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Scott Rylander

Interview with Gina Beck: West End Star

17 October 2014 Jessica Johnston

"Well I play 'woman 2' a role I've been working my way up to throughout my career!"

Gina Beck has been starring in West End musicals such as Wicked and Phantom of the Opera for years. Currently she's performing in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, which opens at the Charing Cross Theatre this week. Busy in rehearsals, London Calling were lucky enough to catch up with her over a cup of tea.

London Calling: For those who don’t know, what’s Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris about?

Gina Beck: It's a musical glimpse into many different slices of life. Our director Andrew Keates says the songs say all the things we feel but don't say. Each Brel song is a standalone entity, they are not necessarily connected. Each song tells a different story of loss, or of love, of desperation or of hope. Brel's songs along with stunning translations by Mort Shuman are so rich and take the audience on a very personal journal. 

LC: Tell us about your character...

GB: Well I play "woman 2" a role I've been working my way up to throughout my career! My character changes from song to song, I play idealistic girls who meet with real life, cabaret artists, a couple of prostitutes, a rock star amongst other things.. It's quite diverse! 

LC: How have rehearsal’s been going?

GB: Great, I've really enjoyed working in such a small cast. It's a real little family we have here. There's a lot of laughs obviously with David Burt in the cast but there's also a lot of support for each other. When we are tackling quite tricky and emotional material it's great to have the support from each other and our wonderful creative team.

LC: You have starred in various long running shows, how do you keep your performance fresh each night?

GB: I didn't find that very hard in Wicked because I played a comic character and the audience reacted differently to me each night and I could work off them in different ways. You work together with the audience so much more in comedy it becomes more of a dialogue. 

LC: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

GB: Hmm, pre show toilet stop is a must... Nothing worse than needing to go while you're onstage...not that that has ever happened to me!! Also I do a little warm up, nothing major, I used to do big long warm ups for Phantom until I started working with vocal coach Steven Luke Walker and he showed me it's not necessary. 

LC: What is your favourite West End musical song of all time?

GB: The Tonight Quintet from West Side Story. West Side Story is one of my absolute favourites, so fun to sing as a soprano. So emotional and rich with a big orchestra. 

LC: What has been the most challenging costume you have worn on stage? 

GB: Hmm, well actually some of the Phantom gowns were more restrictive than the Wicked ones because they were fully boned corsets and big hooped skirts whereas Wicked use more modern corsetry. Saying that, obviously the bubble dress did take some getting used to, it's massive!! 

LC: What’s the audition process like for big roles in London’s best West End shows?

GB: Well it's always very lengthy, at least in my case! I think I had 8 rounds for Phantom, 5 rounds for Wicked. It's quite an ordeal, every stage is so nerve wracking and as you get closer to getting the part you want it more and more until it becomes all consuming. I remember I was working in an office in the city while I was auditioning for Phantom, I kept having to nip out for auditions and I'd have to warm up in the ladies. The glamour! 

LC: At the end of last year, you made your North American debut playing Glinda on the first National tour of Wicked, what was that like?

GB: It was amazing, I was so lucky. First of all getting to see all those cities and actually live in a different country for 8 months was really interesting but also getting to do the show in an American accent was a real challenge and lastly meeting the wonderful friends I made in the company. They were so welcoming and warm, we had some very fun times. 

LC: If you could play any other role in the future, what would it be?

GB :I would love to play Mary Poppins one day, also I'd love to do some Sondheim, I never have!

LC:What was the last musical you watched? What did you think?

GB: The last show I saw was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, I thought Robert Lindsay was so cool. He has such charisma. I saw my talented friend Alice Fearn and she and Darren Bennett were hilarious. It was a very fun show, raucous but classy! 

LC: What should audiences expect when they come and see Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris?

GB: Something a bit different to the norm, it's an eclectic piece with some truly beautiful and heartbreaking performances. If you've never heard of Jacques Brel before check out some of his performances on YouTube before you come and you'll get a flavour. His performances come right from his heart and soul and that's what we want to achieve too.

'Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris' is currently showing at the Charing Cross Theatre from the 13th October - 22nd November. For more information and to book tickets please click here.

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