What’s the first musical you remember seeing?
I first went to see Cats at the New London with my Dad when I was 8. I just remember the darkness and the cat being right there, near your seat… terrifying. Although everyone had talked about the MaCavity moment before I went, when those red flashing eyes came up, that was it… I was holding onto my Dad for dear life. It was amazing.
So was it that that inspired you to go into musical theatre or was it a later experience?
No, I think it was before that… I’d been singing in the church choir and started having singing lessons with a local teacher in my village. Well, I first started having piano lessons with her, and then I started doing piano lessons for half an hour, and singing lessons for half an hour. Then it became singing lessons for 45 minutes and piano for maybe 3 seconds at the end of the lesson! Also at school I was involved in all the plays and shows.
But it was musical theatre, never a desire to be a pop star?
Oh yes, completely. I always loved classical music more than pop. I sang in so many choirs when I was younger I sort of developed a more classical sound so I think pop was never really on the agenda for me.
What’s the last show you went to see?
I went to see Priscilla (Queen of the Desert) on Monday. I thought it was amazing, just such a spectacle. It’s not a musical in the normal sense of the word but it’s the costumes…. It’s sort of like Mardi Gras, it’s like a massive carnival on the stage and the dancing is just such fun – I went with Nic (Greenshields, standby Phantom) and we sat there giggling the whole way through, it’s very silly, but good.
Were you a Phantom fan before you starred in the show?
I was. I had the Andrew Lloyd Webber Greatest Hits tape when I was younger and listened to the Christine and Phantom duet on full volume, singing along ‘Da, da da da da da….’
When did you first see the show?
I first saw it in Edinburgh, on the tour in about 2000…. We had seats quite far back and I’d forgotten my glasses so I could hear it but I couldn’t actually see it that well! Then I sat in the West End in row D when I had some tickets from someone, I managed to see the full spectacle and I was just blown away.
Was that after you were in Les Miserables (Gina starred in Les Miserables before Phantom) or during?
No, it was a few years before, when I was still at college.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
Probably as a collective group, the National Youth Music Theatre because I joined when I was 15 and immediately started doing professional level productions. I got to work in some of the best theatres in the country. I went on tours to places including Japan, and met so many people who are now still in the business – you know, there’s not a show in the West End that doesn’t have people in it who I know from when I was in the NYMT. Basically it was such a grounding for what was to come in the rest of my career.
There’s a real sense of community, isn’t there, among the musical theatre community?
Oh my gosh, yes. Everyone knows everyone! I’m sure it’s the same in straight theatre and in film etc…I don’t know, is there something about musicals where everyone bonds?
You’re working all those funny hours?
Yeah, true… people set up these musical theatre nights, there was one last night actually called ‘Baby Grand’ that everyone goes to and you bump into people who’ve just come out of We Will Rock You and other shows… it’s fun.
What’s your favourite part of Phantom?
I love the boat journey, strangely enough, because it’s so realistic with all the smoke and the candles and stuff – I can actually fool myself thinking this is real life, and I am actually there. I just find it so magical sitting in that boat!
Even when it doesn’t work?
Yeah – well that doesn’t happen too often, thank God! It is a bit bumpy sometimes… like some sort of dodgem boat. It operates by remote control, not on a track, which is terrifying! Someone stands in the wings with a remote control and sometimes it does go a little haywire. Sometimes it gets a little too close to the orchestra pit and I always think, ‘stop!’
Have you ever had any scary moments in the show?
Scary moments… hmmm…. Costume failures happen quite often, that’s always fun. Recently my costume got stuck on the proscenium arch during ‘The Point of No Return’ and I had to tug at it… there’s a lot of comedy costume things. I had one show last week in my Il Muto skirt. When I started to turn upstage to do the dusting the skirt snapped open and although I managed to grab it before it fell, the crew and all the ballet girls were in the wings laughing at me holding it up – I was holding it with one hand and doing the dusting with the other hand. And in the same show, my green cloak in ‘All I Ask of You’ fell off on one whole side, I was throwing it round my shoulders like a shawl –and I thought, “I’m just not having a great night. It’s all gone horribly wrong.”
What’s your favourite costume as Christine?
The mausoleum dress. The blue one. I think it’s pure silk and it was handmade for me…it’s just the most beautiful dress in the world. And sadly it has a cloak over it quite a lot of the time! They’re all so heavy, my dresser shows people around the costumes sometimes, she always makes them pick them up just to see how heavy they are. They’re all attached to me by the bodice bit, so that you can’t quite feel how heavy they are cos they’re sort of anchored onto you, but when you try and pick them up…!
Do you have two versions of dresses for cleaning?
No, they try and do it when I’m away… because I’ve got Monday and Thursday off, so they try and do it then. They can’t dry clean them that often because they’re so delicate.
It’s just stuff that’s next to your skin that they have to clean every day isn’t it?
Yeah and they just Febreeze the dresses… nice… and we have these things called ‘pit pads’– you attach them inside your costume to catch all your sweat. Yeah, it’s nice. So glamorous!
Do you get nervous before a performance?
I do sometimes, it depends – if I know someone’s watching, like my old singing teacher or someone who I am trying to impress! It makes me aware of the audience when I’m thinking that someone is there concentrating on you. But I don’t normally get nervous, it’s only when I think I’m going to forget the words my heart jumps. That moment’s hesitation when you think, “I don’t know the next line…” but you do.
Do you have any lucky rituals before the show?
Well I have my Tony Pedretti warm-up tape that I have to do! He is a singing teacher and someone gave me his tape. Although I don’t actually know who he is, I think quite a lot of people in the business use this tape. It’s 27 minutes of scales and stuff, but I have to do it before every show… I’m going to have to find out who he is. If I didn’t do that, I’d feel like I wasn’t ready!
Do you have any phobias?
I sometimes think that things are going to fall on my head! When I was younger, I did a show at college and there was a little balcony maybe about ten feet up which had two amps right on the edge of it and they were vibrating so much that one of them fell off and scuffed the back of my head! I’ve got this massive scar now and so I’ve always been a bit concerned, because if you look up into the theatre, you think that something could just randomly drop on your head at any moment. Not that it would, I know there’s safety checks, but it’s a big drop!