New London Beautiful Star Cassidy Janson Compares Carole King to Elphaba & More

first_img View Comments English actress-singer Cassidy Janson has appeared in many American shows in and around London, from blockbusters like Wicked to more intimate productions like Dessa Rose, opposite The Color Purple’s Cynthia Erivo, and alongside Neil Patrick Harris in tick, tick…BOOM! She recently took over from Olivier Award winner Katie Brayben as Carole King in Beautiful at the Aldwych Theatre. caught up with the performer to talk dressing room handovers, theatrical uplift and making her New York stage debut in January.How is starring in Beautiful going?It’s been amazing, absolutely wonderful. Everyone loves the show and that makes all our jobs easier because everyone is watching everyone else’s back. Every night, I literally look up to the sky and say thank you because this has been such a wonderful part to play.Did you see yourself playing Carole King before the prospect came your way?I’d been to see the show twice to see Katie [Brayben, the London originator of the role}, who’s a very good friend and afterwards we were having drinks and she tapped me on the hand and said, “Look, I’m going to be leaving—make sure you go up for the role.”It’s almost as if you were anointed!I guess it is! Talking with Katie about it made me feel as if I could do the show—as if it were entirely within my skill set. Before that, I hadn’t really considered it and I doubt I would be doing the role if she hadn’t suggested it.What was your first awareness of Carole King?I grew up in north London knowing and loving Carole’s music, and I had been singing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” as an audition song for the last decade. But like so many, I hadn’t been aware of the huge body of work that Carole wrote but gave to others to sing. When I realized the extent of that, I thought, “Oh my goodness, this woman is a phenomenon!”Have you experienced the “Carole moment,” where the subject of the show appears onstage at the curtain call to take a bow?No, not like Katie did on her opening night! I don’t know how I would react were that to happen. I like to think I would handle myself with dignity but who knows how I would be in the presence of a living legend?The role has certain challenges, not to mention that you pick up Carole’s life story from when she was a teenager.Yes. We begin at Carnegie Hall but then go back chronologically to when Carole was 16 and tell the story going forward to her late-20s. I’ve got four different wigs and an insane amount of costumes—nine quick changes in act one alone!How do you approach playing a teen when you are in your 30s?Luckily, I’ve got a very cute-looking wig and very young-looking clothes and the dialogue is written for a 16-year-old, so you just have to act it and be honest and that does it for you. There’s nothing worse than someone who isn’t 16 trying to play a 16-year-old—that’s painful. But the dialogue tells you where the character is at, so you just have to go with the truth of that.Did Katie leave any welcome gifts for you in the dressing room?She did! I arrived on the Monday and there was a box with a thermos mug and some Throat Coat tea and also some Sanderson’s mixture, which you gargle with—all very good to have!What is Beautiful like for you, as a nightly sing?What’s lovely is that this very much suits my voice naturally, and how Carole sang isn’t the same as musical theater singing, so you don’t have any sustained high-belt notes: there’s nothing you have to build your stamina up to, so there isn’t the same pressure which is nice when you’re singing 17 songs each show.Very different, then, from playing Elphaba in Wicked!There’s certainly no b-flat, or whatever, that I have to hold for eight bars! But in Beautiful, I’ve got plenty of other things that I’m worrying about. I’d only run the show twice before I did my first performance so I was really worried that the quick changes might mess me up; when they didn’t, that took a lot of my angst away!You’ve done any number of musicals in London that began in New York; do you travel across the pond to check shows out?Absolutely. I think most London-based actors look to see what’s happening in New York. I do go over for a theater blitz to see as many shows as I can and to see what may or may not be right for me: London and New York are very much sister cities.Have you ever performed in New York?I will as of January! I’m taking two weeks off from Beautiful to tour in the States with a British swing band called The Jive Aces. We’re playing the Metropolitan Room [in NYC] on January 17. I’ve been touring with this band now on and off for 18 months and these guys are like my big brothers. I had no idea how big swing dances were until I started gigging with them: people come dressed in vintage clothes!That sounds huge fun—and you can catch your co-star from London’s Dessa Rose, Cynthia Erivo, in her Broadway debut in The Color Purple.Of course, yes, and she’s opening this week, isn’t she? My God, Cynthia is incredible. I know when I see her I will be a blubbering mess.last_img