Wednesday, 6 September 2017

INTERVIEW: Ria Jones, about to star as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard on tour around the UK

Ria Jones is a theatre legend in her own right, she created the role of Norma Desmond almost 30 years ago in a workshop and is now returning to play he role full time after understudying Glenn Close at the London Coliseum in this new production which tours around the UK. Her other credits include Eva Peron in Evita (Opera House Manchester), Fantine in Les Miserables (National Tour & Palace Theatre), Grizabella in Cats (New London Theatre), Liz Imbrie in High Society (Shaftesbury Theatre & UK Tour), Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes (UK Tour), Alexander Spoffard in The Witches of Eastwick (UK tour) and Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street (Leicester Curve Theatre & Theatre Du Chatelet). 

We chat to her in rehearsals of this new production of Sunset Boulevard...

You have played some of the most iconic female roles in Musical Theatre history (Evita, Fantine, Norma, Grizabella, Reno to name a few!). What has been your favourite role to play so far and why?

As much as I loved play Eva Peron and Reno Sweeney I absolutely adored playing Mrs. Overal in “Acorn Antiques The Musical” as it was so far away from anything else that I had ever done. It was a real challenge which I loved and I also adore comedy.

What was your first ever job as an actress? And if you went back in time, what advice would you give yourself on your first day of rehearsals? 
That’s a long time ago; 35 years! It was the role of Robin in “Godspell”. My advice would be to know your lines as best you can.

If you had to re-live one show you have done in the past, which one would it be?
“Evita” – It was my first time on as Eva Peron – I was only 19 years old!

You’re playing Norma Desmond on tour until next year, but after that are there any roles you’d like to tackle?
I’d love to play Mama Rose in “Gypsy”.

You famously were the stand by for Glenn Close in the ENO production of Sunset Boulevard and wowed audiences when you went on. How did it feel when you found out you were going on? 
I was terrified but also excited. I knew that I had done my homework and I was ready.

Do you have anything to say to the people who book tickets to see particular stars and complain when they aren’t on?
I understand. But we are all human and we get sick. Check the smallprint when you book. 

Do you have any funny or embarrassing on-stage stories?
My hair caught on fire once in “My Fair Lady”. There was quite a flame but I just put out and carried on.

After originating the role of Norma Desmond in 1991 you’re now playing it in your own right, how has your interpretation changed from the original production to now?
Well, I am 26 years older with a lot more life experience. I can draw on that and I am now the right age for the role which really helps.

We are so excited to see you in this new production of Sunset Boulevard! What are you most excited about in this upcoming tour?
Singing the score again with a 16 piece orchestra and working on a fully staged production with the director Nikolai and appearing with Danny and the rest of the wonderful cast.

You’ll be starring alongside Danny Mac who was most recently seen in On The Town, are you excited to work with a different a new cast? 
Yes, very. I’ve just finished the second week of rehearsals and the cast are amazing. It’s a very exciting time.

Why should people come and see this production?
For the orchestra of 16 playing the wonderful cinematic score with a great book and lyrics. The stunning set, costumes and lighting. Put it all together with an amazing cast and a story of the human condition……That’s what I call a show!
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