Anna O’Byrne is currently appearing as Jenny Lind in Barnum at the Theatre in the Park Chichester Festival Theatre. Earlier today she answered a few questions that I put to her.
Our last interview with you was when you were playing the role of Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera. What is your overriding memory of your time at Her Majesty’s Theatre?
I had such a lovely time performing in the company at Her Majesty’s. My overriding memory is of how everybody in that building genuinely cared about the work they were doing in getting the very best version of the show on that stage 8 times a week. I think when you perform in an extremely demanding and emotional show like Phantom, it’s important to keep the mood offstage as light as possible. So I remember some very funny moments behind-the-scenes with the company and also with my dressers and wiggies.
You are currently performing in Barnum at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Barnum which runs from 15th July to 31st August 2013. Was there anything in particular that attracted you to be a part of this show?
The opportunity to be involved in Barnum came up very unexpectedly. I had a day’s notice for my audition so I quickly learnt the scenes and aria – mostly in Swedish – and then went in and sang for the whole creative team including Tim Sheader, Liam Steele and Cameron Mackintosh. I think I just flew by the seat of my pants! Some audition processes are very involved and drawn out over weeks or months, but this one for me was only a few hours. But those few hours were very intense, working on the material with the panel, reading scenes, learning Andrew Wright’s amazing choreography, and singing the aria. A few days later I had a session with our Circus Consultant Vicki Amedume on trapeze and rope. I think I found out I had the job about a day after that. I love Cy Coleman’s score, and the creative team that Cameron has assembled is so strong. So that was a huge draw card.
You are playing the role of Jenny Lind. What can you tell us about her and how she fits into the storyline?
Jenny Lind in Barnum is based on the real life Jenny Lind, who was a Swedish opera singer and concert artist. She was an incredible singer, extraordinarily successful and completely beloved by her audiences. PT Barnum brought her to America and produced a concert tour for her, and in our version of the show they connect on a personal level as well as a professional one. I enjoy playing her because she is a complete diva (in the true sense of the word) but she is also funny, intelligent, playful, and vulnerable. She gets some fabulous outfits too, so that’s always nice!
Many people that come to see the show leave at the end with a Cy Coleman tune in their head. Do you have any particular favourite songs from the show?
It’s a truly great score and we are so lucky to have gorgeous new orchestrations by Bill Brohn. Bill has really unified the sound of the piece and made Cy Coleman’s music even more witty and thrilling than it was before. Of course I adore Jenny’s aria, Love Makes Such Fools of Us All, but my favourite ensemble number is One Brick at a Time. I also love the Museum Song, which is Barnum’s patter number – it follows One Brick in the show and it’s such a fun sequence to perform.
What is it like performing in the Chichester Festival Theatre’s ‘Theatre in the Park’, a huge, newly-erected, air-conditioned white tent replicating the festival’s main auditorium, which is undergoing refurbishment?
The tent is absolutely stunning and the atmosphere it creates is magical – lots of the audience come and have a picnic in the park before the show, so we see lots of kids running about and people enjoying themselves in the sunshine. It’s lovely.
Why should everyone come along to see the show?
It’s a fun, joyous night at the theatre… except it’s in a big top! Even better.
What plans do you have after Barnum?
Nothing is set in stone as yet, which is both daunting and exciting!
You can follow Anna O’Byrne on twitter at @annaobyrne
Questions by By Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Monday 5th August 2013