Spotlight on Vanities: The Musical
Brace yourselves. The musical adaptation of Jack Heifner's 1976 play Vanities is coming to London for the first time ever. Vanities: The Musical will be arriving at Trafalgar Studios next month, and bringing with it the return of three familiar faces that have previously graced ATG stages...
We couldn't resist the chance to catch up with Lauren Samuels (Bend It Like Beckham), Ashleigh Gray (Wicked) and Lizzy Connolly (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) at the cast's photoshoot, to test their knowledge of emojis and find out a bit more about this exciting new production.
Lauren Samuels, Lizzy Connolly and Ashleigh Gray
Vanities follows the journey of three best friends from Texas, and their relationship through the decades. Can you tell us a bit more about each of your characters?
Ashleigh: I play Kathy who is ultimately the most organised person you will ever come across. I was drawn to the role because that's essentially what I am. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I love a spreadsheet. I think that she, out of the three girls, goes on the biggest journey through the piece. She's still trying to find herself towards the end of it. It is going to be a real challenge to play that.
Lauren: My character is Mary. Of the three, she's very sexually liberated, and she's the one that wants to push the boundaries a bit. It's the sixties and everybody is always saying "Mary you can't do that... how outrageous!" She is the one who, by the end of the show, owns an erotic gallery...
Lizzy: Joanne is a bit of a prude and massively conventional. She wants what a lot of sixties girls were meant to want - whether that was drummed into her or not. It's very nice to play a part that is so innocently wanting and naive. She says things that are awful and horrible but she only says them through naivety and stupidity.
Watch the girls take on our emoji musical challenge... Can you guess the ones they missed?
We first see the girls as high school cheerleaders. Were you in a clique when you were at school?
Lauren: This is really dreadful but I was a Plastic. When I went to college and Mean Girls was out, we were called the Plastics. But I wasn't cruel. Looking back on it, you think "Why does it matter?" But at school - and this is essentially what these three characters talk about - it feels so important to be popular.
Lizzy: I was kind of in the cool group, but I had a brace and a trumpet and a backpack and acne. So I was in the cool group, but I was massively uncool. I dont really know how I ended up here. But I was always there with my trumpet, which I actually ended up having to give up because of my brace... I couldnt play. It was too painful!
Ashleigh: I was definitely the geeky, non-accepted one. It was weird, but people didn't really understand me at my school. I was always the one who was hanging out in the music department, singing or reading a play.
What is it like working on a production with three female leads?
Lauren: I've never done it before and it's so exciting. When I found out about the project, and that it was onlt three women in it, I thought "this is going to be excellent - how empowering". And having just done Bend It Like Beckham, which is also so empowering for women, I think it's the right kind of timing for something like this.
Lizzy: It's really special to be part of a production with such strong women. It's great to be able to work with and be inspired by such talented girls.
Lauren Samuels, Lizzy Connolly and Ashleigh Gray
So how do you feel you are gelling as an ensemble?
Lizzy: Oh my god, we have such massive LOLs! They are so funny and we work really well as a group of three. In Trafalgar Studios 2, when it is such a small space, it would be hard to fake a friendship. We are really just loving the fact that we get on so well, because you couldn't fake it.
Ashleigh: I'm worried actually that we're not going to get through it without laughing! That's a nice situation to be in - when you feel really comfortable with each other.
What do you think audiences will take away from this musical?
Ashleigh: There's some really peppy pop songs and some lovely big musical theatre ballads. Audiences are hopefully going to come out humming those, but it's got a really beautiful message as well. Real womanhood, sisterhood, friendship... It is a universal theme. People will recognise themselves in these girls.
Lauren: I think a lot of people will relate to this. As women growing up, even men as well, you have these friendships, and as you grow as people, the friendships change. A lot of them will take away bits about the story that relate to themselves.
Lizzy: It's heartfelt. The girls go through a real emotional journey together as we all do with our friends. And friendships are hard, relationships are hard, life is hard. It's not big and thematic; it's personal, intimate and about people. And I think people can make people cry.
You've all been on the West End before of course. Are you looking forward to the more intimate venue of Traf 2?
Ashleigh: I've actually played Traf 2 before in a musical (Betwixt!, 2011). It's so lovely to have that intimate setting and the space is going to work especially well with this piece. We want to draw the audience in... take them on our journey with us. So I'm really excited about going back there.
Lizzy: The audience can take a lot from your energy because you're right there. I always enjoy being really close to the action - being able to see the sweat drip off people's faces and see the emotion in people's eyes. You can also just react off the girls in a really honest way in a venue like this.
Finally, why should people come to see Vanities?
Lauren: You get to see a great era of times. We do 60s, 70s, right through to the 90s... so there are some really great wigs and costumes in there. It genuinely follows a complete journey of three women. There will be laughs and there will be tears.
Ashleigh: Its just a great story. Its not often you get really good music with a great story and book. Obviously, Vanities was a play before it was a musical, so theres an incredibly strong threaded storyline throughout, that people can latch onto.
Lizzy: French and Saunders were talking recently in one of their speeches about how important and empowering female friendships are. Women are pitched against each other a lot in both society and the industry, but female friendships are very important. Come and see a heartfelt building of relationships between women in this really fun, female-led play.
Vanities: The Musical runs at Trafalgar Studios from 1st September - 1st October 2016