Next year, Lizzie Bea will be playing the lead role of Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray at the London Coliseum, due to start in April, and as well as other promotional events, she attended the BFI Musicals season alongside previous Tracy actors – Leanne Jones and Ricki Lake. With Becoming Nancy workshopping for the first time in 2015, Lizzie has been part of the production since the beginning and played Abigail Henson in their world premiere at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and before the premiere, she was touring the UK as Pat in Kinky Boots. We recently caught up with Lizzie about her upcoming role of Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, her time with Becoming Nancy and playing Pat on the Kinky Boots UK Tour.
You’ve been announced to play Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray at the London Coliseum, which is now due to open in April 2021, how did it feel booking the role and what are you looking forward to most for opening?
It’s honestly the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me! Booking the role was such an achievement, especially after a really intense audition process. It’s a role I’ve always dreamed of playing, and I feel so lucky. I can’t wait to open the show and celebrate with all of my family, friends, and an amazing cast!
Before theatres closed, you’d been involved with a few promotional performances, what were these like to do?
It was all so exciting. Getting to do the photoshoot in costume and wig was the best part because that’s when it really felt real and I truly felt like Tracy!
How was it meeting the rest of the Hairspray cast for the first time?
They are such an amazing group of people. Michael Ball was in my final audition which was definitely nerve-racking, but he was so lovely and supportive. I’ve grown really close with Jonny Amies who’s playing Link, as we did a two-week Bootcamp together before lockdown started. We only got to do two days rehearsals together as a full cast, but we’ve had a couple of Zoom meet-ups since and I can’t wait to see them again next year.
You attended the BFI Musicals season with Leanne Jones and Ricki Lake, how was the experience?
It was amazing! I’d never seen the original John Waters film, so it was so cool to see the starting point for the musical. Hearing Ricki Lake talk about originating such an iconic role was really inspiring, and she is such a cool person! Meeting Leanne was great too, and we have kept in contact since which has been so lovely. I’m excited to follow in their footsteps!
You’ve been part of Becoming Nancy since the first workshop in 2015, what is Abigail Henson like to play and how has it been seeing the show develop over the years and performing the full production at the Alliance Theatre last year?
Becoming Nancy is such a special project to me, and I will forever feel so lucky to have been a part of it. The first workshop for the show was my first ever professional acting job and it is so remarkable to me that four years later I got to play Abigail Henson in the real show. Abigail is an amazing character who has evolved so much from the first workshop, and I feel so honoured to have created her. Creating a role in a new musical was such a career goal for me, and it’s so cool that I’ve ticked that off the list. The cast of Becoming Nancy are some of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and doing the show will forever be a really special experience to me.
Can you tell us about playing Pat in Kinky Boots on tour?
Pat was another dream role for me, and it was amazing to get to play her and to be a part of Kinky Boots. I loved playing Pat because her track has some really cool featured moments. Performing the finale was always the best bit because the audience reaction was always so amazing!
Where does your love of musical theatre come from and how did you start?
I performed in my first musical when I was seven years old. I played an orphan in a local production of Annie. I didn’t even want to go to the audition because I was so scared but my dad persuaded me to go and the rest is history! I performed in amateur dramatics up until I was seventeen and then started performing again at UCL where I did a History degree. In the summer of 2013, I performed in The Other School with National Youth Theatre, and that’s how I got in contact with my agency, Grantham-Hazeldine. Then when I finished my degree in 2015, I signed with them and a couple of months later I did the first workshop of Becoming Nancy. It’s been a crazy journey, but one which I have loved every second of!
Do you have a favourite aspect of being a musical theatre performer?
I just honestly feel so lucky that I get to do the thing I’m most passionate about as a job. Not many people can say that!
What theatre shows do you enjoy watching and what’s the most recent you’ve seen?
I have quite an eclectic taste, and I love watching live theatre. I also love learning about theatre and try to educate myself as much as possible. The last show I saw before lockdown was Girl From the North Country. The staging was so beautiful and Katie Brayben singing Like a Rolling Stone is a performance I will never forget. It was also awesome to see my fellow NYMT alumni Gloria Obianyo as Marianne, and I felt really proud to see her gracing a West End stage.
Can you tell us about some of the musical theatre projects you’ve been involved with during lockdown?
I’ve been really lucky to have been doing a lot of performing and teaching during lockdown. I’ve recently recorded a song for the Stiles and Drewe Best New Song Prize concert, and I also recorded some backing vocals for the winning song of Danielle Tarento’s A Song For Our Time competition.
You hosted your own concert with Leave a Light On during lockdown, can you say about this?
This was such a cool experience because I got to perform loads of songs that I’d wanted to sing for a really long time. I really tried to push myself and chose an eclectic mix of songs that showcased a wide range of what I can do as a performer.
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