BWW Interview: Samantha Pauly Talks EVITA at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
From an English Queen to Argentinian leader, Samantha Pauly has been spending a lot of her time recently performing as famous women from history. Recently Katherine Howard in the Chicago production of Six, Pauly is currently performing in Jamie Lloyd's Evita at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre as Eva Perón.
Pauly stars alongside Ektor Rivera, Trent Saunders and Francis Mayli McCann. BroadwayWorld spoke with her about Jamie Lloyd's rehearsal process and theatre's ability to change our perceptions of the past.
What appealed about Evita?
This is my fourth time doing this show. I've always loved Evita and am fascinated by Eva's story.
What would you say is the most enduring myth of Eva Perón?
She was scared of not being forgotten, which is telling of who she was as a person. One thing I try to bring to the role is that from her "Lament", there is a raw and stripped-away Eva. What we've created is reflective and relatable. She can often feel like an unattainable figure, but I feel here she is very human.
What's surprised you about this production?
What interests me is how Jamie [Lloyd] wanted to create a simple version. I have no costume changes; one thing that is typical of productions of Evita is the elaborate grandness of the production - there are often multiple wig, costume and set changes. Our version moves so quickly and it's very simple.
In being simplified, the audience can follow what's happening. For example, Eva's hair colour isn't changing. We are just following her story. I've been involved in the lavish productions. They are similar, which isn't a bad thing, but I do think one of the reasons people have been interested by this production is to see it performed differently.
What have you enjoyed about Jamie Lloyd's process of direction?
I'm used to directors having already blocked the show before rehearsals. I've been in shows in Chicago where rehearsals and tech only had two and a half weeks, so the process behind this show was longer, with four or five weeks.
When coming to rehearsals for this show, Jamie would let us create something on our own and see our ideas. Together, we would then work to create a final draft of what a particular song or moment should be. I love when a director is open to what we think - it felt incredibly collaborative.
Have you done Evita in the open air before?
No, this is my first open-air show ever!
What can you say of that presentation style?
I think it's really fantastic. In some moments it can be very moving to be outside in the elements and have the wind blowing through the trees as it's going quiet on stage. On press night, it rained at the end of the show with the montage that showed Eva's life. It is very exciting and it's one of the things I've loved about this show: despite the weather being unpredictable, it's part of what we've created in the park.
Why are people interested in shows about the rise and fall of political figures?
I think people will always be fascinated by power. People stay interested because in America we have a President who admired the Peróns and the things they did. Our particular production is exciting for people because they can relate it to things that are happening today. We haven't set it in a particular time or place - we want audiences to take what they can away from it.
Which emotion do you associate with the music and lyrics of Evita?
I feel incredibly powerful because of the music. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have written one of the greatest scores of all time. It's a difficult show to sing, and so knowing I can do it eight times a week makes me feel like a badass. I feel excited and powerful.
But towards the end I am trying to strip all this away, and I often feel vulnerable. The final 20 minutes of the show leave me feeling exhausted. It's a tiring show.
Where is Eva left mentally at the end of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina"?
Where I am as a person, I love when the ensemble begin to hum. For her in that moment, she genuinely realises then that the people do love her. As a person, I kind of feel the same way. That's often one of the most recognisable points of the show, and to access that moment I look around into the audience. Never did I think I would be in London in a show like this in this setting. It's easy for me to feel touched and lucky.
Have you got a favourite line in the show?
I think one of my favourite lines is at the end of the "Lament" - I love the song in general and it's a reflective moment for her. She can see the good and bad things and has this final plea. She says, "Oh my daughter, oh my son, understand what I've done", which to me is her speaking to her people. It's her last touching moment of asking to be understood.
You're also involved in Six, which is transferring all over the world. How can music and theatre affect our conceptions of the past?
I think nowadays, especially with Six, which I'm going back to in the fall, there is an incredible amount of power being given to women regardless of their past. It's really exciting to see musicals created where we can give a new voice to these women.
In Six I play Katherine Howard, who is remembered for sleeping around. Six gives her a new voice, and her song shows people everything she had to deal with and how tragic her life was. It's giving women a new power, which we're also doing in this Evita: women are here in control of themselves. It's very exciting to be a part of these shows at this particular moment.
Will you come back to the UK?
I hope so. In this moment there's no plans for me to; when Evita closes, I'll go home and go to Chicago for Six. If anyone will have me, I'd love to return.
Is there a theatre you'd like to work in?
Truly any theatre on Broadway, or I'd love to come back and be on the West End. I'm not familiar with the theatres here, so I can't name any to you, but I'd love to return.
What show would you love to do?
I've always got my eye on Wicked. I'll be returning to Six in the fall, and to stay with that new show would be very exciting. At the moment, that's all I can say about that.
Are there any actors or creatives you would like to work with?
Jamie Lloyd has a new place in my heart, and if he will continue to cast me I will continue to work with him. I would love to work with Stephen Sondheim or Stephen Schwartz. But there's always something to be said also for people writing new stuff: Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow have created a complete hit.
What is special about this production of Evita, and why should audiences see it?
It's not an Evita anyone has seen before. We've got a lot of numbers interpreted in new ways. It's dark, raw, moving, surprising, very fresh and new - people can come to see it and it won't be anything like they've seen before.
Photograph credit: Marc Brenner