Interview with Emily Shaw
Emily is currently performing as the Acrobat in Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre.
“There is something in our show for everyone, young and old. Besides, if you don’t come, then it will be straight to the chokey!”
Emily made her professional stage debut as Little Cosette in Les Miserables. She has toured with Beauty and The Beast, Mary Poppins and Thoroughly Modern Millie. She has also starred as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at Richmond Theatre and played the leading role in Snow White in Northampton.
Emily performed in Matilda with the RSC at Stratford upon Avon before coming to the West End with the production.
Earlier this week Emily answered some questions about herself and Matilda The Musical.
When did you or someone else discover that you had a talent for singing?
My Nana, she had a lovely voice and used to sing at her church. Whenever I used to stay with her we would always sing together. My family have always been very supportive.
What are some of your memorable moments from drama classes and productions while at school?
My school wasn’t very theatrical so I used to go to the local Am Dram company. The first production I was involved in was Singing in the Rain and I loved it. We had a performer who trained at Laine Theatre Arts choreograph the show, and I think it was during this time that I decided I really wanted to go there and train in musical theatre.
Can you describe some of your favourite memories from Laine Theatre Arts?
I was quite young when I went to Laines, 16 years old…. and I had never really been away from home. It was quite daunting. But I look back at my college time with really fond memories. We did some great productions such as Into the Woods, Evita and Sunset Boulevard. The training was very intense and hard work, but it is important to try and get everything you can out of college and then use it to your advantage when you leave.
When did you make your professional stage debut?
When I was 9 I played Little Cosette in Les Miserables, but I think my parents probably remember it more than me! I had no idea what I was doing. It was all a big game. I often wonder if the children in Matilda will feel like that when they are older.
You toured with Beauty and The Beast, Mary Poppins and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Can you describe your time on tour with these shows?
Thoroughly Modern Millie was one of my favourite jobs. I will always hold a candle for it. I loved the show and the choreography but more importantly I met some of my now closest friends on that job. Touring is like a little bubble, you get put in a cast with people, travelling all over the UK; they sort of become your family. Also it’s a great way to explore the country.
You performed in Hello Dolly in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, what was it like performing in an open air theatre?
Really different, I loved it actually. We were really lucky on Hello Dolly because we had fantastic weather that summer, it only rained (heavily) twice. It is quite exciting dancing on stage and then all of a sudden it starts spitting and you can hear the popping sounds of the audience putting up their umbrellas! I would definitely like to work there again.
You also appeared in The Wizard of Oz at Richmond Theatre. What character did you play in this classic story?
I played Dorothy. That was a great role. I always loved the film growing up. The dog that played Toto was hilarious and very naughty, always chasing the lion’s tail! But he was adorable and definitely stole the show!
You performed in Matilda with the RSC at Stratford-upon-Avon before coming to London with the production. What was it like being at the start of something so special?
It was a fantastic experience on so many levels. Stratford-upon-Avon is such a beautiful place to work, especially at Christmas. It was really exciting, after all of our hard work rehearsing to get such a positive reaction. You can imagine we were all so happy when we heard that it got a West End transfer.
You perform as the Acrobat in Matilda. What can you tell everyone about your character and how does she fit into the storyline?
Matilda tells Mrs Phelps, the librarian, a story throughout the show about an Acrobat and an Escapologist who are deeply in love and have everything they could ever want but they do not have a child. Dennis Kelly, who wrote the script for our play has really captured Dahl in this story line, so it’s a lot of fun to play.
What is your favourite song and scene from the show?
I think it would have to be the song at the beginning of act two called “When I Grow Up” It is a lovely melody but the lyrics are genius. Tim Minchin wrote the music and lyrics for Matilda and in this particular song he really captures the innocence of what children think about growing up… “eat sweets everyday” “go to bed late every night”. I think it’s quite an emotional song and Peter Darling’s choreography is perfect for it.
What is it like backstage at Matilda?
Very busy! Lots of children!
Why do you think Matilda is such a successful show in the West End?
Matilda is such a great story. Roald Dahl was incredible at writing characters and stories with morals. I think Matilda is a feel-good show with a message and lots of different people can relate to it.
Why should everyone come along and see the show?
There is something in our show for everyone, young and old. Besides, if you don’t come, then it will be straight to the chokey!
You have sung with The Spinettes at various venues. What can you tell us about the trio and their style of music?
We are friends that all perform in musical theatre. Our style is 1940/50s. We cover the old classics with a modern twist and the modern hits with a vintage spin. We like to be creative when we are not working on a show. It keeps us busy and we have lots of fun.
What more can we expect from The Spinettes?
We have had to put things on hold for a while and hand over to our Swing Spinettes. Melanie is in Chicago and Bonnie in Wicked, so it’s all go. But we look forward to performing again when we have a bit more time.
You were a lead singer at The Royal Gala Performance at the Wales Millennium Centre. How would you describe this experience?
It was very nerve-racking performing for the Queen, definitely an experience I won’t forget! It is such an incredible theatre. I was honoured to be a part of the opening.
What do you like to do on your days off?
I live in North London with my partner Tom. We are both foodies so we usually cook or do home things. I try to see my family as much as I can, I am quite a home bird at heart.
What message would you have for your fans and supporters?
I’m not sure I have any fans!! But I have lots of support from my friends and family. I love what I do for a career but my family will always come first.
Many thanks Emily for a lovely interview – best wishes for Matilda The Musical and the future.
Interview questions by Neil Cheesman
Updated 27th November 2015