In January this year, Evelyn Hoskins joined the London cast of Waitress the Musical as Dawn, where she was performing alongside the musical’s composer Sara Bareilles as Jenna, with the show unable to finish the run at the Adelphi Theatre due to the closure of theatres around the world. Evelyn’s extensive stage work has included her first actor-muso show Assassins last year, working on the UK premiere of Cruel Intentions and playing Carrie in Carrie the Musical at Southwark Playhouse. Also having screen experience, Evelyn has appeared in Casualty as Shona Wark, starred as Liesl von Trapp in The Sound of Music Live, and played Halliwell’s Daughter in the 2019 ITV series A Confession. We spoke to Evelyn about joining the cast of Waitress as Dawn, playing Carrie in Carrie the Musical and being part of the Canadian premiere of Mrs Henderson Presents in Toronto.
Earlier this year, you started your run as Dawn in Waitress the Musical, what did you enjoy most about playing this role?
None of the women in this show are your typical female romantic leads. They all have their own struggles, and the show is equally about female friendship and sisterhood as it is about the love story between Jenna and Dr Pomatter. I became such good friends with Sara (Bareilles) and Marisha (Wallace), and it was a joy for our relationships to grow on and off stage. Plus, all the creatives are female, I remember auditioning and being blown away by all the women on the panel. The rehearsal process was one of the most fun I’ve ever had.
Had you seen the show before being cast and what was the production like to be part of?
I’d seen the show on Broadway twice before I even auditioned for the London production. When I saw it, I watched Dawn thinking ‘this is a role I can play’, she’s awkward and unsure, under confident and confused about love. And, most importantly, she didn’t have to dance! But I saw myself in her, as many young women do. So, it was an honour to play her. But not only that, I got to do the show with Sara herself. Performing in a show with the writer is daunting, but she’s the nicest, most down to earth person ever that you immediately forget this is her creation. I got to work with Sara and Marisha, and I got to hang out with Gavin Creel. I learnt so much from all of them, sharing the billing with people who have been on Broadway is such a phenomenal feeling.
Can you tell us about your time in Assassins?
Assassins was my first actor-muso show (this is where the actors play instruments as well as perform the show). I definitely fell under the ‘actor’ umbrella but ended up playing various percussion and even the drum kit in one number. I loved it! I remember our first music rehearsal, I just assumed we’d be sitting down and learning our vocal lines as you would in any other musical rehearsal process, but everyone got their instruments out, and it was like a sitzprobe on day one. I was in disbelief. It’s intense as you have the same amount of rehearsal as you would if a band were playing the music, so it’s very quick, but I would jump at the chance of doing another actor-muso show again. It was also my first Sondheim, which was a treat! I love the book on this show too, the script by John Weidman is incredible, and my Squeaky scenes were a treat.
You were part of the UK premiere of Cruel Intentions as Cecile Caldwell, how was it working on this?
So. Much. Fun. My first Edinburgh Fringe experience and I think it was the perfect show to go up with. I was also reunited with some of the Carrie team, Paul Taylor Mills produced both and Gary Lloyd who directed and choreographed Carrie was choreographing Cruel. Plus my good friend Jonathan O’Boyle directed. The show was so fun and tongue in cheek, with all the 90s hits thrown in.
With new play Mayfly opening in 2018, you played the role of Loops, can you say more about this?
This was a brand new play written by one of my favourite playwrights Joe White, this was his first ever play and I just couldn’t believe it. His work is so natural you can read it right off the page and it works. It was quite a dark story about a family who had lost their son/brother to suicide. The Orange Tree were doing a season about people who live in rural England. I grew up in Somerset and just immediately connected with the heart of this piece. It was a joy to act every night, The Orange Tree is in the round so you had the added bonus of being able to be super natural and real without the worry of it not carrying to the back of the audience. Plus I always love doing a play, no singing can be refreshing sometimes.
How was it playing Bonnie in Bonnie & Clyde at The Other Palace?
Bonnie & Clyde was a workshop performance as part of a season Paul Taylor Mills put together of new writing, or work that hadn’t made it across from Broadway just yet. It’s where Heathers was born in the UK. But playing Bonnie was just so much fun. I think she can be portrayed as this glamorous character, a sexy murderess. But she was just a normal girl from the Deep South of America wanting to find fame and love. But unrealistically so, then when she found Clyde and found fame through his crime, it got messy, and her Hollywood dream was crushed. I enjoyed finding the comedy in the dark parts of her story, I loved finding a different side to her that may not have been played before.
How was the experience performing in Toronto with the Mrs Henderson Presents Canadian premiere?
I’d never been to Toronto before, and I was really excited to explore the city. I loved the show so much, and I think it was a really important story to tell and an extraordinary story to tell. For those that don’t know, it’s a true story about the performers of the Windmill Theatre on Windmill Street in Soho, and how the theatre stayed open for the entirety of World War II.
