Known for her many roles on stage, Natasha Raphael has performed around the UK as Duffy in the tour of Annie the Musical and made her West End debut in 2016 in the Original West End Cast of School of Rock at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Natasha has also had radio experience in popular BBC series Home Front and currently runs her own YouTube channel called Simply Tatty. Catching up with Natasha recently, we find out about her West End debut as Marcy, touring the UK in Annie the Musical and her YouTube channel.
Last year, you were part of the UK premiere of A Little Princess, what was this like to appear in and how was it being directed by Arlene Phillips?
A Little Princess was an amazing experience – performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall Southbank Centre, it was really incredible. I actually never thought I’d get it because even though I went to a closed call, we saw videos of the next day where there must have been about 3000 kids swerving around the streets getting into this audition room so I was like ‘oh it’s a one in a million chance!’ but luckily enough I was chosen to be part of it.
Arlene is honestly a force to be reckoned with, she’s so amazing in a rehearsal room and really helps you with your characterisation. My role was called Ermengarde (which I think is the best name ever by the way, haha!), she was so amazing and definitely the best role I’ve had to portray acting-wise. It was a challenge for me to play a role who was misunderstood and a bit nerdy and geeky but she had such a big heart, you get to see her by the end become a really well-rounded character, that’s really so much fun to play.
You made your West End debut in School of Rock as Marcy, how was your experience booking the role and performing in the show?
Marcy was my West End debut, so that was a big deal, it was something I’d been working up to for a while. Marcy was really great and I was so lucky to get picked because I had no idea what School of Rock was before I got the casting through! As soon as I found out that all these kids play their instruments live I was like, ‘I have to be in this show, it’s so amazing!’. I went to my casting call and was fortunate enough to get picked for the original cast which is always an amazing experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better West End debut, the whole experience that came along with it – all the press and everything that came along with the show made it an even better experience and I loved it, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Can you tell us about your character Marcy?
Marcy’s very opinionated and quite the sassy one of the group. She’s part of this little trio, she’s best friends with a girl called Shonelle in their class. All the kids have issues with their lives and their parents don’t really have time to listen to what they’re trying to say, so they’re all very pent up and angry. When they are in their school, this substitute teacher comes along who is crazy and starts them playing this rock band. He encourages them to all let out their emotions and their feelings so I think she really grows into herself after she gets rocked out. You get to see little flashes of her personality and cheekiness come through once Dewey comes in and gets them all rocking, haha!
What was the choreography and music like to learn?
The choreography I found really fun and interesting because it was all about letting go of all your anger and your pent-up feelings. For example, one of the songs, Stick It To The Man, is very sharp and precise but it’s all about getting all your anger out through these movements. I found that really fun to do every night because even if you had a bit of stress or anxiety, you could just let it go on the stage and that would all go away.
The music was especially amazing and I think it’s the heart of the show. The fact these kids play live every night is so incredible, it’s all real and being part of a band that’s made up is really an amazing experience because you get to learn how to work with different voices, especially being in a trio of singers. Marcy was part of this group of backup singers, you get to learn how to mix your voices and harmonise which I think is really important to learn and it was amazing playing live every night.
Did you get the opportunity to perform at any events or TV shows while in School of Rock?
Yes, we got a great lot of interest for the show when it first came over to London because it was so different to anything they’d ever seen before. Highlights for me would have to be the Olivier Awards, that was a really incredible experience performing in front of a lot of my idols, so that was one of my favourites. We also did a lot of great charity work, we did Comic Relief and we did the Prince’s Trust events and that was really great. I loved doing The X Factor, that was super cool and really fun to play. I felt really lucky that I was chosen to do all of the events we got to do. We also performed at Proms in the Park with BBC, there were 40,000 people and it was the biggest crowd we ever did so that was nerve-racking and after two weeks of rehearsal, they throw you in the deep end so that was amazing! It was really great doing all of those extra bits that came along with the show.
You had your first professional theatre role as Duffy in Annie, what was it like touring with the show and how long was the contract?
The contract was for a whole year so I did the whole run of the tour. We were lucky enough to get opening, press and closing nights so we kind of felt full circle which was great. It was really amazing and I’d never experienced touring before, it was my first musical theatre job so I was nervous, obviously, but the people were so wonderful. It was such a great debut theatre-wise so I was so happy and it was such a great experience.
What was Duffy like to play?
