Melissa Jacques joined the West End cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in 2018 as understudy Margaret New, Ray and Miss Hedge, before taking over the role of Margaret full-time last year, with the show currently on hold due to the current pandemic. Ahead of joining the cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Melissa had spent a few years as Trish in Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre, and her other stage work has included Wicked and MAMMA MIA!, where she played Alternate Donna. Recently catching up with Melissa, she answered our questions about playing Margaret New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, her time in Kinky Boots and being cast as Alternate Donna in MAMMA MIA!.
Last year, you took over the role of Margaret New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, what is she like to play?
I love playing Margaret. Out of any role I’ve ever played! I am a Yorkshire woman, born and bred in Sheffield and also a Mother so I can relate to her on so many levels. I see so many women I know in her which is wonderful. It’s a difficult role to play in that she has a lot going on in her head and her heart and yet she doesn’t say a hell of a lot, so by the time He’s My Boy comes around she can lay it all out. It’s actually quite cathartic.
How does it feel singing He’s My Boy and seeing/hearing the audience response?
It feels good, especially if it’s a ‘good one’ ha ha ha. It’s an extremely hard song to sing. Goes right across your range and you have to use so many parts of your voice but there’s also a lot of her story to tell. Margaret is on her knees by this point in the story. She needs to say all of this but only to herself. She would never let Jamie know that this is how she’s feeling.
The reaction sometimes takes me by surprise and it’s very moving to get such a response but like I said… it depends if it was a ‘good one’ or not!!!!
You’d previously understudied the role as well as Ray and Miss Hedge, what did you enjoy most about playing the characters?
I LOVED playing Ray. Such a wonderful, warm and funny character with such wonderful relationships with both Margaret and Jamie. She reminds me so much of all the women I grew up with in my life in Sheffield.
I learned to love Miss Hedge in the end. I had to get my groove on and do the ‘rap’ and the amazing Work of Art number and I felt very much out of my comfort zone. She also is always stood in front of a classroom full of Year 11s telling them to shut up and barking orders. I ended up playing her quite a bit, on and off, and I used to really love getting into the office scene and loved her lovely moment at the end of the Prom.
All three were such different roles and it was a pleasure to be able to perform all three.
What did you know about the show before auditioning and how is it being part of the cast?
I auditioned for the second workshop about five years ago where I met Jonathan Butterell and Tom MacRae. It was lovely to chat to Jonathan about these characters from our hometown of Sheffield. I also remember trying to get a hold of, vocally, He’s My Boy and thinking it was like an amazing Dusty Springfield song.
I was in Kinky Boots when it went into production, but when I left Kinky Boots in the summer of 2018, they just happened to be looking for a new Standby.
You played Trish in Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre for a couple of years, what was this show like to be part of?
Kinky Boots is definitely one of my most favourite jobs to date. A wonderful show with such an important message (just like Jamie) and in Jerry Mitchell’s words “you’re met with a Tsunami of love” at the end during the finale.
It was special as I was reunited with some lovely pals that I did Wicked and MAMMA MIA! with and also made new friends for life. Trish was a lovely role and my first time playing a role in my own right in the West End. My first time not understudying which was a huge thing for me. Also, the Adelphi was one of those theatres that I had always wanted to play.
What was it like getting into costume?
Do you mean ‘the boots’? Poor old Trish spent her time wearing jeans and a tabard ha ha ha! Getting in those boots was great! I loved them… my Achilles didn’t! And also, mine were red which made me feel like Lola!!!
How was your time as Ensemble in Wicked?
Wicked was a show I had always wanted to do. It’s such a beautiful looking show. The sets and costume and the lighting… wow… the best. I had always wanted a go at singing that score too. My memories from Wicked are so happy and sad. I went in as Midwife and understudy Madame Morrible, and my dear friend Louise Plowright was playing Morrible. We had spent many years together at MAMMA MIA!. Louise, very sadly, became unwell and we never got to do the show together, not once. We did a lot of fundraising which was a very emotional time for us all. Sadly, she passed away whilst I was still there. I miss her very much.
But, also when I was at Wicked, I became pregnant with our second child. I was still on stage at about seven months pregnant and then went back after my maternity leave.
Many happy green memories.
Can you tell us about playing Alternate Donna in MAMMA MIA! and how was it performing the ABBA songs?
Well, I have a long history with MAMMA MIA!. I was in the original cast, and on and off over the years, I have done about eight contracts, I think!
I was only 27 when I was the alternate for the first time, so in an effort to make me look older and more mature, I went brunette! I’ve always been a blonde so that was a big change.
I had our first child at MAMMA MIA! and again, like Wicked, I went back after my maternity leave.
I ‘grew up’ at MAMMA MIA!. It was my first West End job, first time being a Swing, first time understudying. I learnt a LOT there and some of my closest friends are friends I have made over the past 21 years there.
Singing ABBA songs has been one of the biggest thrills in my career. Songs like Dancing Queen, One of Us and, of course, The Winner Takes It All… masterpieces of pop music.
Having toured with a few productions, what are some of your favourite memories from touring?
Touring is tough but I was single with no ties so that was easier. I couldn’t think of touring now but never say never!
The best part of touring is getting to visit so many different places that you perhaps wouldn’t visit. I actually only toured twice. Spend, Spend, Spend and The Full Monty, so two fantastic shows with a lot of wonderful memories.
Can you tell us about some of the other roles you’ve played early in your career?
My first jobs were playing a lot of Principal Boys in Panto and I did two Sondheim productions in Derby which was amazing. Sarah in Company and Lucinda in Into The Woods, but I also had a few shows as The Witch… a major highlight for me.
I played Nancy in Oliver! which was another role that I wanted to tick off the list.
Was there anything that inspired you to get into musical theatre and how did you start?
From an early age, I went to dancing school and was always singing. I watched all the great movie musicals, especially Annie, and as I got older I loved being a part of AmDram productions and it was just always a given that I would apply for Drama School and pursue a career in Musical Theatre.
What do you enjoy most about your career and do you have any favourite shows to watch?
I love theatre, I love musical theatre. I love being part of a company and a community. It thrills me to sit a watch a piece of live theatre. Recently, I was completely blown away and floored by Hamilton and cannot wait to see that again and again. I also cannot wait to get back on stage with my Jamie family. We need theatre to survive this awful pandemic. We’ll be back.
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