Wednesday, 21 November 2018

INTERVIEW: Christina Bennington, star of Bat Out of Hell

Christina can currently be seen in the lead role of Raven in Bat Out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre, a role she originated and has also played at the Manchester Opera House, the London Coliseum and in Toronto. She will be playing two solo concerts at the Crazy Coqs on the 7th January just two days after closing in Bat out of Hell. Her other credits include Pearl in Starlight Express (The Other Palace), Johanna Barker in Sweeney Todd (Derby/Mercury Theatre Colchester), Kim/cover Magnolia in Show Boat (New London Theatre), Marlene Hardcastle in The Smallest Show on Earth (UK Tour), cover Laurey in Oklahoma! (UK Tour), Sharon in Finian’s Rainbow (Charing Cross Theatre) and Marilyn/Sovereign in A Christmas Carol (Birmingham Repertory Theatre). 

Can you tell us a little about your experiences at Bat Out of Hell in the last few weeks? Halloween must have been quite the occasion! And how much did you enjoy the Sing-Along evenings? Hearing 1000+ people belting the songs back must have been pretty special?

There’s never a dull day at Bat! Our Singalongs have been a wonderful discovery. I was nervous about them but hearing 1000+ people singing along is very moving. It’s a vulnerable and exposing thing to sing in front of others and we’re so grateful for people putting themselves out there. Halloween had a particularly electric atmosphere. The sheer wall of sound from the audience was wild! It was also rather surreal looking out at a whole audience dressed in full costume - felt like they should’ve been on stage with us!

You’ve now played opposite 6 different Strats during your time as Raven. Do you have any subtle changes you make dependant on the actor that the audience might not even notice?

Playing opposite 6 Strats has been an amazing learning curve. I act with 3 Strats a week regularly, which means I have to be very flexible as that means 3 very different shows. For my Raven to be a match made in heaven for their Strat, my character naturally changes. There are other challenges too - as I always do all 8 shows a week, I have to pace myself and be prepared for Strat to be more rested and have more in the tank vocally. I have to remember that I don’t have those downtimes to recover, and use technique to stay solid and match their energy. Right now I’d say my show with Jordan requires an earnest rebel Raven, Simon a cheeky, feisty one and Barney a playful but dangerous one.

What can you normally be found doing 60 minutes before curtain up? What’s your pre-show regime?

I’m always early as I hate rushing. I take my time pin curling and doing my makeup slowly I even head to warmup. Post company warm up, I spend time listening to podcasts up until the half as I finish my makeup, then switch to music to get me pumped and ready to rock out while I finish vocally and physically preparing. 

Tell us what it was like meeting Meatloaf himself. What are his favourite moments of the show?

It was a dream come true performing the show for Meat Loaf. I’d spent time with him during a press tour, hearing his incredible stories and being very inspired by him. He had told Andrew and I that ‘For Crying Out Loud’ was his favourite song so we were very aware of his presence in the box during that number! Seeing him giving us a standing ovation at the end was a ‘pinch me’ moment. I’m incredibly grateful to have sung the songs that he made so famous with him in the audience. That he was proud of us was even more surreal. 

There are some fantastic costumes in the show. Which is your favourite?

I think Jon Bausor has done an incredible job with both set and costume designs. I adore the pink and lace playsuit I wear in the bedroom scene. It feels special as it was created to flatter my body - Jon told me how long he spent searching for the perfect shade of a ‘cool pink’ for my skin tone. I adore his attention to detail and I feel amazing in it every night! 

I think it’s safe to say, you have some pretty amazing fans out there. Can you tell us a time when your fans have made a special impact on you? 

Our fans are so lovely. They’ve taken this show and this music and created a whole community for themselves. It’s so touching to see how many friendships have been born out of a love for Bat. I’ve had many touching and incredible moments at Stage Door. A recent standout was a lovely woman called Abby who has been through a very difficult time. Her connection with me and the show has really helped her and inspired me. There’s something special about Bat Out of Hell that brings people back again and again. 

Where were you when you heard the news of Bat’s closing? How did it feel to find out it was closing?

We found out in warmup that the show was closing. It’s always sad when a job comes to an end but I’m sure there will be life for it in the future. We’ve had a brilliant run and it’s certainly been a life changing adventure for me. When one chapter ends, you simply become available for others to begin. 

What’s the first thing you’ll do when you wake up the morning after Bat has closed? Do you have any special plans to look forward to?

The first thing I’ll do when Bat closes is jump into final preparations for my debut solo concerts at Crazy Coqs. Just 2 days after we close, I’ll be performing intimate gigs where I sing some of my favourite songs. It’s exciting and terrifying - which is exactly why I said yes. My favourite thing is being pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged. Eventually, I’ll hopefully find time to process what my body has been through for the last year and a half. I’ve only had one sick day so I’m sure I’ll need a little holiday. 

What songs are at the top of your ‘most played’ recently? 

I love discovering new music. Recently my most played songs have been ‘plateau’ by mouse on the keys, ‘Losing Touch’ by Atlas Run, ‘Get Terrified’ by itoldyouiwouldeatyou and ‘7’ by Catfish and the Battlement. Accompanied by a lot of Christmassy choral music to satisfy my classical background. My playlists change every day. 

What do you hope the future holds for your career? Any dream roles you’d like to share with us?

I’m interested in screen work. I’ve been meeting for quite a few TV and film projects recently, which is exciting as it’s always something I’ve wanted to explore. I’m also loving workshopping new shows as Bat has shown me how much I love to create roles and be in a room where something fresh is happening! There are a couple of bucket list roles which would be amazing to tick off one day. Mary Poppins has always been up there, along with Christine in Phantom and I’d love to do another Sondheim. With regards to newer shows, I’m loving the Mean Girls Broadway soundtrack and that would be cool to audition for if it ever came to London. I’m open to all opportunities and excited that I’m not sure what’s next!

Christina Bennington will be performing two solo concerts at Crazy Coqs, Z├ędel Brasserie on the 7th January 2019. 

Bat Out of Hell is currently at the Dominion Theatre – closing on 5th January 2019
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