Monty Python’s Spamalot, by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005 and has been making audiences laugh their heads off ever since (not literally). This is not just a fun show to watch but also fun to be a part of.
Amelia took some time out to answer some questions about her career and Monty Python’s Spamalot.
You trained at the Italia Conti Academy and then The Royal Academy of Performing Arts. What are some of your favourite memories from your times there?
Yes, I did the 3 year Musical Theatre Course at Conti’s when I left school at 16. I really feel it was a great all-round preparation for the business studying all aspects of the Performing Arts. A favourite memory of mine was performing our 3rd yr show 42nd Street at The Shaw Theatre in our final year. Having the opportunity to play a character role was immense fun.
I then chose to further my training at The Royal Academy of Music on the 1-year Post-Graduate Musical Theatre Course. It was an exhilarating year with so many wonderful moments. A stand-out memory was performing a medley of Stephen Sondheim’s songs for him on his receiving an Honorary Doctorate at The Academy. Giving us a standing ovation made my year!
You were part of the first Night of 1000 Voices at the Royal Albert Hall. What was it like performing in such a magnificent venue?
I had the privilege of performing in Night of a 1000 Voices twice at The Royal Albert Hall. And most recently I returned to TRAH to sing in Kerry Ellis’s Concert – Anthems- last year.
To experience your first professional engagement in one of the most iconic venues in the country looking out at approx 5,500 people is something quite special for a 9-year-old. I’ll always remember that moment and treasure that debut experience.
Your first solo role was performing for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh? What can you tell us about that experience?
I was really fortunate to be chosen to sing a solo in a Royal Variety Show at The Theatre Royal Windsor whilst I was studying at stage school aged 15.
I can vividly recall the number…I performed ‘All That Jazz’ from Chicago to a packed-out auditorium including many industry professionals and none other than HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Planning the routine, getting fitted for costume, receiving a standing ovation from Engelbert Humperdinck in the dress rehearsal, and meeting The Duke on stage afterwards were some of the highlights!
Your film career includes appearing as a student in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. What is it like being a part of something that is so very successful?
As I filmed the 1st Harry Potter film, I was unaware of the success it would be and the future for the series… I did however get a sense of ‘magic in the making’ so to speak, on set.
Similarly when I originated the role of ‘Adela’ in the UK Premiere of the musical Bernarda Alba at The Union Theatre in London last August’ I felt a particular buzz about the show and despite not being able to foresee what a box office success something will be, you can tell when you’re investing in something special…
You have several television appearances to your credit. Which ones have been the highlights for you?
TV is something I would like to experience more of. When I was younger I recorded a dark hard hitting drama which starred Billie Piper and I thought it was great to be involved in something so touching and ‘real’ that people all over the country can identify with.
A couple of years ago I featured in a documentary-style TV drama called Operation Mincemeat – a fascinating piece which has to be a favourite of mine. I love being transported to different eras in the world of TV. So to be back in WW2, with pin-curled hair parading around in 40s bathing costumes was extraordinarily good fun.
Having just finished touring with Spamalot. What do you like most and least about being on tour?
Oooh the best thing about touring the UK has to be experiencing performing in so many different theatres, old to modern etc. Although obviously our set is transported around in trailers and remains the same in each venue, it is just mind-boggling how backstage can vary so dramatically according to the theatre. It is a treat to look back and recall how many theatres I have played at across the country!
The other bonus that comes with it is of course the amount of cities I have had the pleasure of exploring and familiarising myself with in the spare time before a show call.
There’s not much to dislike about touring, although I guess that sometimes the best parts i.e. the variety of theatres we play at, can be one of the downfalls as arriving at a venue on a Monday to sound check in the afternoon then performing the show that same evening can present difficulties negotiating wings, remembering where quick changes take place etc.
Certainly the life of a touring actor isn’t as glamorous as people like to envisage: dodgy digs, travelling long journeys and missing home (for me – my Mum and cats!) can also be tough when you’re on the road but all part of the fun of it…!
You are about to make your West End debut. How do you feel about that?
Ever since I can remember I have always known the stage was for me (stagey huh?!). I suppose a tell-tale sign was watching musical films such as Annie, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins on repeat… But after my mother took me to watch Copacabana at The Prince of Wales Theatre aged 4 on a booster seat, I was converted. In a WEST END THEATRE with the bright lights, fancy costumes, prancing about on stage and belting at the top of your lungs was where I wanted to be. I have dreamt of performing and ‘making’ it in The West End; so to be here now in previews with press night imminent, I am still pinching myself.
It hasn’t been an easy journey and I have worked my ass off for as long as I can remember but it sure is worth it. Dreams can come true!
What can you tell us about your role in Spamalot and how you fit into the story line?
