With Beautiful – The Carole King Musical starting their tour in January, Cameron Sharp was only a few months into playing the role of Barry Mann before theatres worldwide closed in March, meaning the run was cut short with dates originally scheduled until the end of August. In 2019, Cameron spent the summer at the Estonian National Opera in West Side Story as Tony, and the previous year, was cast in Sweet Charity as Vittorio Vidal. Cameron was in the Original West End Cast of School of Rock as Theo where he spent two years at the New London/Gillian Lynne Theatre, and booked his first professional role in Rock of Ages at the Garrick Theatre before touring with the show the following year. We chatted with Cameron about touring with Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, spending last summer in Estonia and being in the Original West End Cast of School of Rock.
You were most recently touring with Beautiful – The Carole King Musical as Barry Mann, how was the tour going and what was Barry like to play?
Oh, we were having SUCH a great time. Beautiful is a stunning musical, with brilliant songs and a touching, hilarious script. It still hurts my heart to think of how much time we should have had left on tour! On top of how great the show and the cast were – Barry Mann was a dream role of mine. I’d auditioned for the original West End cast back in 2014, and came close but didn’t get the job. From then on, I always wanted to get another opportunity to audition. I knew it was a part I was right for, and I’m just so happy it eventually happened! We unknowingly took our last bow as a cast on the Saturday night in Cardiff, then we were told a couple of days later to not travel on to Sunderland (our next venue). I really hope the tour goes back out, and we manage to get together the same cast, as I was nowhere near finished with that amazing show!
What was it like being part of the cast and rehearsing for the role?
It’s a bit of a cliché that every actor talks about how great their cast is for every show they’re involved in, but we really did have a special cast. I loved every single person involved. The entire process, right from auditioning through to the show being put in front of an audience, was a joy to be a part of. We had time in rehearsals to spend the entire first week just sitting around a table and reading and dissecting the script! This is time that’s rarely afforded when putting on a big musical like this, but it added so much to the detail of the show. Then, once everyone came together and we saw all of the incredible work that had been going on with all the big numbers, it was honestly so exciting! I have to give a shoutout to Laura Baldwin, who played opposite me as Cynthia Weil. She was an absolute joy to work with (as well as being sickeningly talented), and was the icing on top of what was already a pretty perfect cake. (Did that analogy work? Who knows, but let’s go with it).
What did you enjoy most about working on the production?
There were so many things that made Beautiful such a wonderful experience for me. I loved the freedom we had in rehearsals to find our own versions of the characters, I loved every one of the incredible cast (it’s rare you have a cast that big and not one person with an ‘ego’), I loved being on stage and acting opposite such phenomenal talents every night, and I loved hearing audiences go from belly laughing to tingling with anticipation when one of their favourite songs began.
The Beautiful cast recorded I Feel The Earth Move for Backup and Acting For Others, how was this?
I actually found making the video quite difficult. I’d done a few videos and recordings since we entered lockdown, so I was used to the process, but I don’t think I was quite yet ready to sing something from the show. It brought a very confusing mixture of pride and sadness, especially when I saw everyone together in the final video. But – making the video for such an amazing charity was, of course, the most important part.
Can you tell us about playing Tony in West Side Story at Estonian National Opera last summer?
Oh, I loved this job so much! Tony is such an iconic role, and a real tick off the bucket list for me. I’ll admit, I was unsure what to do when I was first offered the job – as I had no idea what it would be like to work in Estonia – and they cast over twelve months in advance for operas in Europe! But, I am SO glad I did it. I learnt a lot about myself (as a person and as an actor) and about the world. I also got to sing that score on stage with a forty-piece orchestra!! Again, we had a brilliant cast. There were four of us who were cast in London, one Lithuanian, the directors were Swedish, and the rest of the cast were Estonian. I think that mixture of nationalities and experiences really added to the whole thing, and the show we produced was really quite special.
How different was it working at an Estonian theatre opposed to a UK one, and what was it like spending the summer there?
