BWW Interview: Ria Jones Talks SUNSET BOULEVARD
Ria Jones has starred in numerous musicals, including Evita, Chess, Cats and Les Miserables. She's now reprising her acclaimed performance as Norma Desmond in the UK tour of Sunset Boulevard, which begins at Leicester Curve on 16 September.
What was the first musical you saw?
Fiddler on the Roof was the first professional show I saw, but I grew up from an early age with Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, as my mum was an opera singer.
When did you realise you wanted to perform professionally?
At around the age of 15 after playing Eliza Doolittle in an amateur production of My Fair Lady.
Where did you train?
I didn't go to drama school, just a local dance school in Swansea from the age of three. My parents couldn't afford for me to have stage school training in London.
What was your first professional acting job?
Aged 15, in Godspell in Ilford. Then at 16 I was the narrator in the national tour of Joseph.
How did you become involved in the workshop for Sunset Boulevard?
I was in Cats in London and Andrew Lloyd Webber just asked me. It was an honour.
What was that creative process like, and how much were you able to contribute?
I sat next to Andrew at the piano as he worked on the score and sang what he'd written. He chose the perfect keys for me!
What really spoke to you about the role of Norma Desmond?
I adore her as a character - she's full of so many emotions. It's a roller coaster of a role. She is a wonderful human being.
Has your response to her changed, coming back to the role now?
Yes, I am 26 years older. With so many life lessons I've learnt along the way, that helps to inform you as an actress.
Are there any elements you particularly wanted to emphasise, e.g. a darker tone, particular aspects of the score or story?
Well, the score pretty much helps you with that. But yes, I'm really looking forward to working with Nikolai on finding her darker side, which we all have and can relate to.
What's your favourite song to perform in the show?
I love "With One Look". Musically and lyrically, it is such a poignant song.
You've played so many Andrew Lloyd Webber roles - what do you love about his music?
I love how he writes such wonderful melodies that always peak dramatically. As a singer who loves to use my "belt" voice - he's the best.
What are your dos and don'ts for touring?
I try not to have too many late nights and I try to visit a place of interest (at least one) in every new town. It keeps me out of the shops!
Any advice for budding musical theatre performers?
Know your strengths, and know your "castability" - then you won't spend your career often disappointed.
Finally, why should people come see Sunset Boulevard?
For the cinematic score played by a 16-piece orchestra, a stunning set, costumes and lighting, a wonderful cast, and a story about the human condition.
Picture credit: Manuel Harlan