In Alice Birch’s play Anatomy of a Suicide, Sophia Pettit played six different characters, with the show running at the Royal Court Theatre in London from June to July last year. Sophia was part of the original West End cast of School of Rock as Katie, the bass player, which saw her win the Outstanding Achievement in Music Award at the 2017 Olivier Awards with her fellow cast members. Having started her career in Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2014, Sophia has since gone on to appear in shows including Annie, in which she starred in the title role of Annie for the UK Tour alongside Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan. Sitting down with Sophia, we talk about playing six characters in Anatomy of a Suicide, being part of the original West End cast of School of Rock and starring as Annie in the UK Tour of Annie.
Can you tell us about the roles you played in Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court Theatre and what was the play about?
I multi-roled six characters ranging from ten to sixteen years old, and they were all so different, which required lots of different character analysis, for example, I played an obnoxious twelve-year-old, a very shy thirteen-year-old and a very rude sixteen-year-old. It was fantastic to play a varied amount of roles, I had to drink, smoke and swear which is something I’ve never done before, so it really pushed me in my acting.
How different did you find working on this production to your previous roles?
So different, with plays you don’t have to focus on the band or a musical orchestra, it’s just you and the acting, there are some moments of complete silence which is so rare in theatre. It’s just so nice to do something different, and I think it’s definitely given me another path to look at in my career.
You were in the original West End cast of School of Rock as Katie, can you tell us about your character and what was it like meeting Andrew Lloyd Webber?
I played Katie Travis, who is the bassist in the band, she is a quiet character who starts off playing the cello. She’s reserved, and then Mr Schneebly comes in and teaches her the bass, she picks it up and becomes this really confident rock bass player. I loved playing that every night, that journey from shy and timid to a rockstar.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s such a well-respected man in the industry. I first met him at the auditions where I played my bass and sang for him, and then he offered me the role. It was so inspiring to meet him and work with him, and then after the Oliviers, I remember he congratulated me on my speech. He’s such an incredible man, and especially with everything he stands for with the arts and music in schools, it was a privilege to share that message with him at the Oliviers.
Which song in the show did you learn first and was there a song you enjoyed performing the most?
We learnt Here At Horace Green first, and it was amazing to hear all the harmonies come together for the first time. I think that’s when it felt really real, all 39 kids were there, along with the MD and the choreographer, and you suddenly feel like “I’m in School of Rock” and it’s crazy, haha!
The song I enjoyed performing most was probably Teacher’s Pet. It’s right at the end of the show, so you’re kind of saving your energy for this one number where you really get to rock out on stage with your friends. Playing live music is so empowering, it gives you such an amazing buzz and energy on stage. It’s a rock-like vibe, and you could see the audience, all their faces smiling at you, it was just incredible. I loved it. That was definitely my favourite song to perform.
Do you have a favourite scene in School of Rock?
My favourite scene would have to be parents’ night because it goes on a rollercoaster, you could say it starts off quite energetic and exciting and then it goes quiet and then it goes back to being really hectic again, so you go through a big range of emotions. It was so fun to act because you’re with the majority of the cast on stage at that point, you don’t really see them throughout the show, so you’ve got the kids, the teachers and the parents all on stage.
Whilst in the show, you won the Outstanding Achievement in Music Award at the 2017 Olivier Awards alongside your fellow cast members, how was the experience attending the event and going on stage to collect the award?
Wow, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. I’d watched the Olivier Awards from such a young age, and I’d always dream of being up on that stage in front of so many amazing people accepting an award. When it actually happened, it was so surreal. It all went so quickly and was like a blur, the band members and I were so grateful to be there, we weren’t expecting an award. It was such an honour to be asked to do the acceptance speech representing School of Rock. I remember looking out into the Royal Albert Hall and seeing so many inspirational people who I look up to in the industry looking at me. It was definitely a day I’ll never forget!
How often do you get chance to meet up with the rest of the cast and have you been to see the show since leaving?
We meet up very often actually, you become such good friends because you all share the same love of theatre. It’s so nice to meet up and support each other and see what everyone else is doing. I went to see all three teams’ last performances. You become a family, and you support each other, so I saw the show three times, but they were all different, which was lovely.
You played the titled role of Annie in the UK Tour of Annie, what was it like touring with the show and how long were you on tour for?
Touring with Annie was such an amazing experience and so memorable. It was so lovely to visit all the different theatres, you got a different feeling for each venue. I really enjoyed travelling up and down the UK, some places included Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham and even Monaco! I was touring for six months which went by quickly. I think staying away from home made me so mature and independent, which has helped me a lot today in the industry. It was such fun, and when you’re with your friends, the time goes quickly.
What was it like working alongside Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan?
Craig Revel Horwood was so funny. At first, in rehearsals, I was quite nervous because you see him on TV and he’s quite strict and stern, but he was really friendly with me. I was so lucky to work alongside him because he was brilliant in the role of Miss Hannigan.
Do you remember how you felt standing on stage as Annie on your opening night?
It was such an empowering feeling and so memorable, especially with the song Tomorrow, when you’re just standing there on stage with the dog, Sandy, you can’t see the audience and you just hear the music… it gives you such a special feeling – one I will treasure forever. It feels like you’re in power, you’re carrying the show and the responsibility’s on you, but there’s a massive sense of pride in that. Seeing Annie from a young age and then being able to perform it on stage when I was older was a dream come true.
Can you tell us about your first professional stage role?
My first stage role was Ellen Gallagher in Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2014. It was directed by Sir Trevor Nunn, and I worked alongside Kristin Davis, Mark Bazeley and Natascha McElhone. It was a great first stage appearance for me and a lovely introduction to theatre. The play involved a real rabbit which was amazing to hold and look after every night, we had some funny moments on stage!
Is musical theatre something you always wanted to do?
Yes, ever since I was younger I’ve loved the theatre. I remember when I was eight, I went to see Annie for the first time at my local theatre and just fell in love with the show and said to Mum I wanted to be on that stage. The atmosphere when the lights went down made me so excited, so I think performing was something that I always wanted to do.
Have you seen any theatre shows recently you would recommend?
Yes, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was one of mine and my mum’s personal favourites, I loved it! A Monster Calls (which is finished now) at The Old Vic, Fun Home was incredible and The King and I was amazing.
Do you have any projects coming up that you’ll be working on soon?
There is something very exciting in the pipeline at the moment, and I can’t wait to tell you about it soon!
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