Hi Gemma, welcome to BWW:UK! How are you today?
I'm really well, thank you. I've just moved house so I’m up to my elbows in moving boxes and flat-pack furniture!
You joined the cast of Legally Blonde a couple of months ago as lesbian activist Enid Hoops; how is that going so far?
It's a dream job and I can't believe how quickly the weeks are going by. I have always loved the show; it's so well written with a very clever book and such a brilliant score. The first few months are always the most stressful with a manic rehearsal process, the pressure of opening night, lots of understudy rehearsals and then the time it takes to really feel settled into the role, but I’m finally managing to settle into a routine now…and now think about Christmas shopping! The cast and crew are great, everyone works so hard and there's a lovely vibe both onstage and offstage.
It's quite different to other parts you've played in show such as Imagine This and The Kissing Dance; how did you approach the role?
It has been a really interesting experience, first to do a contemporary show and secondly to be part of a re-cast of such an established, big scale production. For a 'pop' show the score is surprisingly complex, with great pop ballads like 'So Much Better’, to the jazz vibe in 'Blood in the Water' and even a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in 'Gay and European'! Learning the score with the Musical Directors has been one of my favourite parts of the experience so far.
My biggest fear was that it was going to feel quite restrictive in terms of playing the role as it had been played before, but we were all able to give our own take on the roles and have a certain amount of freedom with trying out new things. Only when you get an audience in front of you can you work out what works and what doesn't, particularly with the comedy side of things and Enid has some great opportunities both in the dialogue and the physicality. She's a free spirit and has no interest in conforming, so it was easy to take risks and try different things. I always like to research and try to understand where the character comes from so I spent some time on Wikipedia looking into feminism and liberation, and of course I've watched the MTV showing of Legally Blonde The Musical on YouTube countless times!
You're also first cover for Elle Woods, and have already been on a few times; are you enjoying it?
It has been so exciting, I still can't believe I've actually played the part I've wanted to play for so long! I got very stressed and nervous before the first few times I went on as there was so much to remember, but I'm loving every second of it. I've been on twelve times now so I feel like I can relax and have fun with it more, as I'm not thinking so much about where to stand, which doggie to pick up and what costume is being thrown on me next! There are so few female roles like Elle both in terms of the character's journey and the amazing songs she gets to sing so I feel very lucky. The rest of the company and the audience at Legally Blonde are so supportive when understudies are on, so that makes it a lot easier.
It must be quite hard jumping from Enid to Elle...do you ever find yourself getting confused?
In rehearsals it was a bit crazy as I was often doing Enid one scene, and straight to Elle the next so I did feel very schizophrenic, but it at least meant the two characters could develop in my head at the same pace and it made the understudy rehearsals once the show had opened a lot less stressful. The characters are such polar opposites that I'm managing to keep them separate for now - but if Enid accidentally starts wearing high heels for her Harvard Variations rap then we need to start worrying!
What is your favourite scene or song to perform from the show?
Ooh, tricky one. As Enid it's probably the remix as it's lovely to have most of the company all on stage together and I still get all excited when we do the Irish Line dancing bit. As Elle, I really like ‘Take it Like a Man’ as it's fun to sing and it's the song that shows Elle's and Emmet's relationship and why you know they are destined for each other.
Join us again soon for the second part of our interview with Gemma, when we chat about cabarets, bloopers and pooches!