Earlier this year, Raquel Jones joined the West End cast of Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre as Swing and was scheduled to open in the show the day after theatres closed worldwide for the foreseeable future. Since making her professional debut as Little Inez in the West End production of Hairspray, Raquel has since gone on to perform in shows such as The Bodyguard in the West End and Toronto, The Christmasaurus and the 10th Anniversary Tour of American Idiot, reprising her role of Extraordinary Girl. In April, Raquel performed a Leave a Light On concert and also during lockdown, she was involved with the Acting for Others charity video of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Raquel is currently filming for a children’s online series and she also records for her podcast The Two & Fro. We spoke to Raquel about joining the cast of Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, playing Little Inez in Hairspray and reprising her role of Extraordinary Girl in the 10th Anniversary Tour of American Idiot.
What was it like booking your role as Swing in Tina – The Tina Turner Musical and what were you looking forward to most for starting in the show?
I have always loved Tina Turner so I was so excited to watch the show in town and I was blown away by the rawness of how Tina Turner’s story was told and the choreography is stunning so I couldn’t wait to be a part of the show when I got the job.
Booking the role of a Swing, my first thought was, will I be able to learn all the different roles in the show but I was certainly up for a good challenge and trying something new.
How had rehearsals gone and what was it like learning the roles you’d cover?
When I started rehearsals, everyone was so lovely and supportive and we all worked so hard together. Our opening night would have been the day after COVID sent us home, so we were, of course, all in tears. I was also gutted because I was going to be swung on for opening night too.
Last year, you reprised your role of Extraordinary Girl in the 10th Anniversary Tour of American Idiot, what was the tour like to be part of?
I enjoyed playing Extraordinary Girl again. It is a sexy, sassy role, and I got to wear a sparkly version of Lara Croft’s costume with wings… Every girl’s dream! It was great to be back doing the show again, rocking out to Green Day songs and the tour took us to some of my favourite places, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the New Wimbledon Theatre.
You made your West End debut as Little Inez in Hairspray at Shaftesbury Theatre, what do you remember most about your debut?
I was sixteen when I made my West End debut and I remember crying when I first found out I got the role as Little Inez. I watched the film on repeat because it’s such a feel-good show so I couldn’t wait to perform in it every night.
What I remember most about my debut was how overwhelmed I felt on the night before opening as this was my first job as well as being on a big stage. Fortunately, the cast and company were so protective as I was the youngest cast member as if I was their actual little sister.
My two years at the Shaftesbury were incredible and I was always happy to see our wonderful Harry at stage door when I arrived to work.
How did you find the experience of performing with the cast on Children in Need and The Alan Titchmarsh Show?
I loved performing on The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Children in Need as the cast of Hairspray. It was great fun and for such a great cause, which was also rewarding.
How did you find your time in The Christmasaurus?
I had a fab time in The Christmasaurus. I absolutely loved being part of it. Tom Fletcher who wrote the book to then have it translate onto stage is genius! It’s so beautifully written and the company were insanely talented and great to work with. I would love to do the show again.
You were in the cast of The Bodyguard in the West End and Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, what was this like?
Whitney Houston is one of my inspirations. I have been singing her songs since I was three so I when I was offered The Bodyguard I was beaming! Then to find out in the offer that after a few months in town, I would be performing the show in Toronto. I’ve always wanted to go to Canada. Loved it! I also loved working with Beverley Knight in the show, she is one of the kindest people I’ve met and absolutely sensational. I was blown away by her talent every night.
You’ve been part of Jesus Christ Superstar a couple of times, what do you enjoy most about performing in this show?
When you hear that first opening number Heaven on Their Minds and hear that electric guitar… I had to take a minute and compose myself because once the show starts it’s epic and it’s energetic. The choreography, set and everything going on in the show was just all so exciting. Loved doing it both times for the Arena Tour and at Regent’s Park.
In April, you held a virtual Leave a Light On concert with Lambert Jackson and The Theatre Café, can you tell us about it?
I am so thankful to Lambert Jackson Productions and The Theatre Café for having me on the Leave a Light On series. It was around the start of Lockdown, where I performed a forty-five-minute set. A livestream concert from my living room, singing my favourite songs. It was definitely what I and others needed to put a smile on our faces and have some fun during this time. It’s great that livestream concerts are happening right now, giving us performers a place to keep creative and performing in spite of what’s going on at the moment with our industry.
You were involved with the Acting For Others charity video of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, what was it like to be part of?
During Lockdown I was also asked to take part in the Acting For Others charity video, Bright Side of Life. I was honoured to take part in a great charity to support those in need and it is the perfect song for the times we are in.
Can you say about any other projects/music performances you’ve done during closure of theatres?
At the moment, I am filming for a children’s online series called The Storytellas, where I’m playing the role of Cinderella. It’s fun and funny and touches on the modern times we’re living in at the moment and I’ve been having so much fun filming. Looking forward to when it’s released for you all to see it!
How did you get into an acting career and where did you start?
My career in musical theatre started when I was sixteen years old. An agent had come to watch The Wiz, which was my last Performing Arts assessment, where I played Dorothy. During that summer, I was then represented and put forward to audition for Hairspray the Musical and that was where my journey began.
What do you enjoy doing away from acting?
Aside acting, I enjoy writing songs. I often write and record music and have released songs on Spotify and Amazon. I enjoy roller skating and going out to watch live music events with friends. I sometimes let my hair down doing fun challenges on TikTok. I also do a Podcast that I have been recording with my mum and close friend, who I worked with in The Bodyguard. Feel free to check it out on YouTube, it’s called the Two & Fro Podcast.
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