Before theatres closed due to COVID, Jade Davies had been in the cast of My Fair Lady in Italy, and prior to this, she had been starring as Maria in West Side Story at the Estonian National Opera, which was one of her first experiences of leading a show. During her career so far, Jade has performed in a number of shows including The Phantom of the Opera in the West End, Sister Act at Gordon Craig Theatre playing the role of Sister Mary Robert, and she had her professional and West End debut as Swing and cover Cosette in Les Misérables. While theatres have been closed, Jade has been involved with new musical Flash by Sam Hall, has become a mental health first aider and is continuing her work with Welsh of the West End. Jade answers our questions about her time performing in Italy in My Fair Lady, playing Maria in West Side Story and making her West End debut in Les Misérables as cover Cosette.
Before the pandemic, you had most recently been in the cast of My Fair Lady in Italy, what was it like being part of the musical?
My Fair Lady was a lovely little surprise job that I wasn’t expecting to do at all. I’d already been away most of the year doing West Side Story in Estonia, so it was amazing I got to travel a lot before the pandemic hit. It was definitely one of those pinch me moments getting to work alongside such an incredible cast, people like Gillian Bevan, who has originated so many iconic roles, Nancy Sullivan, John Conroy, Martyn Ellis, Rob Hands, Julie Legrand, it was amazing, I felt like I learnt a lot performing alongside them and, honestly, they are all such lovely people, the whole cast was.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time in the show?
My favourite memories I think has to be hearing that seventy-piece orchestra for the first time. The music in the show is just so iconic and hearing it in all its glory was incredible. Also, getting to perform in such a huge Opera house every night gave me such a buzz, it can hold over 1,300 people and it was full every night, that was the best feeling ever hearing them all applause at the end.
How did you find the experience playing Maria in West Side Story at the Estonian National Opera?
My experience performing the role of Maria in West Side Story has to be one of the absolute highlights of my career so far. Especially in the Estonia National Opera house. It was one of my first experiences of leading a show so it was terrifying but exciting all at the same time, especially because Maria is such an iconic role. The cast and creative team made it such a wonderful experience, and I had the best time. Maria has such a huge journey throughout the show and that was definitely a challenge in itself, I especially loved singing the songs with my lovely Tony – Cameron Sharp, and Anita – Nicole Deon. A job I will cherish forever.
Was there anything that drew you to the production and what was it like performing as Maria for the first time?
I’d always wanted to work out of the UK and overseas. I’d done a lot in London and around the UK so when the opportunity came up to audition for this role, it was a no brainer. Estonia is such a beautiful place and I loved exploring on my days off. I especially loved getting to stay inside the Opera House, the accommodation was perfect and you could even hear performances happening on stage from your room. It was also really cool to work with the Estonian cast, one night the English cast would perform and then the next night the Estonian cast would perform. We got to do all our rehearsals together so it was amazing to learn from each other and see what takes we had on the roles. There really was no feeling like the first night I got to perform as Maria, I felt, and still to this day feel, truly honoured I got to do it. I guess there’s always that worry of whether or not you’d do the role justice because it’s so iconic but I had to just believe in myself and throw myself into it fully.
How did you find your time in The Wizard of Oz at Birmingham Rep Theatre?
My time doing The Wizard of Oz at the Birmingham Rep, I’ll be honest, was actually super challenging. I went into it quite blindly thinking it wouldn’t be so physically demanding but it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved it, but we did two shows pretty much every day for two months and my body didn’t know what had hit it. We did a lot of puppetry, lots of very full out dances, which for me was so nice as most of the shows I’ve done don’t have any. Getting to work with the Director and Choreographer Liam Steel was incredible, he’s done so much and, again, one of the nicest people ever. I also met some wonderful friends on that job and I had always wanted to work at the Birmingham Rep.
Can you say about being Swing in The Phantom of the Opera and how it felt booking the role?
When I got offered to be a Swing on The Phantom of the Opera, I honestly think I cried for a week. I felt like it was a show that was completely out of my reach, to be honest, so it was a pretty special moment getting that phone call to say I’d been offered it. I’d already had experience of being a Swing on a previous job, so I thankfully had an idea of what I needed to do. I had to learn six tracks and I just remember feeling so lucky every night to be performing in the show.
