Before theatres closed around the world, Cassidy Janson was playing the role of Anne Hathaway/April in & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End, which has recently seen her be nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical at this year’s Olivier Awards. A few years ago, Cassidy performed alongside Carole King at Hyde Park whilst she was portraying the singer in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at the Aldwych Theatre, and some of her other roles have included originating Maggie Saunders in Lend Me a Tenor, playing Florence in Chess and being in the original West End cast of Wicked as standby Elphaba. As a singer, Cassidy released her debut solo album last year and will be performing in a streamed concert for Tonight at the London Coliseum in October as well as preparing for a concert at Ronnie Scott’s later that month. Cassidy is also part of music group Leading Ladies alongside Beverley Knight and Amber Riley, with the group being nominated for a Classic Brit Award in 2018 for Album of the Year. We spoke to Cassidy about being cast in & Juliet, portraying Carole King in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical and her music plans.
You are in the cast of & Juliet as Anne Hathaway/April, what is she like to play and what do you enjoy most about being part of the production?
Anne/April is a complete joy to play. She is intelligent and witty and then gets to play silly and zany when she is April. As fun parts go she may well be my most fun to date. I most enjoy the fact we all started this from ground zero. I’ve always wanted to be part of a world original so this is one for the bucket list!
How was it preparing for the role and how were the opening nights at both Manchester and London?
It’s the most I’ve danced in a show for a while so I had to get my fitness back up. It hurts more than it used to! Haha! Manchester opening night was a night we shall never forget. It was a collective experience of discovering what the show was WITH the audience doing the same. We were all equally affected by the experience.
London opening night was a fun-filled press night full of very exhausted but happy cast members having a well-earned celebration of all the hard work we’d put in.
You have been nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, what’s it like to know your performance as Anne Hathaway is well-received?
It means so much. It really does. She’s a very funny character and mostly nominations go to more serious roles so I’m doubly chuffed to be included in the nominees.
Can you say about playing Florence in Chess at the London Coliseum?
Playing Florence was a challenge for unusual reasons. One, Michael Ball and I couldn’t get through a scene without laughing at each other until we got to tech. No jokes. We had to have words with ourselves. And, also, it was filmed live and projected onto massive screens during the show so we had to constantly switch from tele acting to stage acting. It’s not easy to do, let me tell you!
How was your time performing as Carole King in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical?
It will be hard to beat in terms of ticking all the boxes. Sheer pleasure, lots of publicity and earning good money in a quality hit show. I don’t know how I’ll ever find a role that fits my skill sets so well again. I can honestly say I enjoyed every single moment playing this incredible woman, so talented yet so warm and nurturing. It was a wonderful feeling playing someone who embodied such high-level characteristics.
You’ve performed alongside Carole King at Hyde Park, how did you find the experience?
The best two minutes of my life! Duetting with a living legend doesn’t happen very often!
Can you tell us about originating the role of Maggie Saunders in Lend Me a Tenor?
Awwww she was a fiery one. The show that will always have deserved better. Such a funny show and really should have had a decent run. Ian Talbot directed and honestly, the man is a comedy genius. I learned a lot about comedy timing by watching him direct.
How was it being part of the final West End cast of Avenue Q?
Very emotional. I felt very privileged to close a show that was very close to my heart. Who doesn’t enjoy making an audience belly laugh eight shows a week? Not many musicals are that funny.
What was it like being standby Elphaba in Wicked and being part of the original West End cast?
It was an honour to understudy Idina Menzel. I just always felt very lucky to be part of such an epic piece of musical theatre history. That show isn’t going anywhere and to be there at the beginning always feels special. I loved playing Elphaba and was fortunate to get to play her a lot so I really feel I got the chance to make her my own.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Susan in Tick, Tick… Boom! at Menier Chocolate Factory?
Working with Neil Patrick Harris. He is such a heavyweight and I really learnt a lot about acting from him. Getting close to Tommie Earl Jenkins, who will always be a good pal. Singing Come To Your Senses each show. Man, I loved that song!
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
I’m a secret fan of La Soiree/La Clique, not technically theatre but cabaret. I’ve been probably fifteen times. It’s an absolute riot and I can’t do anything those artists do so I can really be an audience member whereas in normal theatre I always have a partial workhead on.
In 2019, you released your debut solo album Cassidy, what was it like to work on and being co-writer?
I worked on it slowly for years with my producer Rupert Christie. I’m incredibly self-critical and for me to be proud of every track means we did something right! Carole King gave me an unreleased song and I also got When A Woman in the brit movie Fisherman’s Friends, I’m pretty thrilled about that.
What plans do you have for music?
To tour and gig as much as possible around the current restrictions. There’s an idea for a second album so all things getting back to normal that would be lovely to explore.
How did it feel being nominated for a Classic Brit Award in 2018 with Leading Ladies and what was it like working with Beverley Knight and Amber Riley?
Unexpected! We had no idea we were in the running and having worked so hard on all the vocal arrangements and song choices with Bev and Amber, it was lovely to feel acknowledged for that.
Had you always wanted to be an actor/singer and what encouraged you to start?
I think the first thing I badgered my parents for was for Ballet lessons. I must ask my mum if I sang or danced first! No one encouraged me I just had an affinity for it. I’m honestly not sure where it came from.
Can you say about being involved with Tonight at the London Coliseum and what other events have you got coming up?
Tonight at the London Coliseum is in correlation with Broadway On Demand and will have a series of artists performing onstage there. It’s going to be such an amazing set of performances!
I’ve got a gig at Ronnie Scott’s on the 11th October. They’ve managed to work out how to function financially with social distancing – I assume as they’re a restaurant as well and fees are reduced etc…- so I’m really excited to play my sets with my band once again. My last gig with the full band was 15th March!
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