BWW Interview: Rachael Wooding Talks PRETTY WOMAN THE MUSICAL
A musical theatre veteran, Yorkshire-born Rachael Wooding has played Meat and Scaramouche in We Will Rock You, Eva Peron in the UK tour of Evita, along with West End productions of Saturday Night Fever, Hairspray and Fame. She was also a semi-finalist on ITV's Britain's Got Talent.
Wooding talks to BroadwayWorld about her role as Kit de Luca in Pretty Woman The Musical, which opened this week at the Piccadilly Theatre.
How have performances of Pretty Woman been going so far? What's the audience reaction like?
Oh my god, it's been mental. When you're in a rehearsal period, you're just kind of doing it in front of the same people, and no one's laughing anymore. It gets a bit stale - so you're all wondering what it's going to be like. The first time we had an audience, they literally just went off. And it's been like that ever since.
I think people just have a massive love for this movie. And I think because the show is so near to the movie - I mean obviously it's a musical, so we've got songs and everything - but the script is the same. The bits that they want to hear, they get. And they're up for it - they love it!Fans of the film will be wondering what the music is like. How would you describe it?
Well, of course it's brand new - so you won't come along and say "Oh, I've heard that in the movie". But it is very much of that era and it just seems to work and lift it. It just fits.The wonderful Jerry Mitchell is both director and choreographer on Pretty Woman. He's known for creating big, high-energy shows with fabulous dance numbers - can audiences expect that from this show?
I worked with Jerry on the original Hairspray many years ago, and when he walks into a room you can't help but be taken in by his energy. So whatever he does - even if it just seems like you're walking from left to right and stopping on five - it's always more than that. It's for a reason and it's energised.
The show's not massively choreographed, I would say. There's a couple of numbers that are, so you definitely get that - what you've seen before with Jerry. But it's not overly choreographed, as I don't think the piece needs it. But if you see him in a room creating a brand new piece or a routine, he's a master at it. Just incredible. He blows my mind.You've mentioned you were a huge fan of the film growing up. Does it feel extra special to be in a show based on a film you loved as a child?
It's so weird. When I got this job, I hadn't watched the film for years. But I remembered it like it was yesterday, because it wasn't something I watched just once - I did absolutely love it. You know when you have the VHS and you just play it over and over again? iIt was one of those - one of my staples. It's probably the first time I've not had to learn the lines for an audition! I was like, "Absolutely. Know that scene - got it. Word for word!"
Of course, we can't do all the scenes [from the film] in their entirety, but you've got to get the main bits of the scene in. When we got the script through, the writer was in the room and I was like: "So this bit - why aren't we doing this bit? Can we not just do this bit?" And he'd be like, "Let me think about it for a minute. You know what, Rachael? Just do what you want." And I'd be like "Yeah! I'm doing it!" [Laughs]
Have you felt the need to base your character on the film version? Or could you put your own stamp on it?
If I'd thought about it a lot, I'd have gone under. But I didn't really. I think knowing the film so well, when we were doing the first reading round a table, it probably had more influences of [Kit in the film], because that's the only way you've heard it. But naturally, once it's on its feet and you're acting opposite somebody else, things happen in live theatre. And you think, "Ooh yeah, that worked". Or "I've just done something weird".
I was saying the other day, I keep coming off stage and saying, "Right - Kit's now turning into a little bit of me, a little bit of Julie Walters and a little bit of Kit." She's just sort of moulded into this rounded whole ridiculous big personality, and I think when you've got an audience, you see what works and what doesn't. So it kind of just happened. It's grown as I've found her, and it's been fun.
And this is what I've learnt: if you ask too many questions they'll say "Well, we do need this". But once you're on [stage], you can just do it and if it works they'll be like "Ah! That's brilliant!". And you're like, "Yeah, I know". [laughs]
What was your audition process like?
The process for me was a weird one. I hadn't given up, but I have got a child - she was five last Monday. So I'd been doing shorter contracts and a lot of concert work to try and fit in with being a mum. You know, trying to be a full-time mum but still needing to work. So, in a weird way, I wasn't really auditioning for things.