She was so much fun to portray because I saw a bit of myself in her. She was a bit of a diva and liked her moment in the spotlight, it was really fun to play her. I think working in an ensemble of orphans, your part has to fit in with the others, which I think was really fun to play around with the dynamics between the characters and I think it was a really great part. I really loved it.
Have you stayed in touch with the other cast members?
Yeah, I have. We still meet as regularly as we can, we live in different places so whenever we can see each other, we will. If someone’s in a show then we’ll try and see them in it together. I think when you tour with a group of girls like that for so long, it solidifies your friendship and it doesn’t really matter how long we’re away from each other, when we come back it’s like no time has passed which I think is really great.
What did you enjoy most about performing at Kids of the West End?
The show didn’t get very much said about it and it was quite private because of all of the kids, that were obviously amazing, but it didn’t get very widely spread. It was so amazing to be part of this group of kids, obviously I’d known a lot of them from shows and training before, and each and every one of them are so insanely talented and so incredible, it was a really great opportunity. It was great fun getting together to sing Christmas songs and songs from shows and I think people really enjoyed it… I definitely did, it was one of my favourite experiences that I’ve personally done!
Having had radio experience in Home Front for BBC Radio 4, what was it like to work on and can you tell us about your character Connie Cavendish?
Home Front was my very first job that I ever got to do. It was really special for me because I also got to do it with my sister who was really good fun to bounce off because we played sisters, so that was really fun! I think it taught me a different discipline because it was for BBC Radio 4 which is obviously not acting in front of a crowd, it’s actually behind a microphone which is harder because you can’t use your face to convey the emotion, it all has to come through your voice. It was a really great experience to go through and it definitely taught me a new form of acting that I had never experienced before.
When did you know you wanted an acting career and how did you get into it?
My whole family was in the industry so from a young age I was thrown into that end. I was inspired by my brother who’s five years older than me and was starting to do commercials, so that sparked my interest. I’d never really been interested in that kind of thing before I went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical and looked at these kids and thought they were incredible and that I wanted to do that.
Why did you want to start your own YouTube channel and what’s it like to run?
I really wanted to start a YouTube channel because I was lucky enough to be involved with School of Rock’s YouTube channel and we did a show segment called Smells Like Tween Spirit and that was what really sparked my interest in being in front of a camera more and doing things online. I really love the response that you get from people and I thought ‘let’s take the leap of faith and let’s start a channel!’. I call it Simply Tatty and I really love making the videos, I think it’s just an amazing feeling. We’ve built up a really great community of subscribers over on the channel so I think it’s just a great way for me to connect with people who have enjoyed seeing my work.
How do you come up with new video ideas for Simply Tatty and do you have any upload plans for the next few months?
I mainly make videos about things I’m passionate about. I think that’s really important to be making and talking about things that you’re interested in and you think others will be as well, so that’s where I get my inspiration from. You’ll find a lot of musical theatre nerding and tea-obsess talk on there, so it’s a lot of fun to just sit and have an outlet where you can talk about the things that interest you.
We’ve got some upload plans for the future, definitely. We took a hiatus to think of new ideas over Christmas but we’ll have lots of new videos coming, we’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline so I can’t wait to share them with everybody.
We understand you attended Waitress the Musical in the West End, what did you think of the show and was there anything special about your visit?
I’d seen Waitress on Broadway the previous year and I thought it was incredible, the whole cast were amazing. For my birthday, we got tickets for the UK version and we went a couple of days after and we saw it was the karaoke night so we freaked out. We signed our names up and we waited there after the show. The whole cast and show was incredible, I absolutely loved it! After the show, they said, ‘can Natasha Raphael come to the stage for karaoke?’ and I was like ‘oh my gosh, that’s so incredible’. We went backstage and got to meet the cast who all watch you perform and it was absolutely incredible, although a bit nerve-racking to be in front of the whole Adelphi crowd that was there watching the show that night and obviously performing the songs that you just heard was a bit nerve-racking as well! It was such an incredible feeling to be on that stage and the whole cast were so supportive and it was such a great atmosphere to perform in, so I really loved it! Thank you to all the Waitress cast and company that allowed me to do it!
Are you able to tell us what acting plans you have coming up?
We’ve got some exciting things coming up in the future, hopefully. I’ve just turned thirteen so I’ve been focusing a lot on training because I think there’s always things you can learn and it’s always great to keep your training up to date and that’s really important. We’re in the process with some cool things and I’d love to get back up on the stage or screen or anything they have to offer in the future, so I can’t wait!
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