Last year, Ashford Campbell joined the cast of 9 to 5 the Musical at the Savoy Theatre in the West End as Dwayne along with touring the UK with the production, and during his time at the Savoy Theatre, he was part of West End Live and the London cast recording. Since theatres around the world have closed, Ashford has performed his own online concert with Leave a Light On for Lambert Jackson Productions and The Theatre Café. Starting his musical theatre career as Seaweed in Hairspray, Ashford has since made his West End debut in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, and played Little Albert in Dreamgirls, where he also covered the role of C.C. White. Ashford was a member of music group The Risk who competed on Series 8 of The X Factor in 2011 alongside winners Little Mix, and the following year he joined the line-up of The X Factor Live Arena Tour. We chatted with Ashford about performing in 9 to 5 the Musical, his time in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical and his debut performance as C.C. White in Dreamgirls.
You played Dwayne in 9 to 5 the Musical on tour and in the West End, what was he like to play?
He was such a fun character, a rough around the edges cowboy and a sweetheart besotted by his wife. It was fun getting to don cowboy boots and hat and dive into a southern accent.
How was it being part of the Dolly Parton musical and working with her and the creatives?
It was really great. Dolly Parton was the sweetest person ever and showed genuine enthusiasm respect and interest in everyone involved. The creatives were also really nice and let us workshop our own interpretations to bring the show to life.
How different was it touring with the production to being at the Savoy Theatre?
It was definitely much harder work adapting the traffic and choreography to each theatre as well as travelling back and forth the country as opposed to it being constantly the same, but I enjoyed seeing new places and having friends and family in that weren’t able to get to London.
You recorded for the cast album, what was this like?
As it was recorded live from the shows it wasn’t much different to just performing our usual eight-show weeks but there was always a little added pressure knowing it was being recorded.
Last year, you performed at West End Live as part of the cast, how was the atmosphere?
The atmosphere there is always amazing. So many fans and theatre lovers and passers-by that get to experience incredible selections from incredible shows. We were all hyped up and then had a double show day to do after, so by the end of the day we were shattered.
Can you say about playing Little Albert in Dreamgirls?
Dreamgirls is one of my favourite shows ever so it was fantastic. Little Albert was one of the first performers to hit the stage as the show starts with a bang so it was great to run out and sing to the crowd.
What was it like covering the role of C.C. White and what do you remember from making your debut in the role?
A dream. I adore the show and I adore the role. He has arguably one of the best songs in the show so getting to sing it and also bring his story and his character arc to life was unforgettable. My debut started off as a normal day until I got the call I’d be on. I had a little scream and a dance in my room then called literally everyone before grabbing my script to double check everything was still in my head. I came off stage so happy and feeling blessed.
How did you find your time as Assistant Dance Captain for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at the Aldwych Theatre?
This was a bit scary at first learning everyone’s choreography and blocking, but as I was a Swing for my first year I already knew all of the boys’ and some of the girls’ traffic anyway but then I got over it and dived right in. It was a lot of fun holding rehearsals and taking warm up. The show, also, was amazing.
What was the show like to be part of and how was it making your West End debut?
This, again, is a moment I’ll never forget. There’s something so powerful in stepping into costume and wigs and taking your spot to a sea of faces watching intently as you bring a character to life. The show itself has a beautiful script (no pun intended) and an undeniably brilliant score. Everyone left the auditorium smiling and dancing.
Can you tell us about playing Seaweed in Hairspray for your first professional stage role?
This was a huge deal for me and the song Run And Tell That is challenging as it’s so physically and vocally demanding, but I loved every minute. He’s such a cool, smooth character with comic timing and high energy.
How did your musical theatre career come about and what do you enjoy most about performing in a show?
I’d always done amateur productions growing up and I wanted to try it, but not having the professional training lots of others had in the industry, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get into it but I met my agent through a friend and took to auditions and the rest is history. I’ve got to say I love the moment of finishing a number and hitting the last note or the button of a dance and hearing the applause before exiting the stage or transitioning into a scene.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch, and which would you like to see in the future?
I love Rent, Dreamgirls and Calamity Jane to watch but have too many favourites to put in any order. I’d love to see Footloose professionally as I think the book and the score are also so, so good.
During lockdown, you were involved with Leave a Light On with Lambert Jackson Productions, how was this?
This was so strange. In a great way. Performing live but not hearing any claps or anything, so in the back of my mind I’m like, ‘are they enjoying this?’. Thankfully, my brother was filming so I had some nods or smiles of approval. It was super fun to do from the comfort of my home and to just do what I love – sing.
You were part of The Risk, how did you find the experience competing on The X Factor in 2011?
It was stressful. So stressful. But also amazing. We had only a few days to find a song, get the performing rights, find an arrangement, learn choreo and set, learn harmonies and lyrics, and distributions as well as find a good blend with people you’d only met a few weeks prior. But that performance feeling was just mind-blowing. I loved it.
What was it like doing music tours and how different are they to theatre tours?
Music tours are so much fun. I’d say they’re easier because you get to be yourself. And if vocally you’re not feeling great, you can switch it up and sing whatever you want, whereas theatre you have to stay in the genre, era and style of the show. They’re also more immersive. Most shows, the audience stay quiet and let you do the work, whereas music tours, people are encouraged to sing along. The feeling of people singing your own song back to you is honestly the most fulfilling feeling in the world.
Ashford Campbell is represented by Michelle Blair Management https://www.michelleblairmanagement.co.uk/actors/ashford-campbell
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