In Conversation with Louise Bowden | White Christmas | GCT
Interview by: Caomhan Keane
Local girl Louise Bowden returns to Ringsend a West End Star this December with one of the lead roles in Irving Berlin's classic yuletide musical, White Christmas. Opening December 1st, closing December 17th, the show, based on the 1954 movie of the same name, tells the story of a successful song-and-dance team who become romantically involved with a sister act and hook up to save the failing Vermont inn owned by their former commanding general.
Originally starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, the stage version-which is brimming with classic Irving Berlin hits including Blue Skies, How Deep is the Ocean, Happy Holiday, and of course, the title, has already been a hit on Broadway and is almost completely sold out, breaking box office records for the, as it is soon to be remonickered, Bord Gais Energy Theatre. "It has such resonance with what the world, and Ireland in particular, is going through," says Bowden. "In times of need you turn to family, you turn to friends. And that is the message here. But it is also a feel good, MGM story. Old fashioned courting and love."
They performed the show during the recent Remembrance Day weekend and discovered that the loss of personnel to war is still relevant today. It still affects people. But there is also something nostalgic about the show. "It is nice to go and see something that is not doom and gloom," says Adam Cooper who plays Phil Davis, one of the two brothers. "Especially around Christmas, which is a hard time for people anyway."
Both actors have appeared in both jukebox musicals, like Mama Mia, Zorro and We Will Rock You as well as in more traditional or experimental shows. Did they notice the difference in the demands that these differing types of shows made on their voice?
"DEFINITELY" says Bowden. "Definitely, definitely. I can do most things. My job requires me to be an actress, a comedienne, a singer a dancer. A chameleon of sorts. But my love lies in the old fashioned musical, whether it be the classic MGM musicals like Singing in the Rain, Crazy for You or Les Mis or Phantom of the Opera. There is a different place that you put your voice, it's more supported. Where as I feel with Rocky and Mama Mia it requires, more and more and more and more from you. Higher notes, more ornamentation and pushing yourself to the limit. And for me it just doesn't sit as well."
There has been a shift in the demand of late for these good old fashioned 'feel good' musicals. Why do they think that is? "They are such well constructed pieces of material," says Cooper. "At the heart of which are great scores and simple stories that resonate today. It's escapism that people are looking for. And what better way to justify that escapism than sitting in a theatre for two hours and being entertained in such a way that makes you feel better about yourself and about life."
He finds variety the spice of his professional life, dancing in Matthew Bourne's renowned production of Swan Lake (a career highlight) and crowd pleasers Guys and Dolls. "Obviously working on something from scratch, like Matthew's Swan Like is incredibly exiting," he says. "But risky. You can spend your entire career doing those types of shows and only one or two will ever take off. So they are always exiting and the most creatively rewarding. Having said that some of the most rewarding work I have done as a performer has been going into things that have already been established, with huge audiences."
Louise's big break came when Cameron Mackintosh, the big cheese of theatrical producers, cast her as Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins. "It took three months and ten auditions and my final audition was in front of Sir Richard Eyre and in front of Cameron. And at that stage you can be so close, yet so far, because it just takes one of them to say no, and all your ten auditions, three months of work, goes down the pan. So I was overjoyed when I got that role as it meant that I was on the next platform, on the next level."
Does it bother her that her chosen field has become so enthralled with big names yet, so often, little talent? "Well in one sense it is really good for theatre in that it brings a lot more people to theatre that wouldn't necessarily otherwise go. But then it is difficult for people like myself or some other performers that I know who have trained and have done a lot of work and could bring great debt to the role to be up against that. I've always wanted to play Chicago. My dream is to be cast as Roxie Hart. But you need to be a celebrity to play it."
Her first steps towards stage stardom was closer to home when, aged 9, the renowned Cleveland/San Jose Ballet cast her in a small role opposite Rudolf Nureyev in Coppélia at the Point Depot. "It was coming towards the end of his career," says Bowden. "He was playing the toymaker and not the love interest. But it was such an amazing experience to be looked after and nurtured by such an amazing company of dancers." She still has a signed pair of pumps and a cigarette box from the dancer.
Because Christmas day falls on a Sunday this year she'll only get one day off. "I will be in Liverpool for Christmas Day." But she is still delighted that the tour has taken her to Dublin, not just because she will be performing five minutes from her doorstep, but also because it means she gets to spend the pre-Christmas period with her family. "I haven't been home, pre-Christmas like that, walking up the streets of Grafton Street with my family, for about ten years" she says.
Tickets can be purchased at www.grandcanaltheatre.ie
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Monday 21st November 2011 | Theatre
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