Les Miserables has given Katie Hall two dream roles, and now she's coming to Mayflower Theatre
For the past decade Les Miserables has been the defining show of Katie Hall’s career.
In 2009 the performer took on the role of Cosette in the West End production of the classic Boublil and Schönberg musical.
However, she was soon whisked out of that to join the UK touring cast in the same part.
And then in 2010 she was in rehearsals to be part of the ensemble for the 25th anniversary concert at The O2 in London, but fate intervened.
‘All of the cast members from the London production and the touring show were going to make up the ensemble, plus a load of old alumni, and then this star cast.
‘Unfortunately the girl playing Cosette got ill, I think it was on the Tuesday before the show on Saturday.
‘Cameron [Mackintosh, the show’s producer] took me out of the rehearsals to ask me if I would play Cosette in the concert, and then they immediately whisked me away to rehearse with Nick Jonas and Alfie Boe.
‘It was a little bit daunting at first as it was totally sprung on me at the last moment.
‘But it was an amazing experience. It was absolutely terrifying until the moment I got out on stage and started singing – then I realised: “Oh, yes, I know this, I know what I’m doing here”.
‘It’s so nice to have that recorded – I will always be able to go back and look at that.’
While there have been other roles in the interim, notably Christine in a UK tour of Phantom of the Opera, and Johanna in Sweeney Todd opposite Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel, last year she returned to Les Mis – this time as Fantine, Cosette’s mother.
‘It’s such a lovely thing for me to do, because I have such a close personal connection to the show, having sort of grown up with it in a way.
‘It was weird at first in rehearsals, singing the different part, but even when I was Cosette I always had my eye on Fantine, that was the role I really wanted.
‘I often got cast in the vulnerable young ingenue roles when I was younger which, don’t get me wrong, was great and I loved playing them, but I always had a longing for the slightly more gutsy roles.
‘It took me six months to come to terms with the fact that I was actually playing Fantine – It was such a dream of mine for such a long time, and I was so pleased I actually had the chance to do it.’
And she’s enjoyed being able to put her own stamp on the role.
‘Obviously you have influences from having heard so many people do it. Lea Salonga played Fantine in the 25th anniversary concert, and my mum, who’s an opera singer [Helen Williams], always said to me when I was growing up that if you must do musical theatre, you have to sing it like Lea Salonga or Claire Moore, and I’ve now worked with both of those people…
‘Having seen Lea do it, it’s like a masterclass, and Anne Hathaway was amazing in the film too.
‘But when you play a role, you naturally bring your own experience and your own emotions and how you would deal with that situation, so you’re always going to come across differently, and I don’t feel like I’m imitating anyone in my interpretation of her, but I’m sure there are influences.’
While both her parents are opera singers, her father is John Graham-Hall, Katie says following in their footsteps in some way wasn't inevitable.
‘It wasn’t so much a foregone conclusion, but growing up around it, I just can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else, and it was always musicals rather than opera.
‘From a very young age, I said I wanted to play Christine and I want to play Cosette, and all of the soprano roles.
‘I happened to be in the right place at the right time, there is a huge amount of luck involved.
‘They were very encouraging, but I think they stopped me from going to a lot of auditions when I was very young, so they made me wait.’
She also took part in I’d Do Anything, the 2008 Saturday evening BBC TV show which was looking to find a Nancy and Oliver, for a revival of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver!
Katie appeared in the first couple of episodes.
‘My parents knew I was going for it, but I didn’t ask them per se, and my dad said: “Okay, so what are you going to do if you get it?”
‘And I said: “There’s no way I’m going to get it, I’m a posh public school girl, there’s no way they’re going to cast me for Nancy in Oliver!”
‘And of course I didn’t get it,’ Jodie Prenger ultimately won, ‘but I got down to the final 42 and was in a couple of episodes, which got me seen by the right people, but ultimately it wasn’t the right role for me at the time.
‘I’d have a crack at it now though!’
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
October 29-November 23