With last year’s Les Misérables: The Staged Concert opening at the Gielgud Theatre in August, Rosa O’Reilly was part of the Ensemble and understudy Éponine, and on their closing date, the show was streamed live to cinemas. After joining Wicked in 2016 as understudy Glinda and Nessarose, Rosa was then cast as the principal Nessarose, a role in which she continued until summer 2019. Along with her time in Wicked and Les Misérables last year, Rosa also workshopped The Osmonds Musical at The Other Palace as Marie Osmond, and held her first solo gig at The Crazy Coqs. Recently, Rosa answered our questions about performing in Les Misérables: The Staged Concert, her time in Wicked and performing her first solo concert.
You most recently understudied the role of Éponine, and were part of the Ensemble, in Les Misérables: The Staged Concert, how was this?
It was really amazing returning to this show ten years after first doing it, to hear the wonderful music again and to work with some lovely new people as well as a handful of friends that I had been in the show with a decade ago, very surreal!
How was the experience being in the production when it was streamed live to cinemas?
It was so exciting as I’d never been a part of something quite like that, it was a really different experience and special to be part of it.
What was Marie Osmond like to portray in The Osmonds Musical workshop at The Other Palace?
I really enjoyed this job, I actually didn’t know a whole lot about The Osmonds before starting this project but we soon got to know all the amazing music and history of the group and spent time quizzing Jay Osmond, who worked with us throughout.
I loved playing Marie, I listened to her vocals a lot and tried to really get it right, there was so little time but the guys playing the Osmond brothers worked so hard and pulled it off so well. Pretty much every song was made up of six-part harmonies and a really specific sound was needed, everyone involved did an amazing job. The songs are so catchy and by the second week we all had them stuck in our heads! I think it would make a great full-scale musical, so watch this space!
Can you tell us about your time as Nessarose in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre?
This was a part I had been up for so many times, but the timing never quite worked out, so finally bagging the role was great!
What was Glinda like to understudy and do you remember how you felt going on for your debut in the role?
Honestly, I never thought I’d understudy this part, it was up there with one of the most exciting on stage experiences for me. The way you start the show is above the stage, on your own waiting to fly down and sing solo to the crowd. I found that bit slightly terrifying but once you get out there it’s the most incredible experience. It was so exciting to play such a huge and iconic role and to perform a part that had so much comedy and such challenging vocals. I first saw Wicked when I was fifteen and wanted to be in it ever since then, so it was really a bucket list achievement for me.
What do you feel you learnt from your time in the show?
I learnt a lot about my capabilities and my vocal ability, singing very differently to how I usually would.
You were in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, what was this like to be part of?
It was great! I was one of the soul girls, the three of us sang in tight three-part harmonies for most of the show and I felt like I was in a girl band every night, it was epic!
That cast was so special, such a great collective of people and the vocals all round were so strong and so unique.
What can you say about playing Elizabeth in Dirty Dancing on tour and at the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End?
This was the first time I had been offered a role as a lead vocalist and I loved singing those songs every night, it was so much fun. Amazing music and such a fun show to be part of!
The West End contract at the Piccadilly Theatre was one of my favourite theatre jobs ever I think. I also got to sing at festivals including Latitude and at loads of other cool events linked to the show which was so much fun.
Had you seen the show/film before auditioning and what were the songs and choreography like to perform?
I hadn’t seen the film before auditioning (I know! Crazy!), but I watched it before I started working on the show. The songs were amazing to sing, obviously the iconic song (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life was a classic and we had Bill Medley in the audience when it transferred to the West End, which was really special. But the other songs in the show were just great too: Do You Love Me and Be My Baby in particular, such an honour to get to sing these songs every night!
Your West End debut was in 2008 as understudy Meatloaf in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre, what do you remember from booking the role and performing in the show?
I got so lucky with this one, they were looking for a last minute extra cover to start on the show, I was eighteen at the time and this was my very first audition through my new agent and I was still at musical theatre college, I had one audition and was offered the job on that same day which is almost unheard of, I haven’t experienced that since! It was the luckiest start to my career!
Again, this was a role I hadn’t imagined I would ever cover or play, but I got to go on for Meatloaf several times and it was an incredible experience, it felt like a real rockstar moment standing in the middle of the stage in a spotlight singing No One But You, which is the most beautiful song.
How did you get into a musical theatre career and was it something you always wanted to do?
I have wanted to be on stage for as long as I can remember, I used to dress up and put on shows for the family as a kid and growing up, I always thought that is what I would do.
I had the choice to go to University or to do a one-year Musical Theatre course, I decided on the latter and the rest is history.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch?
I’ll always support friends in shows and try and see new productions when I can! Thinking back over the shows that I’ve seen over the years, the ones that have stood out for me are Parade, which I saw at the Donmar Warehouse years ago. It was really early on, I was on my Musical Theatre course at the time and I remember being so inspired and moved by that particular production.
You’ve performed in a few concerts, and last year you held your first solo gig at The Crazy Coqs, can you tell us more about this?
I love singing at gigs and concerts, I’ve tried to do this more in the last couple of years as it’s something I really enjoy. Doing my first solo gig was a very valuable experience, I produced it myself and organised the set and the singers etc, with help from my MD to organise the arrangements and musicians. It was quite stressful but I’m so glad I did it. It was great to be able to sing whatever I wanted and have a great time with my friends onstage. The venue is gorgeous, I had seen a couple of gigs there before and thought why the hell not!
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