Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Next Interviewee....Lesley Armstrong

I'm now excited to introduce Lesley Armstrong, a legendary theatre fan, whose love of theatre has been passed to her from her generation.

Please tell me how you got into musical theatre/theatre in general? 

Musical theatre is in my blood. When my mum was pregnant with me she was attending great musicals of the late 1950s and 1960s. She would stand at stage doors to meet the very best of them. So I was born singing, dancing and even had my own little 'dance mat'. I have an autograph book which Mum gave me, full of the 'creme de la creme' of performers: Max Bygraves, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Sammy Davis Jr, Tony Curtis, Laurence Olivier, Vivienne Leigh, Yul Brynner and Deborah Carr to name a few.  

One of my best ever moments was surprising my Grandmother & Mum to a front row seat at the Palladium, to see Yul Brynner and Deborah Carr in The King and I. My Grandmother's face when we pulled up to the Palladium was a picture! You don't ever forget special moments like that. We were lucky enough to meet the legendary Yul Brynner at stage door afterwards. It was a freezing cold January night and we were the only three people left as others had already gone, fed up awaiting him to show. It was starting to snow, my Grandmother was nearly 70 and feeling the cold. When she saw Mr Brynner walking towards us, her face lit up and she blurted out 'Hiya Yul' in a broad Liverpool accent and ready to hug him! He immediately took her cold hand and said, mimicking back in the same Liverpool voice, 'Hiya ta you'. He told her to sit in his beautiful Rolls Royce while he graciously signed personal autographs for her and Mum too. They never, ever forgot that moment. 

When 16, l developed a huge crush on Jack Wild (Artful Dodger) from Lionel Bart's Oliver. I wrote to him, ran away to London to meet him, became a friend of Jack's, visiting him regularly.  Everyone used to wind me up about Jack. They would play pranks on me and send me on wild goose chases to meet him, but I persevered and met him on many occasions. I used to find out when he would be flying out from Heathrow to America, and meet him there to say goodbye, good-luck! I was chosen to appear on the children's Magpie programme to come in and ask Jack three of my own questions.

What have been the highlights of your musical theatre journey? 

Lesley with Marvin Hamlish's widow at What's On Stage Awards
Photo Credit: Lesley Armstrong

My most recent moments have been attending this years What's on Stage Awards in February 2013 and meeting the widow of the legendary composer Marvin Hamlish.  She and Maria Feldman sat next to me during the ceremony.  She was awarded a posthumous award for outstanding recognition.  Hamlish was extraordinary. His musicals are just the very best such as 42nd Street, Chorus Line and so forth! One of his lesser known musicals was on the Shaftesbury Theatre in the late seventies called There Playing Our Song. I was new in London, it was a gorgeous never ending summer and I went to see it.  It was totally fabulous. It had everything, great "jazzy" lively music, told the story of his relationship between Marvin and Carol King the songwriter, and starred the brilliant Tom Conti & Gemma Craven.  I secretly developed a big crush on Mr Conti with his soft laid back slightly Scottish drawl and good looks.  Falling, a song from the musical, can be checked out on You Tube. The song is very catchy!

 Lesley with Ramin Karimloo
Photo Credit: Lesley Armstrong

What shows do you recommend that are currently playing in the West End or Regionally?

This past year I have seen, Thriller, Matilda, Once, Blood Brothers, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Book of Mormon, From Here to Eternity, and Tell Me On a Sunday with Martin Webb, at Windsor Theatre. All these I would recommend there is something for everyone amongst this list.

What have been your theatrical highlights in 2013? 

However, I do have to be honest and say that my most memorable musical recently, has to be,for outstanding production & musical content was The Sound of Music at Regents Park's Open Air Theatre. My best actor this year has to be Michael Xavier from this. He was amazing as Captain Von Trapp.! 

Lesley Armstrong with Michael Xavier at Open Air Theatre, Regent Park's Theatre
Photo credit: Lesley Armstrong

What show are you planning to see next?

My next show is Coriolanus which isn't a musical but was very lucky to get a ticket for 21st December 2013. I also want to go see Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Stephen Ward, The Musical. It has to be good, he is the Lord of musicals! I am a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber. He and Cameron Macintosh cast my cousin Harry Polden in Love Never Dies as Gustave, with Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess.

Harry Polden in Finding Neverland
Photo Credit: Lesley Armstrong

I am going again across the pond to see Ramin Karimloo performing on Broadway in May. I am pleased to say that Ramin now knows me quite well which is pretty amazing when you think of the vast number of fans & professionals they must meet, but yes, all I can say about this wonderful singer is that he must have a remarkable memory!  Ramin is such a powerful performer live, you will never forget the experience and same goes for Alfie Boe! I would follow them both to the ends of the earth and have done several times! 

A memorable thought from Lesley: 
'So Remember, "The best of times is now, what's left of Summer, but a dying rosé, the best of times is now, as for tomorrow, well, who knows, who knows so let the fun begin"! Carry on enjoying your musicals, remember they are at your doorstep, make an effort to go! You'll find me in the West End knocking on stage doors to meet and say a huge thanks for entertaining us all to these brilliantly talented actors/actresses. Their sacrifices and achievements to get to where they are today hasn't been easy! An actors life, is NOT an easy one! Keep singing!'

I would like to say a big thank you to Lesley for taking part....please keep tuned my next interviews!

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