As an original West End cast member of Waitress the Musical, Olivia Moore was set to continue in the show before it closed early due to the current pandemic, and along with being Ensemble and Francine Pomatter, she covered the lead role of Jenna as well as Dawn. Making her professional and West End debut in Heathers the Musical as an ensemble member, during her time in the show, Olivia also performed as both lead character Veronica Sawyer and Heather McNamara. At the 2019 West End Wilma Awards, Olivia was announced as the winner of the Rising Star Award and, whilst theatres have been closed, she has set up online industry Q&As called Talk Moore, has held an Instagram Live fundraiser for The Mary Rose Academy and, alongside her boyfriend Piers Bate, she was part of the Lambert Jackson Leave a Light On concert series. We caught up with Olivia about being Ensemble and cover Jenna and Dawn in Waitress the Musical, making her professional and West End debut in Heathers and winning Rising Star at the 2019 West End Wilma Awards.
What was it like being part of the original West End cast of Waitress the Musical at the Adelphi Theatre?
Incredible. I will always cherish my time at Waitress. Everything about that musical was and is beautiful. The story, the music, the people. You can’t help but fall in love with everything about it. Being a part of Waitress is definitely the happiest I’ve ever been.
How was it as Ensemble and Francine Pomatter and what do you miss most about being in the show?
I absolutely loved my ensemble track. The track was originated on Broadway by Stephanie Torns so it’s known as ‘Steph Track’. When I saw Waitress for the first time on Broadway a few months after I was cast in the show, Stephanie was on for Jenna. I was obsessed. She was incredible. Then, a few months later, I learnt that I was doing her ensemble track. I was delighted! I also can’t forget the fabulous Francine Pomatter, who quickly became famous within our cast. What a babe. #hiiiiiiiii
The main thing I miss about Waitress is how close we all got as a company. We soon became a massive family that expanded when new cast and crew joined. I’ve definitely left that show with friends for life.
You covered the roles of Jenna and Dawn, can you say more about performing in these roles?
Covering Jenna and Dawn was so amazing. I found it so creatively stimulating to work on two characters who are so contrasting. However, as they are two of the waitresses, they interact throughout the show, which meant that it could get quite confusing, especially with the harmonies! I loved playing Dawn because she’s so quirky and goofy, which are two personality traits that I definitely relate to. Playing Jenna was slightly harder because I had to overcome a complex that I had about playing Jenna at the age of twenty-three. After making my Jenna debut, I received messages from a few younger mothers who expressed their connection to my portrayal of Jenna. It was at that point that I understood that my age had no effect to people’s connection to the story.
Do you have any stand-out moments from your time in the musical?
There were multiple ‘pinch me’ moments throughout Waitress, however I think my top two would have to be going on as Dawn with Sara Bareilles and going on as Jenna opposite my boyfriend, Piers Bate, as Dr. Pomatter.
I thought singing When He Sees Me into the eyes of the GODDESS that wrote it was going to be terrifying, and yes, initially it was. However, because Sara is such a wonderful human, she immediately put me at ease. As well as being incredibly successful at her craft, she remains so humble and grateful. She’s a legend and I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her.
I will also never forget the time Piers and I played opposite each other as Jenna and Dr. Pomatter. We honestly never thought it would happen. As we were told a month prior, all our family and friends were able to get tickets and watch. Fortunately, my dad had an important meeting that day and had to work so didn’t have to witness his daughter and her boyfriend demonstrate “Pineapple Upside Down Pie” on stage in front of 1500 people! After getting all the nerves out in the matinee, we were able to enjoy the evening show. It was honestly the best day ever.
Can you say about being in the cast of Heathers the Musical at The Other Palace and Theatre Royal Haymarket?
My time with Heathers was crazy. Not only was it my professional debut, but I have never experienced anything like the Heathers fanbase. It was overwhelmingly incredible. The support and commitment they have to the show and cast is impressive to say the least.
As it was my professional debut, it was also amazing having the support and guidance from the cast. It was easy to feel out of my depth, but they definitely helped bring me back to my feet and keep me going.
How did you find your time as Ensemble and covering the roles of Veronica and Heather McNamara?
Being a part of the Heathers ensemble was great mainly because we were such a tight-knit group of people. We were always goofing around offstage and having a laugh, which definitely helped during long weeks of rehearsals and shows.
Covering Veronica and Heather McNamara was my first experience at being an understudy. I slowly grew confidence within the contract as I figured out what methods worked best for me, however it’s still a skill that I’m learning a lot about.
The show saw you make your professional and West End debuts, do you remember how you felt when booking the role?
I actually initially thought I didn’t get Heathers! It was such a crazy day when it all happened. I was at home with my housemate at the time, Charlotte Jaconelli, and we were both waiting to hear that day if it was good or bad news. Charlotte found out at around 11am that she booked the job so we celebrated by dancing around the flat to the Heathers soundtrack. Six hours passed and I still hadn’t heard anything and couldn’t help but feel more and more deflated. We had planned to go and watch our friends in The Book of Mormon so were travelling into London to have some dinner and then watch the show. We were in TGI Fridays having dinner and our friend Maddie joined and I remember telling the two of them that I had accepted that I didn’t get the job and that I was okay with it… even though I couldn’t help but feel so sad! Whilst waiting for our food, I got an email from my agent.