You toured as Ensemble in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, what was this like to do?
Chitty on tour was one of the best jobs I’ve ever done because of the amount of fun I had doing it. I met some of my best friends on that job, travelling around the UK and Ireland with the best people just made it so special. It was a super long job but I was actually really grateful for that at the time as I was going through some personal things, so being busy travelling around and performing was exactly what I needed. We had such a laugh every night doing the show, I really don’t think I stopped laughing the whole job.
How much did you know about Sister Act and the character Sister Mary Robert before you booked/played the role at Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage?
I knew quite a bit about Sister Act before doing the show. I’m obsessed with the film and always had a fascination with the role of Sister Mary Robert. I also loved singing her songs in college so it was amazing to get the opportunity to do it on a professional stage in front of an audience. It was only a short little job but I had an amazing time. Singing The Life I Never Led every night was really special! What a song!
Your first West End and professional role was as Swing and cover Cosette in Les Misérables, what was it like having the show as your debut?
Finding out I’d booked the role of Swing and first cover Cosette straight out of college was something I’ll never ever forget. I’d gone through so many rounds of auditions and I just never in my wildest dreams thought I’d get it. I was only nineteen at the time, an absolute nervous wreck thinking about the reality of going into the industry and I just couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t a clue what a Swing was to be honest, but I was super lucky to have some amazing fellow and very experienced Swings to work alongside and learnt a lot just by watching them. You never ever forget your first job. It will always have a special place in your heart.
Can you tell us what it was like covering the role of Cosette?
Throughout my college experience I went to see Les Mis an unhealthy amount of times. I even sometimes bought a standing ticket because I loved it so much. I remember watching the actress playing Cosette and thinking my God, I’d absolutely love to do that role, I’d watched the 25th Anniversary a lot and it really was a dream come true when I got it. Cosette has a moment in the show where it’s literally just her on stage and I remember my first night thinking, wow, this is really happening, how lucky am I! I was just so grateful. Over the two years I was there, I went on over 100 times and I’ll never ever forget the feeling each time I got to do it.
Had you always wanted a theatre career and how did you start?
From a very young age I was absolutely Disney obsessed. I loved singing the songs, learning the dances and I think my mum and dad turned to each other and said, I think we should put her in dancing, singing and acting lessons and honestly, I’ve never looked back. There’s not a single other thing I’ve ever wanted to do. My poor parents had no idea what they were getting themselves into, especially when my sister decided to do the same.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so yet?
It’s so hard to pick a favourite show, but I was incredibly moved watching Come From Away… I cried so much. I love watching Wicked, it’s one of my all-time favourites… what a show! I’m dying to see Dear Evan Hansen, Frozen and SIX, and I’m desperate to go see my best friend in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical.
What can you tell us about new musical Flash that you filmed a video for?
I was very lucky to be asked to sing a song from Flash… a new musical created by Sam Hall. I love the whole idea of a glamorous 1930s Hollywood style musical and Sam has absolutely nailed it. I can’t tell you how good it felt to get creative again after so long of just sitting at home. I’m very grateful to Sam for trusting me to bring the song to life.
During the time theatres have been closed, you have been involved with theatre-related projects including Welsh of the West End, can you tell us about some of them and about what you have coming up?
I’ve kept myself super busy during the pandemic, I’ve been very lucky to be involved with a few different things such as Welsh of the West End, which has been incredible, we record and film at home and send them over to the creator of Welsh of the West End, Steffan, and he puts them together… he nails it every time. I think people have really enjoyed the videos and there’s lots more to come. I’m in the middle of recording a concept album for another new musical that I’m not allowed to share just yet but it will be out soon. I’ve done a few online concerts to raise money for the Arts, and I also did some training in Mental Health and became a mental health first aider, it was such a wonderful and rewarding thing to do, I’m looking forward to training further in April and become a youth mental health first aider. Our mental health is something we should all be looking after, now more than ever, and I would highly recommend. I’m over the moon to be involved with Roles We’ll Never Play this year. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m buzzing to do it, especially the fact I get to perform on stage with a real audience. Bring it on.
Fingers crossed our industry is back on its feet really soon, I can’t wait for the day I can go and see a show and be in a show again, but for now, stay at home, we are almost there and we’ve absolutely got this.
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