[The Pretty Woman team] had the first round of auditions, and apparently Jerry was like, "I don't know - I don't feel like we've found her. Where's Rachael Wooding? Where's she?" So they asked me if I would go in for it, and I said yes. Because it's Pretty Woman, and it's Jerry. If I'm going to go for something, that's the one to go for. So I walked into the room not really that stressed about it. It was like a walk down memory lane - it just fit.
The creatives fitted with me, and I felt comfortable enough once we came to negotiating that I could have the time I needed. You know, all of the holidays booked out in advance - because it is more of a logistical nightmare having kids. So it just worked. It's been really nice and a good, positive experience.
Both you and other members of the cast such as Joanna Woodward are parents. Do you feel the industry is becoming more flexible to accommodate performers with young children?
It's on its way. We've got a long way to go. No one is being negative and just saying 'No'. But there is ignorance. We're trying to move forward - I think it will happen eventually. But we're definitely not there yet. It's a process.
And you shouldn't expect people to be like "Oh, I know: Rachael and Joanna are parents, so what we'll do is, we won't call them at that time - we'll do XYZ instead". You always feel like you have to remind them - because they've got another billion things to think about. Naturally, as a performer, when everyone is working their arses off, you feel bad saying "Do you mind if I come in at that time/if we move that?". You feel like you're being a pain and a nuisance.
But ultimately, you're a mum, and that's what comes first. And as long as it's not putting anyone else out, you have to ask. But I want there to be a time where you don't feel like a burden for being a parent. You feel it's just acceptable.
Obviously, that's my experience over the whole period since becoming a parent, but I will tell you one thing. Pretty Woman called us in for two days for vocal calls prior to the start of our rehearsal period - they put them in late and I was like, fine. My mum was all ready to come down from Yorkshire, to have Emi for me.
But then they told me I was only going to be there for 45 minutes, because I wasn't going to be doing any of the ensemble singing. So I asked them if they'd mind me bringing Emi in so she could just sit in the company office with some toys and things, and they were absolutely fine. They were brilliant with me from day one. I never felt like it was going to be a flat no. They were very open - but of course you had to ask.
It seems there's lots of parents working in theatre who find these situations hard. Do you think it's an important conversation to have?
It is, massively. You work your arse off, you're working in the industry. Then you make that decision to be a parent. And first of all, people think they'll make it work, but then they drop out. People aren't doing it anymore because they can't make it work. And especially if you're on an ensemble wage. By the time you've paid childcare, you're like "Well, I'm skint. I'm earning nothing. And I'm basically paying somebody to do my job just so I can do what I love". It just seems so wrong.
It's different for me, because my part is a role. I mean money is still a thing, obviously, but it's not as much of an issue. But I feel there's a whole band of women missing from the industry because they can't make it work.
Whereas if we could job share, it could work. I mean, if somebody said to you, you get to play this incredible role four times a week and the other woman gets to play it four times a week, and you're getting two brilliant people at the top of their game playing this part - what's not to love about that? You're not paying any more. They do the rehearsal period together and you just find a way. That's what I would love to see. Then I would never stop.
When I finish Pretty Woman, I'm going to go onto something else, which finishes April next year, and I don't know whether I'm going to need to have time off just to be with Emi to sort of touch base. Whereas, on the other hand, I could be home four days a week and just keep ticking along with my finger in all of the different pies. It's something I'm massively passionate about, and I just hope we can find a way.
I believe something similar did happen with the recent production of 42nd Street?
Yes, Charlene [Ford] did it. That was an ensemble track and it was two mums - I think it was to cover maternity leave, so that once Charlene came back they could share the part. Because they'd both already officially learnt it, it sort of worked. So it's not just a flat 'No' anymore. It is possible. But I want it to be done with a role. I want people to say, "Two women can play this role".
Kit de Luca is a great part. Are you enjoying playing her?
Oh, she's brilliant. Just brilliant. She's a bit batshit, and I love that about her. And she's got a massive heart. She's almost like a little mother figure, making sure everyone's all right. She's a joy. I love her!
And lastly, why should people come and see Pretty Woman?
You'll get everything you want from the film, and then you're going to get more. You can't help but go out with a smile on your face and a full heart. Because it's a love story. It's everything that you want it to be. And you know what? It's a proper night out. It'll make you feel good!
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks