With Pretty Woman: The Musical in the West End currently on hold due to the pandemic, Ben Darcy had been in the cast before theatres were closed around the world, and he will be rejoining the show at the Piccadilly Theatre once the musical is able to reopen later this year. Since graduating, Ben has appeared in MAMMA MIA! in London and Cyprus, toured the UK with Hairspray and Club Tropicana, was cast in Eugenius! at The Other Palace and, before booking his role in Pretty Woman: The Musical, he was performing at Charing Cross Theatre in Soho Cinders as Ensemble and understudying lead character Robbie. Recently answering our questions, Ben talks about being in the cast of Pretty Woman: The Musical at Piccadilly Theatre, understudying Robbie in Soho Cinders and having Eugenius! streamed online during the pandemic.
How had your time been going in Pretty Woman: The Musical before theatres closed and what is the show like to be part of?
The start of 2020 and Pretty Woman was truly special. To be involved in an original West End cast was such a monumental highlight of my career. The cast and creative team are simply amazing. It’s been such a pleasure to share a room with such creative and talented artists in prep for Pretty Woman’s West End debut. It’s a dream come true to be part of a new production. One that had been received so lovingly by the audiences who had managed to see it. I can’t wait to be back.
What are you looking forward to most for rejoining the show when it reopens at the Piccadilly Theatre?
I know we all do it, but I often think about the day we can return to work and do what we love most. I think of being back in the rehearsal room and being reunited with the cast and creatives, it’ll be a day I’ll never forget. Not to mention that first show back, not just for ourselves at the Piccadilly, but for every production returning to the stage. There’ll be a sense of relief and jubilation running through every performer and theatre lover, that’s for sure!
Can you tell us about performing in Soho Cinders at Charing Cross Theatre and how was it going on as Robbie?
Soho Cinders was a lot of fun! Full of camp catchy tunes, what’s not to love! I had a contractual date on as Robbie which landed right at the beginning of the performance schedule. I always feel, as an understudy, it’s great to get a show under your belt early on and get rid of any unwanted nerves. I really enjoyed getting to play Robbie, anyone who saw the show would know how brilliant Luke (Bayer) was in this role, the cast were so supportive… thankfully I didn’t trip anyone up!
You toured the UK with Club Tropicana, what was this like to do and what was it like playing your role?
Club Trop was a barrel of laughs. I’d actually been to watch the show on press night in Bromley not expecting that I’d be asked to jump in a few weeks time. It was great fun, it was like MAMMA MIA! meets Benidorm. I joined the tour in Plymouth; I remember getting the phone call on the Friday and by the Monday I was on stage giving it serious side-eye! By the end of my second week I’d been fully rehearsed in and could actually begin to relax and enjoy the show for what it was. The show is really high energy, Nick’s choreography shed me a few pounds to say the least!
During your time in the musical, you went on as cover Olly, can you tell us what he was like to perform as?
I think understudying Olly has been one of my favourite jobs. Opening scene in Club Tropicana, Olly is left at the alter by his second guessing fiancé… cue Don’t Leave Me This Way followed by a plethora of 80s hits. The legend that is Cellen Chugg-Jones, who originated the role, has an unbelievable powerhouse voice and made the vocals of his track sound effortless. I can tell you, they’re not! I first went on as understudy in Sunderland and then again in Liverpool, which is my home town! My mum and brothers managed to get down and see that performance so I was thrilled.
In 2018, you were Ensemble and understudy for Eugene and Theo in Eugenius!, how was this?
Eugenius! holds a really special place in my heart. Mainly because I’m a massive geek, the plot and general aura of the show appealed to me so much. It was my first time performing at The Other Palace and my memories there are very fond. I’m a true ‘Eugenie’ which is what our dedicated fanbase voted on calling themselves! I’ve never been a part of a show with such a cult following. It seems like a lifetime ago now but I always have the soundtrack blasting in the car.
As well as Fish Person 3… don’t ask… I understudied Eugene and Theo, Rob Houchen and Scott Paige respectively. Whom are both the loveliest people to work with. There were seven of us all crammed into the dressing room. I don’t think I’ve nearly wet myself laughing so many times in a such a short space of time. Fortunately our cast were pretty solid and no one had to take any time off. The downside of that as an understudy is you don’t get to go on! It would have been overwhelmingly terrifying to fill the shoes of either of these two but to play Eugene or Theo would have been very special as they’re both awesome characters.
The show streamed online during lockdown, what was it like seeing the reviews to the production?
There was a real sense of nostalgia watching the livestream. Seeing everyone’s lovely comments about the show, reliving all our hard work in rehearsals and watching the cast live our best lives in the finale with a standing ovation. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced an audience like we had in the final show, looking out seeing everyone with glowsticks, singing and dancing along and seeing fans dressed as Eugene, Janey, Ferris… even Fish People! Special, special show.
Having appeared in MAMMA MIA! in Cyprus and the West End, what are some of your favourite memories from your time in the show?
It was my first professional show after graduating and will always be my number one! I remember working in a call centre when I got the call from my agent to say I’d got it, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. I made friends in that show that will be with me forever. Being my first West End musical, it was my first time doing so many different things so it was a massive learning curve for me. The show itself is so much fun, the fake tan is exempt from that. Nothing better than looking like you’ve been tango’d on the tube… in the middle of winter. At least in the Cyprus production the tan was real!
What did you enjoy most about being Ensemble and cover Corny Collins in the UK Tour of Hairspray?
Hairspray was my first UK tour and I love to travel! Being a weekly tour show we certainly got about quickly. Performing in Liverpool and having my family and friends in to see the show was certainly a highlight of the tour for me. I was one of the ‘Nicest Kids in Town’, IQ in particular, and also understudied Corny Collins. I first went on as Corny at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. Corny was an exciting role to play for me being such an iconic character in musical theatre. And the Winter Gardens was a HUGE venue for me to debut at, fortunately not far from home either so I had more family appearances throughout the week.
What is your favourite aspect of performing in pantomimes and can you tell us about your most recent – Tweedy’s Reduced Pantomime?
What isn’t there to enjoy about a bit of cheese over Christmas! I’ve performed in a few pantos over the years and they’re such a laugh. The Cheltenham Everyman annual pantomime is always MEGA and I was over the moon to be asked back at the end of last year. Tweedy’s Reduced Pantomime was everything BUT reduced from a performance aspect! Just less seating. It was all you’d expect from a pantomime… aside from a full cast.
How did it feel returning to live theatre at the end of last year?
Incredible. I felt very lucky to be performing in 2020 and kudos to the production team for making it happen. We managed about 80% of the schedule before Gloucestershire got bumped up to Tier 3 which in turn closed theatres. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone in the cast expected the show to go as far as it did, given the circumstances, every show was a bonus!
Do you remember how you felt booking your first professional role as a child actor and can you tell us about the roles you played?
I was eleven years old and I remember the director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour) telling me I’d got the role of Jeremy Potts. That feeling is still the same when I get a job now. It’s the show that made me fall in love with performing on stage. I also played Oliver Twist and Benny Bates (Her Benny) which were all productions at the Liverpool Empire.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
Miss Saigon is my all-time favourite show. It was one of the first musicals I saw in the West End and I remember being totally blown away by Jon Jon Briones’ (Engineer) performance.
Where does your love of acting come from and when did you realise you wanted it as a career?
Again, Chitty was where I first fell in love with the musical side of the industry. Before then, I joined a local dance school when I was six years old and we used to do dance comps up and down the country. A fond memory of mine was performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in a Mardi Gras competition, an event which I recently hosted!
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