At the time of the interview it was a few weeks ahead of Gina taking on the role of Glinda in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Her career has certainly come a long way since her first role at school in The Pied Piper!
Having made her professional stage debut in the Opera Holland Park summer season in 2005, Gina then toured with The Merry Widow to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Following on from Les Miserables, Gina created the role of Rebecca Warshowsky in the world premiere of the new musical Imagine This at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. She has subsequently appeared in several notable productions including a tour to Malaysia as Maria in The Sound of Music and is now looking forward to joining the cast of Wicked.
Gina recently took some time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions that I put to her.
When did you first discover that you had a talent to sing and want to perform in front of people?
Well I joined the church choir at the age of 7, but I didn’t think I was any good. I think it might have been at aged 10 when I was chosen to play the lead in ‘The Pied Piper‘ at school.
Was there anyone in particular that inspired you to be on stage and sing?
Yes, a lady called Lissa Grey who lived in my village taught me to sing from the age of 11 and set up the Hampshire County Children’s Choir which I became a member of.
You trained at The Central School of Speech and Drama in London. What are your favourite memories from that time?
I have so many great memories because of the brilliant and exceptional people in my year. The first two years were very hard. We worked 10 hour days training and then in the third year we only worked on plays like you would in the profession, and all our hard work paid off.
You have appeared on television as well as on stage, how do the two compare and do you have a preference?
Well my television experience is very little but I remember feeling odd that when I’d done my bit there was no response, and no audience, it felt very strange not to have any reaction, just to go home. I’m sure this is only true of cameo roles. Once you get into a long-running series I’m sure it would have the same cast camaraderie etc. as on stage.
When did you make your professional stage debut?
In 2005 I performed in the Opera Holland Park summer season. It was a magical experience as the theatre is in the park underneath a canopy and we could hear the park’s resident peacocks during the performances, also the sun would set beautifully around us. It was amazing working with professional opera singers and singing in Italian!
You have toured South Africa in The Merry Widow, and subsequently Maria Von Trapp in ‘The Sound of Music’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What was it like being on tour, and how do the audiences compare with London and the UK?
I love to travel, so it’s always brilliant to get jobs abroad. We are very lucky in this country to have such a rich theatrical resource, which you only realise when you visit other countries. Our week -long visit to Malaysia was being hailed as the ‘Theatrical Event of the Year’!
You made your West End debut as Cosette in Les Misérables at the Queens Theatre, how would you describe this?
Just a dream really, I used to sneak in and watch matinees when the National Youth Music Theatre offices were on the 5th floor of the Palace Theatre, never daring to imagine it would be me up there one day. It was the 21st Anniversary year and I got to perform with the original cast, which was certainly a night to remember.
After Les Miserables you created the lead role of Rebecca Warshowsky in the world premiere of the new musical, ‘Imagine This’ at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth.
Creating a role is fantastic and I’ve created two more this year, it’s extremely challenging. You face the character and it’s a blank page. ‘Take over’s’ have their own merits too, when you are stepping into a role that’s already been created, that has a history, it’s exciting and I’m always seeking to put my own stamp on it whilst still respecting what’s gone before.
You also performed “The Phantom of the Opera” duet with Ramin Karimloo at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 60th birthday concert in Hyde Park. What was this experience like?
As I’ve said recently it was exciting but mainly terrifying, I’d only been in the show a week, I wish I could repeat the experience now. The funniest thing was how they didn’t put our names in the programme, we were unknowns. Now look at Ramin, he could sell the same tickets at Hyde Park just to see him!
As well as appearing in the West End you have also appeared off-West End as Kate Hardcastle in ‘The Kissing Dance’ at The Jermyn Street Theatre and more recently as Letitia Hardy in ‘The Belle’s Stratagem’ at the Southwark Playhouse. How does performing in more intimate venues compare to the larger West End theatres?
It was hard at first, but my training at drama school was in smaller venues so I was able to adapt fairly quickly and attempt to match my performance to the space. ‘The Belle’s Stratagem’ involved a lot of talking to the audience, which was also hard to get used to but something which became natural very quickly and great fun, I’m not sure I will be able to employ this at the Apollo Victoria!
It has been announced that you will take over the role of Glinda in Wicked from 12th December. What was the audition process like and where were you when you found out you had got the part?
It wasn’t too bad actually, I found the panel were very nurturing and obviously trying to help me do the best I could. I found out I’d got the part at the Southwark Playhouse where I was performing that night, I found it rather hard to concentrate that evening!
Glinda has somewhat of an ‘eccentric’ character, what will you focus on to put her personality across?
I hope to make her a very real Glinda, a fun-loving girl who is good at heart just some of her decisions are a little askew. She’s a girl who, like most of us, just wants to be liked.
How would you describe your Glinda? Or is this still a ‘work in progress’?
Yes, until I start rehearsals and interacting with the other characters I’m unsure how my Glinda will unfold.
How do you usually prepare before a show, vocally and also with any set procedures that you have?
Yes I will do a vocal warm up, oh and visit the bathroom at the last minute I can before putting on my costumes, that’s very important!!
What is the most important aspect of acting to you?
It’s a cliché, but listening to the other characters and playing the truth of the situation are really key factors.
What do you like to do to chill out away from the stage on a ‘day off’?
I love to go to the cinema, have a nice pub lunch, watch TV and slob around a bit.
Any message that you would like to say to your supporters?
Thanks so much for all your messages of support for Wicked, I hope I don’t let you guys down.
Gina will be performing in ‘A Night for Jennifer‘ A Charity Concert at the Lyric Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue on Monday October 31st. www.anightforjennifer.co.uk
You can follow Gina on Twitter @Gina_Beck
19th October 2011