For her most recent role, Courtney Bowman has been playing Anne Boleyn in SIX the Musical at the Arts Theatre since 2019, with the show then put on hold due to the pandemic before reopening late last year at the Lyric Theatre, with the show once again being forced to close, however Courtney will return to the musical for their planned reopening date at the Lyric Theatre on 21st May. Courtney made her West End debut as Fatimah in the original West End cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, having previously played the role in Sheffield, and whilst in the show, she also covered the role of Pritti. Other shows for Courtney have included Blondel at the Union Theatre and touring in 2016 with The Wind in the Willows, and she has been involved with a number of projects during the pandemic including Musicals: The Greatest Show for BBC and West End Musical Drive-In. Answering our questions, Courtney speaks about playing Anne Boleyn in SIX the Musical, her time in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie as Fatimah and her favourite aspect of being a theatre performer.
How did it feel booking your role of Anne Boleyn in SIX the Musical and what do you remember most from your opening night at the Arts Theatre in 2019?
Finding out was so crazy, it was in the interval of a matinee of Jamie whilst I was on for my cover, I called my agent back after four missed calls and voicemails in the shower room in the Apollo. I quickly called my mum, of course, and then my dressing room caught on and they all screamed so loud the whole building knew within minutes, then it was Act 2 beginners so having to really concentrate and not grin like the Cheshire Cat throughout the rest of the show was so hard. I also absolutely cried between shows in that same shower room. The opening night at the Arts was a blur, all I remember was that my legs were jelly and I was concentrating too hard on my breathing because I always love to forget to.
What is Anne Boleyn like to play and was there anything that drew you to the role?
When I was in the audition process I was in for four queens, Boleyn being one of them, I honestly never saw myself as her, I thought more Aragon or Cleves if anything, but now I realise how incredibly wrong I was! But she is the ultimate fun, in some elements I am sort of playing myself because she’s the cheeky one, always cracking jokes even in the most awkward of times, and just a big ball of chaotic energy!
What do you enjoy most about being part of SIX the Musical and what are some of your highlights from your time in the show before the pandemic closed theatres?
For me, it’s the people in the building, both cast and crew, they always listen to you and give the best advice, make you laugh till you cry and always build you up when you are low on energy and that is everything I could personally ask for. Even though I’m the WORST for laughing in a show and there’s been plenty of stories, my ultimate highlight will have to be my first Singalong, it was electric to hear people singing back the whole show to all of us.
How was it having SIX move to the Lyric Theatre before shows had to close again and what are you looking forward to most for reopening there later this year?
It was absolute party time to be honest. I love the Arts and the intimacy of the theatre, but the Lyric just made it feel so much more elevated and larger and more of a stadium feel, I’m just so excited to reopen full stop. Even though I will be sweating my life away more than ever in my costume!
How do you find the experience performing on shows such as This Morning and Musicals: The Greatest Show?
Bittersweet… For both instances it made my heart so full, because we hadn’t seen each other for a long period of time and it felt just so right to be back together doing what we do best, but also so sad that the industry was so uncertain and (at the time) we just didn’t know when we would actually be back to normal. However, looking back, it’s just full of love and joy.
You made your West End debut in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, can you tell us about this and how was it playing Fatimah?
Fatimah is an icon. Period. I still can’t believe that little show in Sheffield we did is such a massive show now. Taking it from there was a dream come true for me. It was SO fun to create and play her, and to cover Pritti for both years was a joy but a massive learning experience personally and professionally. I loved it so much.
What was the role of Pritti like to cover?
A massive learning curve. I was second cover my first year but was the first Pritti cover to go on after a panic four-hour rehearsal. I was petrified but, luckily, I am INCREDIBLY nosy and a little panicker, so I already did my notes, thank god. John McCrea was an angel for that first night, he came in to rehearse with me which is just gorgeous. I’ll never forget that. She was so interesting to play because she’s not like me at all so I had to really pull back and try not to be so ‘me’ in certain scenes. She evolved over the two years and either rehearsing or doing the actual show I’ve done it with six different Jamies so it really kept me on my toes.
Do you have any stand-out moments from being in the musical in both Sheffield and London?
How the audiences reacted to the story. People from all ages, backgrounds and countries all left feeling how they should feel at the end of the show which always blew my mind.
Before joining Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in the West End, you played Martha in Blondel at the Union Theatre, what was this like?
An absolute scream. I think this is where my problem of corpsing was born. Everyone was hysterical and working with Tim Rice was just incredible. We did a concert celebrating his work and I got to sing Easy As Life from Aida for him. Wild.
How was it being cast in The Wind in the Willows in 2016 and how did you find the experience being part of a UK tour?
Looking back it was… interesting. Not because of the show or the people at all, but because of silly old me. It was my first job and first tour. In all honesty, I was in my own head far too much which looking back makes me a bit sad because I could and should have just enjoyed myself so much more because it’s something that I’d obviously always wanted to do, I had my own little bit in the show and this is the job I graduated into and I felt so lucky! It was still so brilliant though creating a brand new show and it was such a cutesie bootsie spectacle, with an absolutely gorgeous score.
Where does your love of theatre come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
As a kid I had too much energy and I would obsessively watch Cats, Mary Poppins and Steps Gold on tape – YES tape, I am that old believe it or not, and I knew I wanted to do something to do with the theatre since a young age, mainly because I love attention. LOL. But I was used to the stage as I am also a festival child. I used to dance competitively and I loved it, and I’d sometimes sing and I started to enjoy singing more and more. So, at about thirteen/fourteen I just thought, why not do this as a job??
Have you been watching any TV shows or films recently that you would recommend and what are some of your favourite theatre shows?
I LOVE me a crime doc or reality TV because I am so, so nosy. I’m currently watching 60 Days In, when a group of people go into a prison as an experiment. So juicy, such drama. LOVE IT. Film-wise I love a thriller. My house has a list of things we need to see but we end up watching reruns of RuPaul… but no complaints here. We actually play the PS2 more. We love GTA. Musicals-wise, my top ones are Sister Act, Miss Saigon, Songs for a New World, Into the Woods. But I am so stagey and I love it. I get obsessed with one song and play it over and over in phases. At the moment it’s If Momma was Married from Gypsy. Why you ask? The harmony and THAT BELT FROM BABY JUNE.
Do you have a favourite aspect of performing in theatre?
Making people feel something, if that’s full of joy, sadness or even making them feel uncomfortable. Awful example from me, but in SIX, some people cannot hack the eye contact and I always stare more because I am a weirdo and it truly makes me giggle. I also love theatre that provokes thought even if it is uncomfortable.
You’ve been involved with a number of theatre-related projects during the pandemic including West End Musical Drive-In, Roles We’ll Never Play and Out of the Darkness, Into the Spotlight with Hiba Elchikhe, can you tell us about some and what has it been like being involved while theatres have been closed?
They have been fantastic because those projects have helped me stay sane, so I am so, so lucky to have been involved in these concerts, also so much more determined for the industry in general when we get out the other end of this pandemic because Boris may have closed the theatre world off for a year or so, but there is no stopping us, there will always be a way to entertain the world and give people the joy of theatre.
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