Well I am the only female ‘Swing’ in the show. A ‘Swing’ is basically a cover for ensemble/chorus/lead roles either on or off stage. Depending on the scale of the musical’s cast depends on how many swings there are. As there are only 2 ensemble tracks and 1 leading lady in the show – I am the only Swing and I cover all 3 female parts. A swing is a vital role in any musical yet probably the least congratulated. As a swing you must know and be ready to perform any of the roles you understudy at the drop of a hat should anyone become sick at any point in the show. It is physically and emotionally demanding to be on top of all the roles 24/7.
The 2 ensemble roles which I cover are fun as in those parts throughout the show I get to play about 5 or 6 different characters with quick changes, fun routines and gorgeous costumes to wear.
My favourite however is the lead role of ‘The Lady of the Lake’. A real diva part which I love putting my own stamp on.
Which is your favourite scene in the show?
Spamalot is a hilariously silly musical written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with witty lyrics, brilliantly funny script and complimentary inventive choreography. It is about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table’s quest for The Holy Grail and all they encounter along route.
There are far too many favourite moments as it is non-stop laugh-out-loud with not a dull moment in it.
Camelot is my favourite routine to perform as the entire cast are in it and is fantastically rousing; playing a Showgirl is fab!
The showstopper ‘Diva’s Lament’ which ‘The Lady of the Lake’ sings has to be my favourite solo number in the show to perform. It is the most indulgent number any actor could wish for – a follow spot, dressing gown on, curtain down and just YOU on stage – wow!
Why should everyone go and see Spamalot?
Because laughing releases endorphins and burns calories!!!
On a more serious note, Spamalot is such a unique piece of theatre it really is worth the watch. I can’t think of another musical which has no dark side.
It is a new reworked revue of the version of Spamalot that originated at The Palace Theatre in 2006. So if you liked that, you’ll LOVE this and if you missed that, then you MUST catch this!
This version has been brought back to the British humour that the writers intended to be the crux of the show and the team are proud and most pleased with this one, directed by the superb Christopher Luscombe.
Apart from Spamalot, which is your favourite show playing in London at the moment?
My classic favourite long runner that I have seen more times than I can count on 2 hands is Les Miserables. Always has and always will be!
I am a big fan of Wicked as I feel the show has it all. From set to lighting to costume to dark and light in the piece and vocally it is such a phenomenal showcase for female vocalists’ sopranos and belters in the show! You laugh and cry…I can’t get enough of it.
Newer to the West End, I love this version of Sweeney Todd. Again in my opinion, this show is everything a great musical should be.
You have performed on stage and in front of the camera, do you have a preference?
I like the challenges and rewards that each bring in their own way. At present having more experience in theatre, my preference and heart lie in the live show!
I would like to do more recorded material in time and I thoroughly enjoy doing voice over work and making voices for animation.
A fantasy of mine is to re-record some of the old Judy Garland movies again in modern H.D. quality. That would combine my love of musical theatre performance with filming!
Looking ahead, what ambitions do you have?
I am a hugely ambitious being with many goals in life.
To play the lead in the West End in a musical has always been a life-long dream. I don’t care for ‘fame’ or celebrity status but to carve a successful career out of my passion which is performing is my prerogative.
When I was 16 I was part of the young chorus in The Wind in The Willows at Regents Park Open Air Theatre. I then returned a couple of years later whilst I was a student at Italia Conti to play ‘Mrs Rabbit’ in Fantastic Mr Fox. So to go back to that theatre as an adult and perform one summer season in rep is a great passion of mine.
Then I would be keeping a secret if I didn’t let out my dream of hitting the neon lights on Broadway one day in the future…
What do you like to do to chill out?
I am truly lucky to have such a strong family and genuine friend base from all walks of life that keep me grounded yet support every move I make. I adore whiling away hours with friends in coffee houses with a latte and cup cake putting the world to rights!
My Mother is my backbone though and has been each and every step of the way. I really wouldn’t be where I am without her. So going to see shows, plays and ballets with her has always been great therapy.
But then a book, a park and people-watching is a great sport – oh how easily pleased am I?!
Any message for your supporters?
All I can say is a HUGE Thank-ou for all the kind relentless support.
Undoubtedly when I am on stage I am fulfilling my own love and thrill for performing; however the reason I get a kick from being up there is the rewards in the reaction from making an audience feel something in some way; now that is where the real adoration lies.
So I make it my duty to do you justice every time I step out in front of the footlights.
And I hope to always deliver and that you can derive enjoyment for as long as I continue making noise and flapping about on stage doing what I love doing best!
So, thanks again – a – lot!
You can follow Amelia on Twitter @AmeliaAP
Interviewed by Neil who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Updated 11th October 2014