It was a surreal moment.
What do you remember about making your debut as Jenna in Waitress and Veronica in Heathers?
I’m not going to lie, making your debut as the lead in a West End show is absolutely terrifying. The nerves that run through your body are endless and sometimes they feel out of control. The similarity with Jenna and Veronica’s tracks are that once you start, there’s no going back. They are onstage for 98% of the show so there’s no chance to go off to check your script or notes. You just have to go for it, which is so scary.
However, and yes, there is a however, the support and love that you get from everyone on and off stage throughout the show is overwhelming. I will forever be thankful to my workmates that have helped me get through a debut. It’s definitely a team effort. And also, to top it off, the bow. Thinking about it now makes me tear up. I cannot describe the emotions you feel when you run down to bow for the first time and hear the audience’s appreciation. It’s times like that that I am reminded just how lucky I am.
During lockdown, you filmed Flat 15b for new musical Halls, can you say about being involved?
It’s definitely a highlight of my lockdown! It was the first time I had properly used GarageBand to record vocals, which I can’t say was easy as I’m not the quickest with technology. Thankfully, with the guidance and patience of George Stroud (composer of Halls), we were able to get it recorded. As everything was done within our own homes, I didn’t see the finished product until it was released on social media, so it was incredible to see what we had created. The response to the video was fantastic! It definitely got the buzz it deserved.
George and Jennifer Harrison (book and lyrics of Halls) have created a fresh and exciting musical and I am so excited to see where it goes.
What other projects have you been involved with during the time theatres have been closed which has included your Leave a Light On concert with Piers Bate?
I have tried to keep busy throughout lockdown, not just to support myself financially but also to keep my creative juices flowing. Piers and I did our own Leave a Light On concert, which was a lot of fun! It was the first time either of us had done an online concert!
I have also led Waitress and Heathers choreography workshops and started my own online Industry Q&As called Talk Moore. I’ve also been teaching online classes for Saturday Schools.
As well as teaching, I organised an Instagram Live fundraiser concert to raise funds for a future project at The Mary Rose Academy. This is a school very close to my family and I as my niece, Phoebe, has been a student there for the past two years. We managed to raise £2,200. I’m still completely overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity at such a tough time.
How did it feel winning last year’s West End Wilma Award for Rising Star?
Shocked. I really didn’t think I was going to win it giving the insanely talented people in my category – Molly Lynch, Jac Yarrow, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Nathanael Campbell. So much so that I didn’t plan anything to say! Also, let me add, I hate public speaking. People always make the comment “but you’re an actress. It’s your job to speak in front of lots of people!”. However, being an actor onstage hiding behind a character and a script is a lot different than being yourself, talking openly in front of a group of people. So, when my name was called, I was genuinely shocked. Then reality quickly hit as I was walking up onstage to receive the award and say a few words. I might have started with a swear word. Sorry, Mum!
Can you tell us about your training at ArtsEd and about some of the shows/events you performed in while there?
I am incredibly lucky to have trained at ArtsEd. It wasn’t easy in the slightest, but it was definitely worth it in the end. As wonderful as it is living through the best moments, I soon learnt that it’s all about how you pick yourself up and carry on through the bad.
During my third year I performed as Helen Sinclair in Bullets Over Broadway and ensemble in Top Hat. I had the most incredible time working on both shows!
How did you get into acting and where does your love of theatre come from?
My brother was training to be a tennis player, so every summer he would travel around the country competing in lots of tournaments. As I was too young to stay at home on my own, I would normally pack my scooter in the car, and spend my days scooting around tennis courts and playing Mario Kart on my Nintendo DS. As a treat to say thank you, my parents would book a trip to London to see a West End show. It was the highlight of every summer holiday.
After watching all the performers in awe, I never knew it was a career option. I thought they all did it for fun! Then, as I continued to show interest in theatre whilst growing up, I started acting classes, more dance classes and singing lessons. When I started Saturday School at Guildford School of Acting, I learnt what drama school was and the aim for students attending it.
It was then that I committed to making performing my career.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and what was the first one you saw?
Some of my most favourite theatre I’ve seen includes Dogfight (Southwark Playhouse), Company (Gielgud Theatre), Amber Riley in Dreamgirls (Savoy Theatre) and Roman Banks making his Evan debut in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. Just to add, Roman Banks was magic. Pure magic. I was blown away.
I could be wrong, but I think the first show I saw was Mary Poppins. All I remember was her flying over my head and thinking WOW. Ever since then, it’s always been mine and my mum’s dream to play her… that is for me to play Mary Poppins. My mum doesn’t want to play Mary herself.
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