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Interviews: Hit The Theatre meets stars of London's West End stages
In Conversation with Carley Stenson and Siobhan Dillon
Carley is known to most as Steph Cunningham/de la Dean Ė a character she spent a decade playing in Channel 4ís soap Hollyoaks. She made the hard decision to leave the programme in order to pursue a career in musical theatre to great success, joining the cast of Legally Blonde in October 2010 as Margot and understudy for Elle Woods. On 11th July she took over the role full-time.
After coming third in Andrew Lloyd-Webberís search for Sound of Musicís leading lady in the programme ĎHow Do You Solve A Problem Like Mariaí Siobhanís career in musical theatre has gone from strength to strength, landing roles such as Sandy and Patty Simcox in Grease, Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Mandy in Canít Smile Without You.
As well as our own questions we had to ask, we received some great questions from some of you so thank you for sending them in!
Click on a question below to read the answers or read the whole interview HERE.
How would you describe Legally Blonde The Musical? What do you think makes it so popular as winner of this yearís Olivier for Best New Musical?
CARLEY: I always describe it as fun, vibrant, colourful and infectious.
How would you describe the characters you play?
CARLEY: Elle is caring, honest, loyal and the way I was told to think of her is that every girl in a way wants to be her because sheís a nice person, sheís got everything going for her and sheís naÔve, especially at the very beginning.
Siobhan how do you find it playing such a mean character when she is nothing like you?!
SIOBHAN: Ok can I start by saying that evidently whoever asked the question doesnít know me! Thatís the thing, Vivienne is not actively a mean person; she genuinely believes that every comment that she fires in Elleís direction is worthy, she doesnít believe sheís being particularly manipulative or vile, sheís just saying it as it is. I concentrate more on the ĎIím getting what I wantí and the integrity of Vivienne, rather than the conniving, manipulative bitch.
What are your favourite aspects of your characters?
CARLEY: My favourite aspect is her innocence; she believes in everyone and everything until proven otherwise i.e Callahan, so I think thatís really lovely for someone to have that much faith.
If you could play any other character in the show who would it be?
If you could play any role in a current West End show, what would it be?
SIOBHAN: Elphaba in Wicked.
What is your dream role in any musical theatre production?
SIOBHAN: Satine in Moulin Rouge.
Carley is it hard not to say Margotís lines/go to her positions since starting as Elle? Is it strange to watch someone else as her?
CARLEY: Itís not strange because when I first got the role I already knew I was taking over from somebody else so I already had that instilled in me but sometimes I go to say her lines, especially in ĎPositiveí. Iím hoping itís in my body now though and Iím slowly going to have to let Margot go!
Carley how did you celebrate getting full-time Elle?
CARLEY: I was in the car driving home after two amazing weeks at home with my family so I was gutted because Iíd been with all my friends and family for all that time and then I found out just as I got in the car to have a 3 hour drive to London! I rang everyone I knew which took the whole 3 hours! I havenít really celebrated here, we had the press night but it was the night before two shows.
How do you prepare yourselves before a show? Do you have any rituals?
Do you get nervous and how do you combat nerves?
SIOBHAN: The only time I get nervous now is when for a split second my brain goes Ďyou donít know what your next line is!í My whole body goes into a hot flush and sweaty and then I have to just breathe and it comes back.
Do you read reviews about yourselves?
CARLEY: I have done but Iím trying not to.
After such a high energy performance, how do you wind down afterwards?
CARLEY: I chill either with a really good soundtrack or an episode of Desperate Housewives or a book, then get in, make myself something to eat and stick Friends on or a DVD.
Legally Blonde is such a happy show, how do you maintain such positivity when youíre having a bad day?
SIOBHAN: That doesnít really apply to me. It did in Grease when I was doing Patty, you had to keep a big fat smiley face on when you were knackered and all you wanted to do was to go to bed. Now I donít have to do it because Iím po-faced and miserable all the time!
How do you find having to meeting fans at the stage door after every performance?
SIOBHAN: I love it! Everyoneís so enthusiastic.
Whatís the funniest thing that has happened on stage?
SIOBHAN: A few weeks ago when ĎPauletteí fell over! It was when Sorelle Marsh was on and it was during the ĎGo on, do it!í in Bend and Snap, she went ĎBeeeend and Snap!í and fell over! Everyone fell about laughing!
What has been your favourite moment while in Legally Blonde?