I fell instantly in love with Tallinn (the capital of Estonia). If you ever get the chance (and once we’re able to travel again), I highly recommend you pay it a visit! It’s just an incredible mixture of perfectly preserved medieval history and innovative, modern, hipster life. The place, combined with the fact that every Estonian person I met would do anything within their power to make you feel welcome, made for a great summer. I’d love to go back!
In terms of the actual work, it was my first time working abroad and also my first time working for an Opera House – so it’s hard for me to separate which of these things were responsible for each of the differences. We did far less shows (sometimes only one or two a week!), and the rehearsal process was much longer. The show was being done in both Estonian and English language (I only had to do it in English – thankfully), so we rehearsed in tandem with the Estonian Tony and Maria etc. I actually loved this way of working! It allowed you to see somebody else’s interpretation and see what worked.
I really hope to visit Estonia again, as soon as I can! Hopefully they’ll get me back to work there one day…
You played Vittorio Vidal in Sweet Charity, how was this?
Ok, so this one takes a bit of explaining… The show was rehearsed and performed in a women’s prison. Yep – IN a prison. But we didn’t just go in and perform for the inmates – they were part of the show with us, and then we performed to the public from inside the prison! It’s an incredible project put on yearly by Grange Park Opera (Pimlico Opera). If anyone reading this gets the chance to either watch, or take part in one of their shows – I really recommend you do. We (a small group of professional actors and creatives) rehearsed in the prison, with the amazing women who were inmates there, then performed for the public from the prison gym – which had been converted into a stunning theatre!! The project raises so much money to help with funding in the prison system, and also provides an opportunity for people in prison to work together, meet new people, try out new skills and put on a piece of theatre. For most of these people, the applause on the first night is totally overwhelming. One woman told me that nobody had ever told her that anything she’d done in her life was good – so to see hundreds of people clapping her was a really emotional experience.
Having joined School of Rock as part of the Original West End Cast, can you tell us more about your time in the show as Theo?
I have such fond memories of School of Rock, and it grew to be a huge part of my life (and my family’s)! I’d always wanted to be in an Original West End Cast, and to do it with an Andrew Lloyd Webber show was just amazing. I was also a massive fan of the film when I was younger – so it all felt quite surreal! The show had already opened on Broadway, but our production was very different (we had a revolve, and also 3x as many kids because of licensing laws in the UK), so rehearsing and teching brand new staging with such a huge cast of kids was an eye-opening, and often chaotic, experience! I remember setting the opening song as Theo, and the creative team just telling me where to stand then saying, ‘Ok, off you go’. That’s when it hit me that I was sort of creating this role (or at least this version) and I could do whatever I wanted as a starting point. It’s a great feeling when you get that freedom!
How did it feel leaving the show after two years in the cast?
I had mixed feelings about whether to leave the show or not. We had one of the best casts I’d worked with, and we had the most hilarious dressing room I’d known. There wasn’t a single day that we didn’t laugh hysterically for most of our time backstage. And, to top the whole experience off, my brother had joined the cast for my second year there (his name’s Jake Sharp, and you can read more about him in his interview). That was totally surreal! He called me and told me to clear him a space in the dressing room, and I’m pretty sure I cried. I think my proudest and most vivid memory from the show was walking out on stage when he made his Dewey debut, and looking to my right and seeing him standing there in full costume etc. I think I was more nervous than he was! My girlfriend also ended up working on the show – so it really became a full family affair.
Before joining School of Rock, you were in the Ensemble of Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, can you say more about this?
What a production that was! It’s definitely one of the things I’m most proud of being involved in. I found every moment of working on this show completely awe-inspiring. I remember walking into the first day of rehearsals and just thinking ‘there is no way I’m cool enough to be in this cast’… and I still stand by that. Every single person was just phenomenal. I also ended up as Ensemble Swing, meaning I had to know every single male ensemble track (I think there were eleven of them), plus my own. Thankfully, I had the absolute legend that is Simon Hardwick to hold my hand through all of that, and I got to soak up everything that he and the inimitable Drew McOnie could teach me. I have so many brilliant memories of that summer, but watching Drew work his magic, seeing the sun slowly set throughout the show each night, the rain that once fell during Gethsemane and then stopped immediately afterwards, and eventually performing at (and winning an award at) the Olivier’s – I think they’ll take some beating.