I loved performing at the Royal Alexandra. It’s such a beautiful theatre. We even had a Canadian veteran who had been to the Windmill during the Second World War come and see the show. That was an emotional experience in itself.
What was it like playing a role like Carrie in Carrie: The Musical at Southwark Playhouse, and how did you prepare for taking on the character?
I can honestly say this is one of the highlights of my career. Carrie was one of those once-in-a-lifetime roles that I just absolutely submerged myself in. I lived and breathed the show on a daily basis, and I hadn’t had that experience before. The score was incredible, the book was great, and I loved working with Kim Criswell, who played my mum. It was the first time I was back in London on a show since Spring Awakening. I’d been doing work in the US and a lot of new writing regionally, so it was a great way to come back to London and get back into working here.
Can you talk about some of your earlier stage roles?
So, my first job was on the Broadway transfer of Spring Awakening. I was in the original London cast, and we were all so young, it was incredible. We played to an amazing audience at the Lyric Hammersmith and then transferred to the Novello Theatre where we had a very short run, but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and set me onto a great career path. I then went over to America to do a US tour of Peter Pan, this was just one of those finding who you are life experiences, to live in the States for a year, it was just the best fun, and I was only twenty-two at the time, so I felt so lucky to be working and discovering a new part of the world.
As a screen actor, you played Halliwell’s Daughter alongside Joe Absolom in A Confession last year, what was the show like to work on?
It was really intense. If I’m completely honest, telling a story, a true story, is a very big responsibility and you want to get it right. I was playing a real person who had been through an extremely traumatic experience. So, I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t do her a disservice. The filming was amazing, Paul Andrew Williams was a director whose work I had admired for a long time. I can remember watching his film London to Brighton as a teenager and thinking ‘wow this is so natural and real, I’d love to do something like that one day’. So it was great to be on set with somebody who I’d admired for a long time. I feel so lucky to be able to work in theatre and still be able to dip my toe into the world of television.
You played Liesl von Trapp in The Sound of Music Live, how was the experience working on a livestreamed special?
The project was the best of both worlds. We had a seven-week rehearsal period as if we were prepping a theatre show, but then two weeks before we aired, we got to go into these incredible soundstages. There were seventeen cameras on the show, and working with such an experienced television crew was incredible. I felt so supported on that job, everyone was amazing. Going live was definitely nerve-racking, but I was strangely calm as I’m so used to a live audience. The technical aspect was probably the hardest thing for me, I had a thirty-second quick change where I had to run from one studio to another and change costumes. Luckily, I made it on the night!
Your early screen work included playing Shona Wark in Casualty, what do you remember most from your time on set?
It’s so funny, I was looking through old videos of scenes from when I was on Casualty, and I feel like I was so young back then. It was my first TV job and I learnt so, so much from the actors and directors I worked with. What was great about Casualty was working with people that ended up feeling like family. Going to work every day and filming something different was the best. We just had so much fun.
Did you always know you wanted to be an actor and how did your career start?
I got into acting quite late. I was sixteen and decided I was going to take a performing arts course at college, that was when I realised that you could make a career out of being an actor without being ‘famous’. I then auditioned for drama schools, but due to financial restrictions, I couldn’t go. I decided to do a university degree, but halfway through that, I auditioned for Spring Awakening. I was successful and have been very lucky that I’ve been working ever since.
What are some of your favourite TV and theatre shows to watch?
I love watching anything. Documentaries, comedy, drama, and, obviously, all types of theatre. I’m not a great dancer, so I always love going to watch the big dance shows, I remember watching Mirror, Mirror in Follies at the National with my jaw on the floor. Over lockdown, I’ve watched so much TV, the highlights for me have been I May Destroy You, Ozark, Queer Eye, Schitt’s Creek and I’ve loved the National Live productions. My favourites have been the Bridge’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Young Vic’s A Streetcar Named Desire.
You’ve been involved in a few musical projects during lockdown, can you say about these?
Leave a Light On feels like a lifetime ago now, I guess it was. It was the first week of lockdown when my agent called to ask if I’d be interested in doing an online gig. I was kind of nervous at first at the idea because back then it was so new. But I had the best time doing it, I had my Twitter feed open during the gig so I could talk to people, which was really lovely and something you obviously don’t get at a normal concert. Creating online content has been a great way of distracting myself from the pandemic, and I had the idea of getting the Spring Awakening girls back together to sing the Mama Who Bore Me reprise. I emailed all of them, and they were immediately up for it. It was great to get back in contact with them as we haven’t spoken for a long time and we reminisced about what a great time we had on the show and the amazing things that we’ve all been doing since. I’m sure until theatres open there will be much more online content to be made.
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