CARLEY: I love singing Legally Blonde the ballad and I love coming through the door at the end.
Other than Legally Blonde Siobhan, what has been your favourite production to work on?
SIOBHAN: Cabaret. I love Sally. I want to do it again now that I feel more experienced and more confident. If it comes to town again I will literally be banging the door down to audition!
Aside from Legally Blonde, what are your favourite musicals?
CARLEY: Miss Saigon, Les Mis, Jesus Christ Superstar
Carley congratulations on being nominated for several soap awards since leaving! Acting for TV and acting for stage are completely different but what skills and experience did you gain in Hollyoaks that youíve benefitted from in your work in Legally Blonde?
CARLEY: Having no pride - I have absolutely no pride! That came from Hollyoaks; I donít think anyone has dressed up in as many costumes as Steph de la Dean has! I guess confidence building too and being nominated is nice because it gives you confidence and belief in yourself when going for a role.
Did you always want to make the transition from TV to musical theatre?
CARLEY: I did in the latter years of Hollyoaks because I felt that Steph had done everything, especially after Max died. I never really left singing when I was there Ė I was always doing singing lessons and my shows with the girls that I was in a group with called Diamond and so I never actually really left it but I always knew that after Hollyoaks I wanted to do musical theatre.
Did you leave Hollyoaks because the opportunity came up for Legally Blonde or was your contract going to end anyway?
CARLEY: No, I asked if I could leave because I wanted to leave on a high; I thought that Steph had had some great stories and I thought that if I donít leave now, I never will. I finished Hollyoaks on the Friday and started this on the Monday so only had a weekend off, madness!
Siobhan what made you change pursuing a career in the fashion industry to go into musical theatre?
SIOBHAN: I figured if I didnít do it then, I would never do it because itís not something that you can grow old into Ė you have to do it when youíre young or not at all and I figured that fashion will still be around when I want to settle down and have children, I could have a studio at home etc. Plus I was intrigued and excited about it (performing), I was never going to suppress it and finish my degree when I had that opportunity.
When did you both realise that you wanted to perform?
CARLEY: I donít think Iíve ever thought of doing anything else since I was about 3 years old. Apparently the first words I said to my auntie were ĎDo you want to hear a joke?!í So I donít think I was ever contemplating doing anything else.
Is there anyone that particularly inspired you growing up and who are your role models?
CARLEY: Gene Kelly. A perfectionist, amazing dancer, beautiful man, beautiful voice, great actor, all round entertainer.
If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
CARLEY: Gene Kelly, Lea Salonga, Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds and Albert Finney.
What was the first stage production you saw?
CARLEY: When I was younger I saw a lot of panto and amateur dramatics in my local area. I remember going to watch Joseph with school. The stage show that really jumped out at me and solidified my reason to perform was Cats when I was about 12 years old. When they came out into the audience I was just mesmerised.
What are the downsides to your job if you think there are any?
SIOBHAN: Iíve got one and itís true for all jobs, nothing specific to Legally Blonde, but what I really love is that vibe of London when everyone is winding down after work and itís the summer on a Friday or Saturday night, that feeling of having your weekend. I really miss it. Youíre walking through it like a salmon upstream almost; on your way to work revving yourself up and theyíre all winding down and youíre like Ďitís not fair!í seeing them sitting in the beer gardens drinking Pimms.
Do you have any projects lined up for after Legally Blonde and what are your long-term goals?
CARLEY: Iím contracted until October with the possibility to extend to April but nothing has been confirmed yet so I havenít really thought about that but I would
just audition, get out there and try and do as much TV and musicals as I can. I just want to tick as many boxes as possible.
What are the best moments of your career so far?
SIOBHAN: The thing that has given me a leg up was the Maria show which still to this day was probably one of the most enjoyable, rollercoaster experiences for me. The best job has been this one with the best people as well.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to break into the industry? Especially regarding training; a recent topic of debate owing the rise in fees.
CARLEY: I think it canít be wrong to train but I wouldnít beat yourself up if you havenít because a lot has to be said for natural talent and experience. If you can get training, do, if not, Iíd just say go and see, do and experience as much as you can, get yourself involved in as many shows as you can and keep up singing and dancing lessons.
Thank you to Carley and Siobhan for such an insightful interview. Buy tickets to see them in Legally Blonde in top price seats at just £39.99 here.
For more of their news follow them on twitter: @carleystenson and @siobhandillonuk
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