What was it like being in the Ensemble and covering the roles of Nicky and Trekkie in the UK Tour of Avenue Q?
This job was so much fun. I was Ensemble and cover, which in this show means you have a lot of spare time during each show. For me, that just meant I could have a whole lot of fun every single day! I met my girlfriend, Arina, on this tour (as well as some of my closest friends) – so it’s probably influenced my life more than any other job I’ve done. And, way more importantly than all that, I now know how to use a puppet.
You were in the West End cast of Rock of Ages as Alternate Drew and Swing before touring with the production as Franz, how did you find the experience?
My first professional job, and an absolute dream come true. There is nothing I would change about the whole experience of Rock of Ages. I’d just finished my third year of training (and actually missed my graduation because of rehearsals), and I was a HUGE fan of the show. I think I’d already seen it about five times before my first audition. What made this experience even more incredible, was that I was the only brand new cast member joining the show when I did. That meant I was then performing and bowing alongside the exact lineup I’d watched on stage all those times! The first time I went on as Drew, I remember leading the final bows and looking around at everyone I was bowing with – and just being totally unable to process it.
Then we went on tour, and I played Franz. He is a total gift of a part. Minimum input and maximum returns! You get just the perfect amount of scenes and songs, some really hilarious moments as well as some tender ones, but they’re spread perfectly throughout the show – so there’s still time for a coffee backstage! This was also my first experience of touring, and I found that I actually really enjoy it. Seeing a new city each week, a new theatre, new audiences etc – it keeps the show feeling fresh and alive.
What was it like being part of The Virtual Pub presents “A Night at the Musicals”?
Lockdown has meant we all have to find new and innovative ways to keep performing, and to hopefully get some small amount of income. I was asked by Laura Tebbutt to take part in this (alongside Declan Bennett actually, who was Jesus in the production of JCS I was in – and many other amazing performers). We each did a small set from our homes, with a PayPal link in case anybody would like to send us a little gift in return for the entertainment! I had a lovely time singing some MT songs and getting to watch everybody else being awesome. It’s so sad that this is what theatre has become for now – but it’s also so important that we keep producing (and funding) entertainment to give to people in their homes.
Do you remember the first theatre show you watched and which have you seen in the past few years you would recommend?
The first show I watched… Ooo that’s hard! I have a strange feeling it might have been Annie, in Birmingham. But I could be way off. Can I phone a friend?
In terms of shows I’ve seen lately – there are so many. I think the most recent shows that have really had a lasting impact on me have been Come From Away and The Inheritance. Oh, and Hamilton, of course.
What drew you to a musical theatre career and to train at Mountview?
I’ve always loved theatre. I started off playing Oliver when I was eight years old for a local amateur dramatics society. From that point on, I took part in around three to five shows every year (probably more sometimes), and rehearsed almost every night of the week, and Sundays! When I think of the insane sacrifice on the part of my parents – to drive me to rehearsals (forty-five minutes each way) on top of their jobs etc – it completely blows my mind. I sang a lot as a kid, and loved it, and my mum just casually asked me one day if I’d like to audition for a show – so I did. And there we have it! They never pushed that it’s what I should do, but they also gave me all the support (and more) that I could have asked for.
Then, in terms of training etc… There were quite a lot of people from my Youth Theatre (West Bromwich Operatic Society) that had gone on to train – and I’d watched their successes with pride and jealousy! A few had gone to Mountview – so when I got in, I knew that was the place I had to go. Who knows what would have happened if I’d trained somewhere else – but I think it all worked out just about right for me, and I’m happy with how everything has turned out since.
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