Most recently on stage, Isabelle Methven played July in the West End production of Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, and she was also Swing for the other orphan roles and performed in the leading role a number of times as Alternate Annie. Last year, Isabelle took part in the workshop for Tom Fletcher’s new musical The Christmasaurus, and she played Summer Hathaway in the original West End cast of School of Rock, for which she performed at the 2017 Olivier Awards. Previous roles for Isabelle include Jane Banks in the International Tour of Mary Poppins alongside Zizi Strallen, Brigitta in the UK Tour of The Sound of Music and Little Cosette in Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre for her West End debut. Chatting with Isabelle, she tells us about her run in Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, playing Summer Hathaway in School of Rock and her time touring internationally with Mary Poppins.
You were most recently performing in the West End production of Annie, what do you remember most from your first performance and how long was your contract?
I actually started Annie a couple of weeks before the rest of my team. My team, Lexington, hadn’t finished rehearsals yet, but one of the other children in the other team was unwell and I had to cover for her with short notice. I went on stage with a team I’d not worked with before, and having only learned the final few scenes a couple of hours before. I was so lucky for the opportunities I had in Annie, not only did I get to play July and Swing for all the other orphan roles, but I got to play Annie too (multiple times!) – every little girl’s dream. I did Annie for ten months, that’s been my longest contract.
Last year, you were part of the workshop of The Christmasaurus, can you tell us about your involvement and did you get chance to see the full production in its run at the Eventim Apollo?
I was only part of the workshop whilst they were still developing and refining the show. Working with Tom Fletcher was such a fun experience though. He’s just a tiny bit crazy and his love of life is highly infectious. It’s such a shame that I had other commitments at the time and didn’t get to see the final production. I’m going to be sure to catch it the next time it runs though.
As part of the original West End cast of School of Rock, you played the role of Summer Hathaway, how would you describe the character?
At first you think Summer is a real spoiled brat, but getting to know and study her character, you can see that the only way for her to get the attention of her very busy mother, is through her performing well at school. The “gold star” she secretly craves, is just some acknowledgement and attention from her mum. You really get to see that in the “If Only You Would Listen” scene where the children sing to express what they really want from their parents.
In 2017, you performed with School of Rock at the Olivier Awards, had you attended any shows at the Royal Albert Hall before this event?
I had performed with my school at a schools event, and performed for the Royal Variety Performance 2015 with Mary Poppins too.
How did you find the experience playing Jane Banks on the International Tour of Mary Poppins and had you seen the musical before booking the role?
The cast and crew were fantastic, we were like a family. I loved playing Jane, a mixed up sad little girl craving attention and being badly behaved who, through Mary Poppins, begins to grow up. I also found working with professional adult performers like Zizi Strallen and Becky Lock very inspiring. They work so hard and make it look easy. This show was also full of mischief and fun – at one point, me and my Michael got stuck in the lift that was supposed to transport us up onto the rooftops. Working on this show was truly magical. My acting career to date has been heavily influenced by Mark Hedges (Wedgie) and Nick Evans. Working with them was incredible and they really are the most lovely directors I have worked with.
I’d only ever watched the movie with my mum, I’d not seen it at the theatre. I can’t wait for the show to come to the West End, it’s such a magical show (definitely my favourite that I have been a part of), everyone should go and watch.
Can you tell us about your time touring with The Sound of Music as Brigitta?
I was so excited to be cast as Brigitta and was excited to go on tour as I have always loved travelling. The show was so fun and Brigitta challenged me as a role as I hadn’t acted to that extent before. This made me figure out my love and talent for acting in particular. I got to visit many different venues across the country, and each place holds different memories.
What are some of your favourite memories from performing in Les Misérables as Little Cosette?
I love this show so much and it will always be part of me, it grew my confidence massively. Lots of memories come to me when I remember this show. The best parts were making lifelong friends with the Young Eponine and Gavroche of my team, and getting to go to the Mrs Kibble’s Sweet Shop on a two-show Saturday. Although it is a very serious show, we also had some funny moments – collecting beer bottles in my bucket after the “Master of the House” pub scene, and singing with my back to the audience because the stage’s revolve broke and I was told not to move (so I didn’t even turn around).
How was it having Les Misérables as your West End debut?
I still feel honoured to have been chosen for such an iconic role, performing alongside some of the West End greats. At the time, I also had no idea that working with Danielle Hope, Craig Mather and Geronimo Rauch was such a big deal. I made some lifelong friends through Les Misérables, and I do hope that one day I might get to go back as an adult performer.
We understand you’ve previously performed at the Royal Opera House, can you say more about this?
It’s quite intimidating, the venue is so huge, so old and so well respected. When I was in Carmen, we even had horses, donkeys and chickens backstage. When the curtain goes up, you literally can hear a pin drop, it’s quite scary when over 2000 people suddenly stop talking. It’s a daunting experience but one I’d love to repeat again in the future.
What’s the experience like performing at the Royal Variety Performance?
It’s a huge opportunity to help raise money and awareness for charity, as well as sharing the stage with some well-known favourites. Getting to do the Royal line-up and meet Prince Harry was fantastic. The other performers were amazing to watch and really kind to me. I can’t express how honoured I feel to have performed on the Royal Variety twice at such a young age, once with Annie and once with Mary Poppins. The memories I made through these opportunities will stay with me forever.
Have you always enjoyed performing and how did your musical theatre career start?
No, not really, I’m naturally very shy and under confident. I do love to sing and act, but get anxious in public. I love performing though, as it allows you to be someone else. My brother first started me off, he played Oliver in a local show when he was ten and I was only six. The show didn’t have enough boys and the director asked if I’d help make up numbers by playing a boy in the workhouse and wearing a wig to disguise my long blonde hair. I discovered that acting and singing was something that I really enjoyed.
Are you currently working on or preparing for any roles that you can tell us about?
I’m currently playing Young Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde with a local theatre company, which is super fun. I’m also attending multiple auditions and would love to work in film and TV so fingers crossed.
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