📷 : Mark Willshire https://www.markwillshirephotography.co.uk
In January, Laura Baldwin started her role in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical as songwriter Cynthia Weil, and was due to tour with the production until later this year, but with theatres around the world having to close, the tour ended just two months into their run in March. Before booking her role in Beautiful, Laura was in the Original West End Cast of Waitress the Musical as Dawn at the Adelphi Theatre, and along with fellow cast member Marisha Wallace, took part in WOSA Cookin’ in the lead up to the WhatsOnStage Awards. Laura played Janey in Eugenius! at The Other Palace in 2018, and her performance can still be seen in an archived recording which has been released on the musical’s Facebook page to raise money for Acting For Others. We recently caught up with Laura to talk about her time in Eugenius!, performing as Dawn in Waitress and touring as Cynthia Weil in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.
How have you found your time playing Cynthia Weil in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical?
Playing Cynthia Weil was like a breath of fresh air and being part of Beautiful was an absolute joy. I loved every minute. The show oozes class and has everything you would want in a musical. Carole’s and Cynthia’s story is fascinating and I was so proud to be a part of something they created. It was a pleasure to perform Beautiful alongside this wonderful cast and have worked with such a supportive and lovely creative team.
Can you tell us about touring with the production?
Touring is crazy and uprooting your life can be pretty difficult. It’s a love/hate relationship for me. Putting a show into a new theatre each week means you face different obstacles and you’re constantly trying to remember which way it is to the stage! As soon as you’ve settled into this new rhythm you move to the next venue! But touring with this production and company was just super fun! I found some gorgeous friendships and I loved performing in new venues I hadn’t been to before.
📷 : Helen Maybanks
How did you prepare for playing Cynthia?
So, I read all I could about her and I watched every interview available. Cynthia is the first character I’ve played that isn’t fictional and is alive today. I really wanted to do her justice and know that if she watched me, she would believe it was her. Throughout the first week of rehearsals, we sat with our director Ed Goggin and read the script each day and then discussed how our characters felt at the time and what the reasons were behind their choices. I found this process incredibly helpful as playing Cynthia doesn’t come naturally to me. She has an unapologetic confidence, she is witty, funny, smart and has her life together! I normally play characters that are much younger or lacking in confidence so this was a welcomed challenge.
What was Dawn like to play in Waitress the Musical?
Playing Dawn was a life-changing experience for me. She’s a role I am very grateful for and I will be forever glad I was a part of the Waitress family.
Do you have some favourite memories from your time in the cast?
SO many wonderful memories! The cast were just absolute heroes. We all seemed to go through so much together and I think my favourite memory is the support we all gave each other. We would have a prayer circle before every show and just the kindness and strength that was shown will always be a really fond memory for me.
📷 : Alastair Muir
How was it performing When He Sees Me on stage for the first and last time to an audience?
Both performances hold so much emotion for me. The first show I was unbelievably nervous and my lips kept getting stuck to my teeth because my mouth was so dry!! But hearing the audiences’ reactions for each performance was just out of this world. I can’t really describe it. It was a dream come true to open with this show and I’d been through so much that when I had my final performance, it felt like the end of a very important chapter in my life.
Leading up to the WhatsOnStage Awards, you and Marisha Wallace took part in their baking challenge, WOSA Cookin’, can you say more about it?
Yes, we did! Oh lord, it was so much fun! We basically had to bake a cake whilst being interviewed at the same time and compete for the best cake. I obviously lost ha! Baking is not my strong point but I loved it. I just won’t be putting pretzels on icing any time soon…
Can you say about your time in Eugenius! and about your character Janey?
It was an absolute blast. The cast were amazing, we became friends for life and I just adore the musical. Playing someone like Janey was just an honour. She is everything I would want my child to become and I was just so proud to be her. I got to explore so much and completely let loose on stage. I believe in the show so much and I truly feel it brings people together.
📷 : Scott Rylander
The musical was recently released on Facebook to help the charity Acting For Others, how was it seeing the support from the theatre community?
It was and I believe we raised around £15K which is just INCREDIBLE. It was amazing for the show to feel that buzz again. The writers of the show were over the moon, I was so overwhelmed by the support and the money the show raised. These are such difficult times right now and to see people lifting each other’s spirits and donating what they can spare, really warms my heart!
What was Big Fish like to be part of?
Big Fish was incredibly special. The show is so moving and I kept having to pinch myself that I was a part of it! The score of the show is stunning and still gives me butterflies and makes me happy sob every time I hear it! As soon as I watched the film/read the script/heard the music, I knew I had to be in it. The cast were beautiful, I was surrounded by inspirational talent and it really was a dream to be a part of.
📷 : Pamela Raith
Last year, you performed at The Magic of Animation 2 and Godspell at Cadogan Hall, can you tell us about these events?
I did. The best thing about both of those concerts is that I was able to sing on stage with close friends and sing songs that I don’t normally perform. I also really love getting dressed up without putting a costume on as I NEVER normally do! The concerts that West End Does put on are magical and Godspell was such a joy. Cadogan Hall is such a beautiful venue too!
You’ve workshopped a few productions, what do you enjoy about workshopping new material?
Workshops are a great filler in between jobs and they’re so much fun. The chance to read new work in its really early stages is exciting and you bring characters to life that haven’t been off the page yet. It’s a chance to work with different creatives/actors and I love helping figure out what works, what doesn’t and seeing the new and improved version of a show.
Had you always wanted to be a musical theatre performer and how did you start in the industry?
Yes! I started dancing when I was three and my passion for it built as I got older. My mum would take me to see shows and I just knew it was my path! (As wanky as that sounds!!) At the age of sixteen, I went to Bird College and studied musical theatre for three years. I luckily graduated with an agent and had my first job in a Pantomime that year. After that, I struggled for a while to land a job which was super tough but after a few years, the ball started rolling. This career has so many highs and lows, but even through the lows, I know that this will be what I do with my life until I can’t physically do it anymore!
📷 : Genevieve Leeney (@genevieve_leeney)
What’s your favourite aspect of your career?
My favourite aspect of my career is doing what I love and building my life around that. It doesn’t feel like work even when it gets taxing and I adore the people it has brought into my life. I just love that it’s my job and I’m so accepting of the person I have become because of it.
Are there any theatre shows you would like to see that you haven’t had chance to as yet?
Oh! I’m going to watch Frankenstein that was on at The National. They’re streaming it online and I can’t wait to watch that! But I would like to see ANY show when theatres re-open. I’ll absolutely be going every night to watch a show and I cannot wait till we can do that!
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