Lara Denning

Lara Denning

Since appearing in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole the Musical at Menier Chocolate Factory in 2017, Lara Denning is currently reprising her roles of Miss Elf and Doreen Slater in the West End transfer at Ambassadors Theatre. While in the original London cast, Lara recorded the musical’s soundtrack, which will be released later this month after the company performs at West End Live this weekend. Lara took time out of her busy show schedule to chat about her previous West End shows, recording the soundtrack and reprising her roles in Adrian Mole the Musical.

You played the roles of Miss Elf and Doreen Slater in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole the Musical at Menier Chocolate Factory, what are you looking forward to for reprising both characters?

I’m looking forward to finding new things within these characters. People evolve everyday so the same goes for these two ladies. I think as an actress your job is to find fresh ideas and to constantly be tweaking your performance, otherwise it becomes stale for you as well as the audience. So I’m looking forward to new possibilities with Elf and Doreen.

What does it feel like now the production is finally getting a long-awaited West End run?

It feels fantastic. Brunger and Cleary have written the most beautifully funny, heart-warming show and I’m so pleased audiences get to see it and to see their incredible work. The music is joyful but will also break your heart too. Pippa is a musical genius and it’s about time it was showcased in the West End. Jake is a brilliantly witty writer. I remember reading the script before my audition and thinking this is SO clearly written, I understand every beat and rhythm of this piece and the characters. So again it’s wonderful for him to get the recognition he deserves for his brilliance. I’m just so excited for West End audiences to see it.

How do you think it will differ playing Ambassadors?

The Ambassadors Theatre is stunning. It’s incredibly intimate which is exactly what this show needs. It really feels like the theatre is giving you a hug. So I guess in lots of ways it’s different because it’s bigger than the Menier and holds more seats but in other ways, it isn’t because the intimacy between the cast and audience have remained, which again is exactly what this show wants and needs, we want the audience to feel like it’s a conversation amongst friends or a fly on the wall experience.

When did rehearsals start and what was it like picking up the Adrian Mole script again?

Rehearsals started mid-May. Picking up the script and reading through it again was actually quite emotional for me. I thought I’d said goodbye to these characters and I’d missed them. So it was weirdly like greeting old friends you hadn’t seen for ages. It was just so lovely. I care about this show a lot and so it felt beautiful to be back.

How would you describe Miss Elf and Doreen Slater and what’s it like switching between characters during a show?

Miss Elf is scatty, nervous, sometimes a bit drunk, terrified of Mr Scruton and Barry but has a heart of gold. She’s on the quest for love but I think she just loves teaching and that is her true passion I just think she’s not that good at it at times. She’s really fun to play. Doreen Slater is completely different. She’s confident, sassy, in your face, not very classy. She’s a very heightened version of Bette from Corrie.

You recorded the Original London Cast soundtrack, what was it like being part of?

Recording the album was a great experience and I’m happy that it’s available for everyone to hear. Like I said, the music and lyrics of Brunger and Cleary are fantastic. It resonates with everyone young and old so it’s a delightful listen especially in the world we are living in at the moment. We all need to laugh more and to enjoy ourselves and this musical certainly gives you that.

Lara Denning (Miss Elf_Doreen Slater), credit Pamela Raith
📷 : Pamela Raith

Your Gala Night will be on Tuesday 2nd July, do you find there is a different atmosphere backstage on event nights?

There’s always an excitable energy at press and gala nights. I enjoy them a lot. I’m really looking forward to it, although I haven’t picked out my outfit yet! I’m just excited to share this show to press and audiences, it’s real belter of a show.

How much fun is it being part of the Adrian Mole company?

We have a lot of fun! We also work extremely hard so it’s important for all of us to keep making each other laugh. The young company are hilarious and so professional too. They bring more fun and joy to the company. It’s hard not to have a good time on this show. We all hugely respect the writing and the piece and the entire cast works as an ensemble, so it’s important to have actors that will get stuck in whether you are ten or seventy. We all adore each other so it’s really lovely going to work everyday.

Do you have any stand-out moments from your time in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda the Musical and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End?

There are so many to choose from! I LOVE Roald Dahl so to be lucky enough to be in two musicals based on his stories was glorious. Working with the young company is the biggest treat. Young adults teach you so much. They get nervous but in different ways to adults. They don’t let a lot faze them. It’s inspiring to work with them. As adults, we tend to hold a lot of baggage from life whereas they are so free. I’ve learnt a lot from them and how to shake off the things that really don’t matter. With the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical and Charlie, I hold very special memories and I gained forever friends both young and old on those shows. It was a real joy.

Can you tell us about your time in Ruthless! the Musical?

RUTHLESS was a hoot! It was a silly, camp, hilarious show. I loved working with those incredible women and young ladies and Jason (Gardiner). Again, we worked incredibly hard on that show but we also had some brilliant laughs. You never stop learning as an actor and to work and learn from this ridiculously talented cast was a real treat. The audiences adored this show and I still get compliments from people now about it, which is lovely.

Where does your love of performing come from?

My family. My mum, dad and brother are all in the industry. My brother is in a rock band in Las Vegas called TENORS OF ROCK. My mother was an opera singer, then later a comedienne and she is now a cruise director for CELEBRITY. My dad was producer of CATCHPHRASE and worked in television for years but before that he toured the world as a saxophonist for Tina Turner, Long John Baldry and The Foundations. He plays twelve instruments! So it was pretty inevitable that I was going to be in this industry. I was never pushed into it though but I guess when you grow up with Les Dawson babysitting you, that’s probably going to happen!

How do you approach a role?

RESEARCH! I make sure I know everything about the piece. Research the characters and make sure I do my homework. I think that’s so important. Once I’ve done that, I can start to play around and see what fits and sticks.

Book to see ADRIAN MOLE THE MUSICAL at Ambassadors Theatre until 12th October 2019

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