BWW Interview: Cassidy Janson Talks MAN OF LA MANCHA at London Coliseum
After leading the West End cast of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical, Cassidy Janson formed part of the Leading Ladies trio and appeared in the English National Opera's production of Chess as Florence.
She now returns to the London Coliseum stage as the alternate Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, sharing the role with Danielle De Niese. Cassidy spoke to BroadwayWorld about the show.
Who or what inspired you growing up?
Well, when I was a kid, I think who really inspired me was Peggy Lee. She was a singer my dad used to play and I that's how I fell in love with jazz singing - my first "thing".
I had also always loved Big Band music and the musical Cats. I saw it at the age of 10 and it had this huge effect on me. This amazement at the theatre appeared in my life.
I've been dancing since I was two and I'd always been singing. When I realised I could do it for a living, that was just a great moment.
Why did you want to be part of Man of La Mancha?
The lovely Michael Linear, who I knew from when I did Chess, very kindly called me and asked me to share the role of Aldonza with Denise, and I fell in love with the show.
I was really excited about getting to work with Kelsey [Grammer]. I felt I would learn a lot as an actor, so I jumped at the opportunity.
For those unfamiliar with the story, who do you play and what can we expect?
I play a whore. Aldonza is a lady of the night. She's a serving girl who makes a bit of money on the side but she has a heart of gold. She's only doing this extra work to survive.
She doesn't like what she does at all but she knows that Don Quixote is able to show her a different way of life. He awakens her and gives her a different perspective that shakes her to her core.
How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals are going great. We're chewing through all the big numbers at the moment, but things are going really nicely.
Do you have any particular numbers you're looking forward to in the score?
They're all great numbers. They all have different things to offer. There's no "other ballad". I'm enjoying getting my teeth into the numbers that Aldonza sings. In one she is particularly bitter and angry. It's a rather cathartic song to get to sing!
I'm not good at being angry. One of my favourite things to do on stage is play righteous anger. I really enjoy exploring those emotions.
Are you excited to be returning to the Coliseum stage and the ENO after your involvement with Chess last year?
It is so nice to be back. I know a lot of the people at the ENO: the company manager, the pianist. It's a familiar environment. The ENO really look after you - there's such a warm vibe in the room.
Why is it important to revive this show for 2019 audiences?
It hasn't been done in the UK for 50 years, I think. It's the most uplifting, gut-wrenching exploration of what it is to be human.
You can be in the cesspit of experience and then a knight comes to rescue you. We all have the choice to hold on to our honour in times of challenge when everyone else is going along with the crowd.
This show asks us to step into our greatness, to hold on to our ideals no matter what. The speeches make me cry a lot - I don't know how Kelsey does it!
Any other upcoming projects you're allowed to tell us about?
I have my debut solo album coming out in June! I signed to BMG and have now done all the exciting things like recording. The masters have been delivered to the recording developers, I've had a photo shoot, it's all very exciting.
I've been working with Rupert Christie. It's wonderful to have this album. I'm so proud of it. I've written most of it myself and Carole [King] actually gave me an unreleased song of hers to use. I'm excited for people to hear it and I hope they like.
It sounds like you're very busy at the moment! How do you keep balanced?
I'm not going to lie, sometimes I really struggle. I find talking to my friends and trying to keep a sense of my spirituality all through the day with me really helps.
Reminding myself that I am not just my physical body is really useful. My belief that we reincarnate and that I'll maybe get another shot of life really helps me to stay strong.
Any advice for aspiring performers...perhaps how "to dream the impossible dream"?
To give a very specific example, it's easy to follow your friends down the pub after a show. It's easy to go with the flow. They might still be able to sing after ten pints but it's ok if you know that doesn't work for you or your instrument.
It's important to honour yourself and to look after yourself. If it really matters to you to sacrifice your social life at times for your craft, like a professional athlete, it'll usually be worth it in the end.
Out of Florence, Aldonza and Carole, who would you go on a road trip with?
Thinking about it, they're all quite badass in their own way! If it was trip in the wilderness that required you to survive on your wits, then I'd probably want Aldonza. She's very streetwise and would know how to pluck a chicken or something useful like that!
Why should people come to Man of La Mancha?
We all need to be reminded of the greatest within ourselves. We're living in a strange time. We hear mixed messages coming out from all sides of debate. This show reminds us to trust our intuition and stand up for what we think is right.
Man of La Mancha at London Coliseum from 26 April to 8 June
Check out our interview with Peter Polycarpou, who is also appearing in Man of La Mancha