Michael Alexander speaks to West End musical stars Lauren Samuels and Daniel Boys about their excitement to be performing outdoors at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.
But as they prepared to bring the sounds of the West End to the opening of Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s 70th anniversary summer season this week, their tentative, fingers-crossed message was simple – “the arts are back”!
🎭 WEST END IN PITLOCHRY 🎭
West End musical stars @Laurensamuels88 and @danielboys are set to bring the spirit and sounds of the West End to @PITLOCHRYft, with a series of musical concerts from 3-6 June 2021. https://t.co/UN1KfWXqS4 pic.twitter.com/C8fyO71XRY
— West End Best Friend (@WESTENDBF) May 25, 2021
Set outdoors in the theatre’s brand-new socially distanced bandstand venue, Lauren and Daniel are journeying through theatre land until Sunday with a four-day musical feast featuring songs from some of the greatest musical composers.
However, having not performed live for more than a year, Lauren admits that when she returned to give her first in-person performance at London’s Vaudeville Theatre the night before this interview, nerves resulted in her having a rather “sweaty microphone”.
“I’ve never felt so bloody nervous in my life!” laughs the 33-year-old who was helping promote her new album with Sophie Evans.
— Lauren Samuels (@Laurensamuels88) May 19, 2021
“Last night I was only doing two songs and honestly I couldn’t even hold my microphone – my palms were sweating that much! I get nervous anyway, but having 12-18 months off, I was like more nervous than I’ve ever been!”
Somewhere over the Rainbow
Lauren rose to fame in 2010 when she became a finalist on BBC1’s Over the Rainbow, where Andrew Lloyd Webber oversaw the search for a new Dorothy to star in his revival of The Wizard of Oz.
It opened many doors for her and since then, she has taken the theatre world by storm, starring in Bend It Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre) We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre), Grease (Piccadilly Theatre), Romantics Anonymous (The Globe Theatre) and The Buskers Opera (Park Theatre), among others.
Daniel, meanwhile, rose to prominence as a contestant on the hugely successful 2007 BBC TV talent show ‘Any Dream Will Do’, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for Joseph.
He has appeared in numerous West End and touring productions including The Pirate Queen in concert (London Coliseum); The Boys in the Band (Park Theatre/National Tour); Nativity! The Musical (Birmingham Rep/UK Tour) and The War of The Worlds (National Tour).
The pair worked together in Love Story in Bolton in 2015. It was there they came to “adore” artistic director Elizabeth Newman – now the artistic director at Pitlochry.
Describing Elizabeth as “one of the best directors I have ever worked with”, Lauren says she and Daniel “jumped at the opportunity” when she asked them to take part in Pitlochry’s summer show.
“I’m looking forward to bringing a little bit of West End razz pizzazz to Pitlochry,” says Lauren, adding that the line-up includes everything from Grease and Disney to We Will Rock You.
“Obviously we’re theatrical so we will want to bring a tear to the eye at some moments as well!”
But also having never been to the Pitlochry area before, they are hoping to find time to do “some of the touristy bits”.
Daniel says: “I’ve had so many friends message me from when the announcement went out – saying ‘oh my god I’m so jealous, it’s such a beautiful place, you are going to love it’. I’m so excited. I can’t wait.”
Having both trained at the Guildford School of Acting, and having both been through similar TV talent show experiences more than a decade ago, Lauren and Daniel have a special bond.
“It’s certainly an experience you can’t really explain unless you’ve been in it,” says Lauren, who remains proud of what she achieved on Over the Rainbow and remembers Andrew Lloyd Webber, who she’d love to work with again, being so supportive.
“The industry itself I always say is the smallest thing – we all know everyone, and we’ve always got friends in something here, there and everywhere.
“But definitely the fact that Daniel and I have done essentially the same TV show – there is a bond there definitely between those people that have appeared in those shows because, as I say, there’s just not an experience like it.”
Any dream will do
Fourteen years after his TV appearance, Daniel, 42, also feels lucky to have had that experience and is always amazed that people still remember it.
At the same time, however, he says there can often be a bit of misplaced artistic snobbery around talent shows.
“I think actually when the Maria programme started (in 2006), there was a lot of snobbery going on – a bit of ‘I can’t believe reality TV is taking on musicals’ type thing,” he says.
“But when they realised that it was creating new theatre stars, that the winners were always talented people, that the box office records spoke for themselves – it brought a whole new generation of people back into theatre.
“There was nothing really negative to say about them. I guess it was very brave to go on the shows, but especially, being in the industry already, it was I think a bit more brave because we could have been slated live on television. But touch wood, that didn’t happen to either of us!”
*An Afternoon/Evening at the West End is performed outdoors at Pitlochry Festival Theatre from Thursday June 3 – Sunday June 6 at 2pm. There will also be evening performances on Saturday June 5 and Sunday June 6 at 7.30pm.
Tickets are priced from £18-£25. Capacity is limited for a safe, socially distanced, outdoor event.