BWW Interview: Clare Halse Talks 42ND STREET in UK Cinemas
Clare Halse is known for tapping away on the West End stage in 42nd Street at the Drury Lane Theatre, and currently in White Christmas at the Dominion Theatre.
A broadcast of that recent West End production of 42nd Street is to be shown in UK cinemas on various dates from 25 November. Clare spoke to BroadwayWorld about the big-screen event.
When did you start dancing?
I started dancing at the age of four. My mum took me along to the local dance school for 'Baby Ballet', as my best friend was going too. It soon became the place that I spent the majority of my spare time outside school.
It was the hobby that trumped all my other hobbies, and soon I was dancing up to five times a week. I competed in dance festivals around the country and found I liked nothing more than expressing myself through movement.
What drew you to tap as a discipline?
I came to tap a little later than many of my friends, when I was about 11. I think because of this, I had a fair amount of catching up to do. So I worked hard to pass my exams and get up to the standard of the rest of the class.
The main thing I love about dancing is feeling and interpreting music. Tap takes this one step further, as you can become part of the music with your rhythmical "foot drumming". I love the satisfaction of tapping and the challenge of using complex coordination to find a rhythm.
How did you get involved with this production of 42nd Street?
My agent rang me with the audition for 42nd Street at Drury Lane while I was working at Kilworth House. The American creative team were here for a couple of weeks to cast and everyone auditioning knew it was going to be intense and exciting.
And intense it was, with a traditional audition process of "line-up" calls. We were whittled down recall by recall. There was a clear need for people to take on the specific style of the show, essentially the "American Golden Age" movie-era style, so deep set in American culture. I loved the challenge of teaching my body to take on the ease of this style quickly, and I was delighted when I was cast in the show.
How familiar were you with the show before this revival?
I wasn't very familiar with this piece. Maybe that helped. I had no preconceived ideas or any intentions of copying anyone from other versions.
The wonderful Ruby Keeler soon became familiar to me, and I quickly became aware I was joining part of an important legacy and an important historical Broadway show that hit Broadway with a bang.
What is your favourite thing about playing Peggy Sawyer?
Playing Peggy is something that I will be forever thankful for. I had the opportunity to use all the skills I spent my life working on and put them all together in the most beautiful heartfelt show at Drury Lane.
How did it feel to be part of, what was, the biggest cast in the West End eight shows a week?
It meant the world to me, and it was very much a team effort. We all supported each other. We had Tom Lister at our helm, playing Julian Marsh, and we all pitched in to make it a supportive environment.
It was a huge company, so it was important to have mutual respect throughout. I tried to lead by example I suppose, by being kind, by working hard and by committing wholeheartedly to the play.
How did you look after yourself, and particularly, your feet, with all of THAT choreography?
When I got the job, I promised myself I would give everything I had to it. I'd worked so hard to get there that I didn't want to let myself down.
The only problem with that was it was quite exhausting, giving all your energy to something. My basic routine involved post-show ice baths; hot baths before bed; good warm-up and cool-downs; and a healthy diet with lots of high-energy foods and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, the feet got a good old battering anyway, but it was worth it though!
Did you have a favourite number/moment in the show?
My favourite number would have to be "Plenty of Money", in which Peggy dances on a white grand piano surrounded by the male ensemble in their top hat and tails. It's the moment that Peggy decides to take the "bull by the horns" and dance to save the show. She is dancing for all the kids in the ensemble, and it comes from the heart. It felt like a release and a joy.
What excites you most about the show coming to cinemas?
I'm excited about it for so many reasons. Firstly, because it captured a time for me that was, personally, very special.
It also immortalises on film the vision and bravery of the late Mark Bramble (our director and co-writer), who poured his heart into this show. He was so proud to bring it back to Drury Lane where it was originally on in the 1980s.
Finally, the luxury of having cameras zooming in on the scenes and whizzing amongst the dancers brings a whole new wonderful excitement to our show!
How are you enjoying being part of White Christmas?
We have just opened White Christmas at the Dominion Theatre. I'm playing Judy Haynes, another tap dancing enthusiast, and I am having a rather marvellous time.
Any advice for aspiring dancers?
For all those dancers out there, my advice would be: never stop going to class and watching shows. Be inspired by everyone around you and always dance from your heart. A dancer with guts will always win for me.
Why should people come to see the 42nd Street cinema broadcast?
I would love people to share in our experience of 42nd Street. It's an up-close, intensified version of the show, that's both theatrical and cinematic. Bonnie Langford and Tom Lister are inspiring with their performances. Hopefully, the joy that I felt being Peggy Sawyer will wash over you, and it will make you want to tap dance all the way home.
42nd Street in UK cinemas from 25 November