Music Promotions recently caught up with Musical Theatre star Emily Kenwright as she chats about staring in Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, future plans, advice for any one entering the industry and much more. Give her a follow on her socials. (Link at the bottom of this interview)
How did you first get your break in the West End?
The entire process was quite a fast turn around. I had just finished a tour and, prior to that, let go of my flat in London as it was a long contract. So I was back in Liverpool with my family while looking at places to move back to London when the casting came through for ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. They were only looking for the one role at the time, the role of ‘Vicki’. The audition process was spread over just 3 days which was intense to say the least, I had also never seen the show before, so the night before my final I took myself to the theatre to watch it and was just left in awe, I loved everything about it and the message and impact it had. It definitely gave me even more motivation to be a part of the show.
On the 3rd day, I found out I had been given the part – I also found out in the room which is a rare occasion, so I remember that experience so vividly. I remember saying to director Jonathan Butterell ‘Are you joking?’ while he laughed, giving me a hug. I knew in that moment this company was something special to be a part of. There were a lot of happy tears and excitement sharing the news with my agent, as normally it’s the other way around.
I then found out I was starting the job within 5 days after receiving the news and, as much as I had no place to live at that point, I was just on Cloud 9 and couldn’t wait to begin the opportunity that was given to me.
Where did you begin your training?
I started dancing when I was 4 years old – it was either that or trampolining for fun. I trained at a freestyle dance school and started competing at age 5. Then at age 7 I joined a theatre school alongside my freestyle school. So I trained in many styles and competed across the country until I was 16. I then moved to London at 16 to continue my training professionally at Urdang Academy and loved it. I’ve been very lucky to have learnt and been mentored from some incredible people who have continuously believed in me.
You’re currently playing Vicki in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – what’s that been like?
I’m loving the show, I love how diverse the show is and that everybody in the audience feels represented. It has such an incredibly special message that encourages everybody to learn about love, acceptance, bullying, embracing differences and ultimately celebrates being who you are.
With the show being set in Sheffield I enjoyed learning the accent as it’s an accent I had never done before. I love that, instead of being a collective ‘ensemble’, we are all individual parts, with our own individual stories and journeys throughout the show. I think this brings so much character and depth to the show. I love playing Vicki and working with Director Jonathan Butterell and Associate Director George Richmond Scott on our characters’ backgrounds. It’s a continuous journey and the discovery never ends. ‘Vicki’ is blunt, bold and a bit of a tomboy who hangs around with the ‘naughty’ boys in the school, more so than the girls, which I can relate to a lot growing up, being the only girl on my dad’s side of the family surrounded by lads, football etc.
I also love the duet I get to perform every night aside from Vicki. The duet to ‘If I met myself again’ is my personal favourite moment during the show.
How do you prepare for a show? How much rehearsal time do you have beforehand?
For Jamie, I actually had 9 days rehearsal before my opening night as I joined a cast already up and running. I had to learn the entire show within 7 days (which normally takes a month if not longer) which was incredibly challenging, yet very rewarding.
I think it’s important to continuously learn and train, especially in many different styles to make yourself as versatile as possible, regardless of whether you are in a show contract or not.
Knowledge is power. Being prepared is a massive advantage as you are then ready for whenever the next opportunity arises.
When it comes to picking roles what is your process? What draws you into a role?
I love diving into anything that is out of my comfort zone, something challenging. Every role I’ve played has been completely different, which has been a great experience.
You’re also a professional dancer, how long have you been a dancer? What has been your favourite dancing performance of your career so far?
Professionally for 5 years but dancing is all I’ve ever known. I have so much passion for it.
I honestly couldn’t pick my favourite performance, they have all been incredible experiences and very unique, different to each other. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible creatives – working with choreographer Brian Friedman was definitely a highlight for me, I was 19 at the time and learnt so much from him. There are so many choreographers that I would love to work with that I haven’t yet.
How do you find doing the choreography for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie compared to other dancing and musical projects you’ve done?
I love Kate Prince’s choreography in the show. I had seen other projects that Kate had choreographed before I auditioned for Jamie so I knew I was in for a treat and also a challenge.
I also love the music by Dan Gillespie Sells with book and lyrics by Tom MacRae – the choreography combined with different styles works perfectly with the music. The feeling I get dancing to a live band 8 times a week will never get old for me.
What was it like on the opening night of Jamie? Do you get pre-show nerves?
Opening night was great – the entire team was incredibly supportive as I was the only one experiencing that ‘opening night feeling’ at the time. I just remember feeling so happy taking my final bow.
Yes I definitely get pre-show nerves, I get them no matter what the job. I would feel weird if I didn’t get them though, I love the adrenaline rush they give me.
You’ve also toured with Flashdance. What’s it like to tour with a show compared to being in the West End?
I absolutely loved Flashdance. I loved working with such a talented cast & creatives.
I covered 5 parts as well as performing on stage every night as ensemble, so it was a great challenge for my first ever tour. Apart from the show and the amazing people involved in it, I had a lot of pinch me moments during the tour while travelling to places I would only ever dream of going to and probably wouldn’t have got to experience, like South Korea etc., while doing what I love. I’m very grateful to have experienced it all.
If you could do any other West End musical what would you like to join?
There are quite a few I would love to do but definitely Hamilton – It’s my favourite musical. I’ve been to see it twice now and can’t wait to go again. if you haven’t already seen it, I couldn’t recommend it more, everything about it is just incredible.
Would you like to move into movies? Have there been any musical movies you’d love to be a part of?
Yes. This is a massive dream of mine.
Yes quite a few actually, but I wouldn’t just like to do musical movies. I love singing and dancing etc but I would like to do some straight acting projects in the future.
What are your plans moving forward after Jamie?
The future is yet unwritten but I would love to do more musicals and also do more TV work, more commercial dance work (artists gigs/tours/music videos etc).
To learn more, grow more, travel more and ultimately just be happy while ticking off my life goals along the way 🙂
What was it like moving to London at 16 to pursue your dreams?
I actually wasn’t going to accept my offer (sounds crazy, right?) but I thought 16 was too young – I planned to move at 18 at the time and just auditioned for experience, I only attended my Urdang audition because I took one of their workshops at Move It and was awarded a pass to audition. I didn’t think I was ready but I also knew I wouldn’t have been able to go without the scholarship I was given. As much as I was absolutely terrified, I knew I couldn’t miss out on an opportunity like that. Not having any family or friends with me was so daunting but everyone was incredibly supportive. Urdang was so welcoming and a lot of the students are in a similar position so we stuck together. I grew up and became so independent because I had to. I learnt a lot in the 3 years of my training at Urdang and loved it, I also learnt a lot about myself. I made some incredible memories and lifelong friends. As hard as it was at the time, I look back now at 24 so proud that I did it and even more proud that I have accomplished so many of my dreams already.
Have you got any advice for people who aspire to be in the industry?
Work hard and keep focused on where you want to go. Once you visualise yourself doing it, you can create it to become your reality. You can’t do it until you believe you can.
I have a lot of the younger generation who message me for advice as they feel inspired, which means a lot.
My advice is to never give up, no matter what anyone says – you will have people who will doubt you and you may even doubt yourself at times. Learn to accept rejection, encourage your mindset to respond to all of these things in a positive way, with the end goal always in mind.
Be kind to others and to yourself, keep determined and trust your timing. Once you believe you are limitless, the opportunities you strive for become endless.