic. They're so lovely and so talented. I already feel welcomed, so I'm excited to get in the mix and get out on stage.
That live interaction with the audience and being so present are the most amazing things that come with performing.
What made you want to be a part of Waitress?
It's fantastic. The script is amazing, but it was the comic timing that really got me. I'm so excited to get out there and show a bit of my silly, fun side.
I also love Sara Bareilles. Her music is fantastic. The melodies of the show are great. She wrote a song called "Gravity", which Michael and I did in the US on So You Think You Can Dance. The way she writes really draws you in.
Has it always been a dream of yours to be in a musical?
I'm not going to lie - it hadn't crossed my mind until very recently. I was really into the pop, hip hop and jazz dancing worlds etc. Musicals weren't really a big goal in my life until I did Strictly.
I hadn't performed for about ten years since the band ended. Being part of a show like Strictly ,where you come up with new characters and stories every week, really made me want to perform again and get out on a stage.
It was divine timing that Waitress worked out after Strictly. I'm so grateful. I get to have this opportunity because I get to show all different sides of myself, and I'm very excited about that.
What's your favourite thing about Dawn?
For me, my favourite thing about Dawn is that she's quirky and eccentric. I'm excited to dive into that and play with that and show that quirkier side of me that people maybe haven't seen quite yet.
Playing a troll in my Charleston routine in Strictly was a flavour of what playing Dawn might be like, dipping my toe in that pond, of sorts. Doing Strictly lit a little fire in me to get back out there and perform.
Have you ever dabbled in online dating, as Dawn does in the show?
I did try a blind date once. My girlfriend knew someone and set it up. I ended up just being friends with them. I think I prefer meeting people in real life, but I absolutely think it's each to their own.
Has the Strictly process changed how you would approach this role?
Well, I think it's the timing of it all really. I guess Strictly really reintroduced to me what I already knew but had maybe forgotten, which was that I just love to perform.
I love music. I love getting to have a character and tell a story, and what was just so fantastic about that Strictly is that every week, I had a different character to play with, a different style of dancing, a different piece of music and a new story. It made me think "This is what I really want to do".
My mum said, "If you don't get on the stage after this I'm gonna kill you", so I'm also doing this to make her proud. She's coming to see me in the show, and she is super excited. I can't wait to have her here.
Do you have a favourite moment from Strictly?
There are so many. First of all, Pasha [Kovalev] is such an epic gem of a human, and I'm so grateful I got to dance with him during his last season. We did some amazing things, the trolls were funny, but there were so many highlights!
I loved doing Dirty Dancing because it's such an epic film. As soon as the music started, people were instantly connected. The contemporary piece we did was also really special to me, and it was the first time in Strictly history where we had the opportunity to do that.
All the routines are special to me. They're all like little babies.
How are you feeling about the choreography with the ingredients?
Pasha and I actually did a jive during Strictly with ketchup bottles and saltshakers, which was a good dance to learn before this show. Once you get the moves down, you can play with it a bit more.
How will you make the part of Dawn your own?
I saw Laura [Baldwin] in the show, who will continue when I'm done with my run. She was fantastic and so so funny. You can watch the show and see how others do it, but you also want to put your own spin on it. That's what I'm excited for people to see. I'm currently letting her mannerisms come out organically and hit different notes on the script - little things you keep in there.
She's quite flat-footed, and she gets nervous, but then she has a complete evolution over the course of the show. In the second act, she's like "Yeah honey! I've [found love], and now I'm feeling good!"
How are rehearsals going?
We're just getting started. Getting into the script, singing through the number, going through songs and the melodies etc.
Why do you think the story of Waitress is worth telling?
It's a real story. It's raw and a bit flawed, but also funny. You walk away feeling like you got a message. There's something there for everybody.
Are you a baker? Do you have a favourite flavour of pie?
I'm not much of a baker. I do the odd "add an egg and water" box cake bake, but that's about it. My aunt makes a mean strawberry pie, though. She goes out and picks the strawberries, and it's just the real deal.
Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre until 19 October, with Ashley Roberts joining from 17 June
Photo credit: Simon Turtle