BWW Interviews: Helen Dallimore of INTO THE WOODS!
Hi Helen, welcome back to London! Tell me about being Cinderella!
It's wonderful fun! I've never done open air before - I'm an Open Air virgin. I've never worked outside in any situation, so it's exciting.
And have you done any Sondheim?
It's my first Sondheim as well! (laughs) Lots of firsts for me.
Was it the usual audition process?
It's a very strange story. I live in Australia at the moment, but I happened to be in LA at the time when it came up. My agent told me, and I usually audition from Australia via tape - I'll record an audition and put it up online and send a link, but I was in LA but didn't have my usual set-up. So I had to find an accompanist and a camera and somewhere to shoot it. It was all very last-minute. I had about 24 hours to learn some extremely difficult songs and find someone to play for me, and my husband filmed it. We got it up online, and they saw my emailed audition and cast me from that! It was from the other side of the world, but not my normal side.
And you were doing Spring Awakening back in Australia? I wouldn't have imagined you in that, doing the grown-up role, I guess...
Well, I am thirty-eight now. Those kids are teenagers, and I could quite easily be the mother of a teenager. Particularly in those days, people did have kids younger. So technically I was just the right age. Maybe not for the nasty schoolmistress, but I pulled lots of faces and I had a bit of padding as well! I do tend to play character parts, and I do a lot more of that back in Australia - political revues, impersonating politicians and things like that.
How did the show go down in Australia?
It had a similar response to London. It was only meant to be a short run in the first place. I thought it might be extended or somebody might pick it up. It's interesting. It did so well in New York. Maybe it's more an American sensibility, the style of the show? I don't know. It's a show for young people. Certainly the theatre company where we did it, a wonderful theatre company, their demographic is much older. I don't know if it appeals to older people. Having said that, a lot of people really loved it, and I loved doing it.
You're best known over here for Wicked, of course - do you mind being known for something you did a few years ago?
If you're going to have your name attached to something, it's a pretty good thing to have people remember you for! I feel very lucky I did Wicked and that's part of my identity here - I feel very proud of it.
And you've developed a huge fanbase on the back of that too.
Well, I don't know if they're still out there! I've been away for a while, not living here!
Oh, they are!
Well, that's lovely!
Let's talk a bit about Too Close To The Sun. I thought the cast did amazingly well with it.
Thank you very much. I think we did too. I think the work we did in it was really good. I'm very proud of it. It was a solid cast and a solid production, really.
But it must have been difficult to keep going with the critical savaging and tickets not selling.
Yes. Of course it was hard. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It's so disheartening. You've got to go out there and put yourself on the line. You've got to believe in it 100 per cent, because that's your job. It's very disheartening if people don't like it and aren't supportive. But that is the way here. Critics are brutal and audiences are ruthless. I'm well aware that it wasn't the first show ever to be savaged on the West End. We're not alone in that.
For a short run, it was full of accidents - with Jay Benedict going and what's now affectionately known as Tablegate (when the set furniture collapsed)...
(laughs a lot) That is truly one of the funniest things that has ever happened to me in my career. I don't know how I managed to keep going because it was so hilarious. We thought it was hilarious; the audience thought it was hilarious - it broke a lot of the tension in the theatre! We were having a laugh, the audience were having a laugh, and we bonded for a moment.
It's not often we get new musicals in the West End, though - do you think people are predisposed not to like new stuff?
I think musical theatre fans can be very critical. They know what they like and what they don't, and they're very opinionated as an audience, for better or worse. It's just the way - everything is blogged about. Everything is subjective, and you can't take everything on board because it's all personal opinion.
What are you up to after you finish at the Open Air Theatre?
My life is very open-ended. I'm quite nomadic. I'll probably go back to Australia, which is where my husband is. But I'm glad to be here and seeing people and seeing what's around. My approach to it is that I'll be here as often as I can and whenever work comes up, I'll take it. For the last year or so, I haven't stopped. It'll be the first rest for over a year when I finish in Into The Woods. I did a few months in Home and Away and then got on the plane over here the next day! So I'm quietly hoping for a small rest...
Helen Dallimore plays Cinderella in Into The Woods at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.