Monday, 17 June 2019

INTERVIEW: Lucy O'Byrne, currently starring in the UK tour of Little Miss Sunshine

Lucy O'Byrne is becoming one of the top leading ladies of musical theatre of our time, with leading roles including Eva Peron in Evita, Maria in The Sound of Music and Fantine in Les Miserables. We last spoke to Lucy when she was in the West End production of Les Miserables and recently we caught up with her as she heads out on tour with the new musical production of Little Miss Sunshine. 

The last time we spoke to you, you were playing Fantine in Les Miserables at the Queens theatre. Since that show until now you’ve done quite a few shows, looking back what have you learnt as a performer? 

I learnt so much at Les Mis from watching my colleagues perform to rehearsal process and etiquette to team work in the building. Every day was a day at school - and I loved school. The most important thing I learnt though was to be kinder to myself. I used to think West End performers were infallible so I thought I had to become some kind of invincible robot but working there really showed me we are all human and sometimes we have to go easy on ourselves and listen to our mind and body like everyone else.

Since then you’ve played one of the most iconic musical theatre roles for a female, Evita. How was it taking on a role like that? 

It was more fun than I could have imagined or hoped for.

What was the biggest challenge for you in that show? 

Physical stamina was a big challenge for me. It’s relentless! I started training three months before I started rehearsals! There were also challenges within the role. The journey we follow spans 18 years of a real person’s life, from starry eyed teen to First Lady to a very sick woman. There’s a responsibility to that person’s memory that I feel very strongly.

And thinking about Little Miss Sunshine, what will the challenges be for you in this role? 

I find this show daunting, it’s very different for me. Before taking on the role my agent joked that the last few years have been “Lucy sings the iconic musical theatre anthems” so I should try something different. This is all out of my comfort zone but I’m loving every minute.

Tell us a little bit about the show. 

It follows the Hoover family over the course of one weekend as they make an 800-mile journey from Albuquerque to California to take their daughter to a children’s beauty pageant. They are rivalled only by The Simpsons in family dysfunctionality and Olive is the exact opposite of what you think of when someone says ‘child beauty pageant’, but the sacrifices they make for each other and the lengths they go to for one another are universally relatable and make for the most heart-warming two hours.

And please tell us a bit about your character. 

Sheryl is the long-suffering mum and wife of the Hoover clan. She’s everything to everybody and always trying to be everywhere at once and on top of everything as all great mothers are. Sheryl does her best.

The show has done a run at the Arcola Theatre, did you get to see it?
What did you think? 

I saw it when I was rehearsing. It was the first time I had seen the full show. I laughed til I cried then I cried til I laughed. I loved it. And the amazing Laura Pitt-Pulford was playing Sheryl and I fangirled so hard!

This is a new show to the UK, so how does it feel to be part of a new musical? 

It feels really special to be telling a story the audience have never heard before because the reactions are so genuine. The surprises and the laughter - the atmosphere that creates is very unique.

Your past experience in musical theatre has been in long running, successful shows so how do you think this experience will differ? 

It’s already very different, it’s a much smaller company than I’m used to. So we all work very closely together, and that’s a lovely feeling. It’s very much an ensemble cast. Also there is way less costume and no wigs so it’s very chilled out backstage which I’m not used to.

Do you have anything else planned in the foreseeable future? 

We’ll be on the road til Autumn and I don’t have anything concrete planned next but I’m always working on the next project in the background. I did my first ever solo show last Christmas in Dublin so I’m hoping to develop that or reincarnate/recreate it again this year.

What are you most excited about for this tour? 

I’m excited to come to work every day on this show. Being on the road and on the stage with this company is such a treat.

If you had to sum up Little Miss Sunshine in one sentence, what would it be? 

I believe it was Barney the Dinosaur that once said “Oh a family is people and a family is love. That’s a family, they come in all different sizes and different kinds but mine’s just right for me!”
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