As part of the original cast of the world premiere of Back to the Future the Musical, Courtney-Mae Briggs plays Jennifer Parker and opened with the show at Manchester Opera House in February 2020 and is reprising her role when the musical makes its West End transfer to the Adelphi Theatre opening this Friday. Before opening in Back to the Future, Courtney-Mae had been playing Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in the West End production of Hamilton after being in the Ensemble as part of the original West End cast. Throughout her time in theatre so far, Courtney-Mae has been in a number of productions including Strictly Ballroom, where she covered the lead role of Fran, being in the cast of Barnum, and in 2014 she was performing in In The Heights, where the show won three Olivier Awards. Courtney-Mae has been involved with a number of workshops and for her first job after graduating, she was part of BBC Proms for Kiss Me, Kate at the Royal Albert Hall. We talked to Courtney-Mae about playing Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future the Musical, being in the cast of Hamilton in the West End and booking In The Heights for one of her first jobs.
How was it opening at Manchester Opera House as Jennifer Parker as part of the original cast of the world premiere of Back to the Future the Musical?
Honestly such an incredible, surreal experience. Growing up watching the films and being such a huge fan and then to be originating the show with the original creators of the film was pretty special. Also, the response and love from the audience was so overwhelming. Definitely one for the memory books.
What is Jennifer like to play and is there anything that drew you to the production?
I totally relate to Jennifer. She definitely has a wise head on her shoulders and is somewhat more contemporary than her peers. I like her unwavering sense of confidence and self-belief. Also, for any actor originating a role is a dream come true, so getting to breathe life into her is such an honour.
How do you think you’ll feel reprising your role for the West End transfer which is set to open at the Adelphi Theatre later this week?
Gosh very emotional after this awful year we have all experienced. To have your career and passion taken from you is truly awful and I can’t quite imagine what it will feel like to open this show and be back on a stage. I’m sure there will be lots and lots of tears.
Prior to joining the cast of Back to the Future, you were in the West End cast of Hamilton as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds, how was your time playing the roles?
Hamilton was a game-changing experience for me and for my career. What I loved about playing Peggy and Maria was that I got to embody two completely different characters each night. One young and naive with the whole world in front of her and the other an older woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to use what she’s got. It was such a joy to play the roles.
You’d previously been part of the ensemble of the original West End cast, what was the show like to be part of?
In short, incredible! My experience was full of joy, love and laughter. I learnt more than I could have ever imagined on that show and it taught me a lot about what I want from my career. Working with the original team was truly such an honour and humbling experience. Their expertises was invaluable and something I’ll treasure forever.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time in the musical?
This one’s easy. Every couple of months on a two-show day in between shows we would do something called “pot luck”. Pot luck is where everyone cooks a dish from home. Either their favourite dish or something that connects them to their heritage/background and we would all sit around and share the most delicious food. We had dishes from Thailand, the Carribean, Sweden, Africa, USA and so many more. It was a time of good food, love and celebration.
Can you tell us about being part of Strictly Ballroom and covering the lead role of Fran?
Bring a part of Strictly was like nothing I’d ever done before. It was such an educational experience, I got to learn all these incredible dance styles. From the Rumba to Waltz to Salsa… and I got to do it all whilst wearing sequins and feathers! What more could you want! Covering Fran I may say was one of my favourite parts to ever cover, her journey is so fulfilling from an actor’s point of view. She goes on such a journey from shy, quiet outsider to this beautiful strong, independent woman.
What did you enjoy most about being in the cast of Barnum?
I would probably say watching all the incredible circus performers. I used to love watching the girls do the silks, it was so beautiful and mesmerising.
In 2014, you were cast as Ensemble in In The Heights, how was the experience?
This was my first proper job after graduating and it was at a small theatre and no one really knew what to expect. It blossomed into the must-see production of the summer and we then moved venues and went on to win three Oliviers. It was everything you would imagine it to be and more. A show that has so much heart and love and that was echoed offstage as well. I met some of my best friends on that show and am eternally grateful for the experience and the love it brought me.
How was it being involved with the workshop for & Juliet and what do you enjoy most about being part of workshops?
I LOVE being involved with workshops. It’s a time for creation and exploration, which I always find the most exciting part. Things are changing minute by minute and you just get to play and see what works.
You performed with Kiss Me, Kate at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms, what was this like to do?
In one word, incredible. We had a 70-piece orchestra and got to perform it at the Royal Albert Hall and have BBC film and air the production. It truly was a dream come true for me and was my first official job after graduating. I watch it back sometimes and am so proud of 21-year-old me performing with the most incredible dancers and getting to dance Alastair David’s incredible choreography. It definitely was a moment for me and I look back on it so very fondly.
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you start?
I mean, as a child, I would find an audience, wherever, whenever. I always loved performing, it’s in my blood, it’s who I am. Nothing has confirmed this more than these past eighteen months and I’m so grateful to be back doing what I love.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch?
Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow at Trafalgar Studios was the best performance I have ever seen on stage. Also, Denise Gough in People, Places and Things, her performance always remains with me. I love anything that I can connect to and moves me, I like thought-provoking theatre. Theatre that makes you want to dissect it and discuss.
Do you have a favourite aspect of working in theatre?
All of it. I couldn’t imagine having any other career, none of it ever feels like work. Mostly though, the people. Every show I have ever done has been so full of love and laughter, there really is nothing quite like being backstage.
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