She has made history as becoming the first Black performer to play the role of Christine in the West End or on Broadway. Lucy talks to Black History month about her life and career.
How did you start your career as an actor? When/ where was your big break?
My career has been one long journey of growth, education, and realisation!
I would say there were a few parts to my career really taking off.
I left Laine Theatre Arts, half a year early to do “Ragtime” at Regent’s Park, and I was incredibly fortunate, as by the time my graduation came around, I had several jobs lined up.
One of them being in the Original West End Company of “The Book of Mormon” 1st cover to the lead female Nabalungi, I could not believe my luck.
I then went on to be in the Original Company of “Beautiful” The Carol King Musical as one of the Shirelles, also playing a featured part of little Eva.
I would say that my first big career shift was when I landed the part of Diana Ross in the Original Company of “Motown the Musical!”
For me personally, my love of Classical Music and Opera was still the avenue that my heart desperately wanted to explore, as it was the basis of my vocal training and childhood dreams.
So, after I finished “Motown” I really wanted to wait for roles and shows that came along that were not of the ‘pop/jukebox’ world that I was constantly finding myself pigeon-holed in. I knew this was the side of me that I needed to express.
It’s so hard to hold out and wait for an opportunity that you pray is out there for you.
Keeping the faith and belief alive as you take a step back, whilst not knowing how your future might pan out, is quite honestly terrifying!
It is something that every actor fears. Should a job not go your way, are you strong enough to fight another day?
But after a year and a half of holding out, that little bit of hope came along in a gem of a work called “The Man of La Mancha” with the English National Opera, where I played Antonia and covered Aldonza/Dulcinea who was played by the world-renowned opera singer Danielle De Niese.
Finally, I was getting to be seen in something that would help shape my career to this present moment and ultimately to my dream role!
What reaction did you get when you told your parents you wanted to become an actor?
My family and friends have always been so supportive of me in my career choice.
My mum has always worked so tirelessly hard to allow me to pursue my career and follow my dreams. Her advice, strength and wisdom were such a driving force!
Never give up, even through the hardest and toughest times. Knowing all the challenges that would inevitably come my way, she encouraged me to always keep going and find the positive in everything.
Every high and low of all that comes with our industry is a huge learning curve, it’s so important to experience, learn and grow through each and every one.
What medium do you enjoy the best…live theatre, TV, or the movies?
If I’m honest I love all mediums. Live Theatre, TV and movies all bring something completely different and are so special in their own way. Each allow a sense of escapism and take the viewer off an individual journey that allows your mind, body, and soul to forget about everyday life and go on a wonderful and unique emotional journey.
What so far has been your most satisfying role/s?
There are so many, but I’d definitely say that getting to play Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera” has been my most satisfying role to play.
I love her journey, how she transforms as a character, how she senses and experiences life, how she grows into such a strong woman throughout the show whilst always showing love and compassion.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has created a musical masterpiece in Phantom and singing this incredible score every night is something that is so fulfilling on so many levels.
Was there a moment when you realized you could actually make a living from acting?
Seeing my first West End show when I was 7 was definitely the moment, I realised that this could definitely be my life too.
I wanted it so desperately and that’s when the hard work kicked in. I knew deep in my soul even at that young age that this was the life I wanted to live, working on stage and screen.
You played the role of Diana Ross in Motown the Musical. Now you are playing a leading role in Phantom. How do you pace yourself for eight shows a week?
Playing Diana Ross in Motown and Christine in Phantom are completely different roles, vocally and physically.
Both demanding in their own ways. Preparing for each show is different but keeping hydrated and finding as much time to rest and recover my voice and body is key.
No matter what show I’m doing I can’t help but give everything I have and coming back over these past 18 months has only made me appreciate how lucky we are to be on stage even more.
Doing eight shows a week demands a lot physically, emotionally, mentally, and vocally, so we must be very aware of our bodies and what we need to fuel them to keep them running at the highest of levels.
What was the reaction eventually of playing again before a live audience?
I will never ever forget the reaction of our first show and re-opening Phantom.
The emotion and energy running through us backstage, getting ready to perform was so moving, and as soon as the overture started the roar from the audience was something that I’ve never heard before it was electric.
The curtain call for me was the most emotional and magical moment ever, as the sound and love that the audience poured out to us on stage was truly spectacular.
It was so, so much more than anything I had ever experienced.
It was an acceptance, an acknowledgement of change, a true understanding that the West End was back as a bigger, better, more inclusive community. There was such an overwhelming release of joyful emotion there was not a dry eye in the theatre.
You are the first black performer to play Christine Daaé. Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference especially for you as a person of African heritage?
Representation is so, so important, not just in the Arts but in life itself. As the West End is the beating heart of Musical Theatre, it is crucial that we can, and are, leading the way of change.
We live in a world full of beautiful and wonderful ethnicities and we should visually see that in all walks of life, celebrate it in its full glory in order to show current and future generations of diverse performers that the possibilities are endless.
To be a woman of colour leading a show of this magnitude, portraying a woman who is strong, beautiful, graceful, and desired is an image that I wish my younger self could have seen more of on stage. It is a life-changing moment that is so much bigger than me.
I have been blessed with an opportunity that I pray inspires hope, positivity, inspiration, and inclusion for the current and future generations to come.
What advice would you give black performers starting out?
The advice that I would give to black performers starting out is to never give up.
Never ever give up!
If you want to be somewhere or do something you most definitely can, even if you don’t see a place there for you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be there and make it happen.
I will be right there with you breaking down these barriers and walls for future generations to come, so that hopefully their journey through this industry is never just tied to the colour of their skin but to what they bring to the industry, to shows and characters using their own individuality and talents.
Together we can create a more equal, beautiful diverse and inclusive industry.