Over the summer months, Mia Byers performed at the London Palladium in the cast of the revival of hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which played its final date of the ten-week run earlier this month. Making her professional debut in the West End as Amanda Thripp in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, Mia then went on to appear at the Royal Albert Hall for the Magic at the Musicals event. Mia continues her training in acting and dance, which includes attending the Royal Ballet School at weekends, and has recently joined the Stagebox London Elite team. Last week, we found out from Mia about performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, her summer at the Palladium and her ongoing training.
What was it like being in the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium?
The first words that come to my mind are FUN and exciting! It definitely was colourful and it was so great to work with an awesome cast and company. What a huge privilege to be able to work with all the people involved and to perform on stage at the London Palladium! It’s a big stage and audience – it felt amazing to be a part of the excitement of the show and be involved in its reinvention! We had a great time being part of its creation. I will never forget the standing ovations and appreciation from the audience – and everyone dancing along to the mega mix was such a buzz.
Did you know any of the child cast previously?
No. When I arrived on day one, I remembered a few from the auditions, but I didn’t know anyone outside of that. But we all bonded very quickly and became a big family. I have made firm and lifelong friendships, especially with my teammates. Sharing these experiences is quite unique and creates a special connection.
I really hope to be able to work with them again one day! We keep in close contact.
Can you tell us about any TV performances you made whilst in the cast?
I was lucky enough to be able to perform on ITV’s This Morning with my team during the Joseph run. We performed Any Dream Will Do with Jac Yarrow (Joseph) LIVE on the programme! It was great to be involved in the build-up to the performance, to see how it all works, to rehearse with the cameras, to do the live TV links for the ad breaks and to meet the presenters! We performed it outside the studios, so there was also a public audience. I absolutely loved experiencing it and being on camera – and to have your friends around you to share it with was lovely. I was very grateful for the experience.
You’ve played the role of Amanda Thripp in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, can you tell us about your role in the production?
I loved Amanda! The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical is something that will always stay close to my heart. Again, you form close friendships, and we are all very supportive of each other. Amanda is one of the children in the musical who attends Crunchem Hall with Matilda and friends. There are nine children in any one show, and they are all integral in telling Matilda’s story. Amanda is involved in all of the children’s scenes, but her featured scene is in the playground. Miss Trunchbull (the unkind headmistress) reprimands Amanda for wearing pigtails. She marches over to Amanda and picks her up by her pigtails, swings her around by her hair and throws her. Amanda then falls from the roof and appears unscathed in the centre aisle after being caught by some older children. This scene is one that always creates a huge amount of buzz in the audience as they see her being spun around (she really does get lifted off the ground and spun around!), drop from the roof and then appear amongst the audience!
The children in the show are all busy throughout, singing, dancing and acting and have a huge part to play in the production – even moving props on and off the stage. I loved being involved in every aspect of making the show work and working with the adults.
How long were you playing the role and what was she like to portray?
I played Amanda on stage for 12 months. With the rehearsals beforehand, I was with the company for fifteen months – and I loved every minute of it. It’s hard work but worth it. I had so much fun playing this part and exploring her personality and her relationships with other characters. The Thripp throw was so exciting to perform, and I loved being spun around! Amanda comes across at first as quite a shy girl but develops confidence as the show progresses, especially when she rises unscathed after being thrown by her hair! Amanda was a joy to portray. I enjoyed showing her journey from the beginning of the show when the children are getting to grips with school and the scary headmistress, to the conclusion where the children manage to help Matilda and Miss Honey get rid of Trunch and sing the song Revolting Children.
What was your favourite song to perform?
Revolting Children! It always felt uplifting to perform this song and triumphant. I really enjoyed the choreography and felt that the audience were right behind us during this number. There is a sense of togetherness, and it was exciting to perform.
Can you tell us about being involved with Magic at the Musicals at Royal Albert Hall?
This was a wonderful experience and a privileged way to round off my Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical journey. I was invited to return soon after my final show to perform at this event with a group of ex maggots (ex Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical casts are all maggots!). It was so great to be together at this beautiful venue. I remember being wowed at the size of it and how many people were watching. I felt tiny! We sang Revolting Children – but we sang to a live orchestra and we had to stand and sing it without doing the usual dance routine that we would do in the show. It was quite powerful to stand and sing it to the huge audience and be amongst musical theatre greats. I really enjoyed the whole experience and being there to watch and listen to the other performers. It is definitely something I’ll never forget, and I’m very grateful to everyone involved in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical family for involving me in it.
Do you have a favourite musical to watch?
I really love theatre of all kinds and have seen some amazing shows but if I had to pick one out, I would say The Phantom of the Opera. I only saw it quite recently as I went to watch one of the ex Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical adult cast and I absolutely loved it. I was totally drawn into the music, the dance and the storyline. I thought it was very special, and it left me feeling inspired and definitely wanting to see it again.
You’ve appeared in pantomimes, what are these like to do?
Fun! There is a certain buzz to pantomime. The audience interaction, jokes and laughter all make it a great experience. I love that the whole family can be involved fully, and it’s a great way to spend the festive season having fun on stage with the cast and making people happy.
Do you remember how you felt booking your first professional role?
Yes, it was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical. I had done pantomimes for a few years and been involved in dance and drama competitions, but this was my first professional role and in the West End!
I was speechless but very excited! My parents gave me a picture from the show of Amanda Thripp and asked why they might have given it to me…
When I realised I’d got in, I was just so excited and didn’t quite believe it! It took a while to sink in. I’d just turned nine at the time, and the thought of it being real was so amazing that I had to keep checking! It really did feel amazing!
What is your favourite part about being an actress and dancer?
Performing and sharing my passion is a dream and I am so lucky to be able to do this but I also really love working in class to be the best that I can be, looking towards goals and improving. Being able to express myself through the arts is a wonderful thing, and it feels very natural to me. I take a huge amount of pleasure from all of my lessons and also being able to share it with others.
Can you tell us about attending the Royal Ballet School, and when did you first get into dance?
I am extremely happy that I am able to attend a weekend class at the Royal Ballet School. I train in all dance styles, but ballet has always been a great love of mine, and it is so important as a basis to all dancing. I enjoy the discipline and detail of classical ballet and understanding exactly why and where my body should be. It helps improve my strength, technique and also my dance quality. To be able to work with teachers at this prestigious school is something I really value.
I started dancing in preschool ballet at age two-and-a-half at my local dance school (Roshe Performing Arts), and in time I had added modern, tap, jazz, Irish, Classical Greek and additional ballet classes and was hooked! I spend a lot of time after school at my dance classes and most weekends! I also attend a weekend jazz associate programme called Premier Scholars.
For young dancers beginning their exams, what advice would you give?
Enjoy it and believe in yourself, think positively always, and give and take support and encouragement to and from others. Don’t give up.
What are your acting and dance plans for the rest of the year?
I will be continuing to work on all aspects of my skills and work hard in my classes to improve myself. I have exams coming up in dance and a drama exam that I work towards at my local drama school Act One Beginners. I will continue with my associate programmes to help me reach more of my goals. I am also about to start in the Stagebox London Elite team – which is a musical theatre programme where I can continue to work on my triple threat skills!
Alongside this, I am working with Daisy and Dukes Agency on future projects, and I hope to be able to share my passion with audiences again soon!
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