Currently, Hannah Qureshi is in the cast of Dear Evan Hansen, where she is making her West End debut at the Noël Coward Theatre having joined the musical last year, and she is understudying the roles of Zoe Murphy and Alana Beck. During the pandemic, Hannah was involved with the COVID Relief video for India which was organised by Irvine Iqbal and she was previously in the workshop of Broken Wings at The Other Palace before playing Selma Karamy in the production in Dubai, Doha and Lebanon. Chatting to Hannah, she answers our questions about understudying Zoe Murphy and Alana Beck in Dear Evan Hansen, her time as Selma Karamy in Broken Wings and being involved with the COVID Relief video for India.
How did it feel joining the cast of Dear Evan Hansen as understudy Zoe Murphy and Alana Beck last year and was there anything that drew you to the musical?
It felt so surreal and exciting to join the cast of Dear Evan Hansen as understudy Zoe and Alana. I had been listening to the soundtrack for years and to be in this show had genuinely been a top goal of mine since I graduated from drama school. Initially the beautiful and catchy score drew me in and then once I learnt what the show was about, I realised it was quite groundbreaking and really poignant. It feels like a dream to be part of telling this story.
What are the roles like to learn and were you familiar with the show before joining?
The two roles I cover were so fun to learn as they’re complete polar opposite characters. It was also amazing to feel like each person who plays/cover the roles within the show were allowed and encouraged to bring their own personality to the character rather than just ‘recreate’ performances. I had never actually seen the show before I joined – I missed it whilst it was in town the first time round and then it shut due to COVID. I made sure I read up about the characters and did my homework in preparation to joining the show but it was brilliant to realise the depth and detail of the two roles during the rehearsal process.
How is it having Dear Evan Hansen as your West End debut?
Having Dear Evan Hansen as my West End debut has been so special. I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity, especially after an extremely tough period of time for this industry. I also think that it’s an honour to be part of a show which sheds light on the topic of mental health – which is now more relevant and important than ever.
What were you most looking forward to for starting your run at the Noël Coward Theatre?
I think I was most looking forward to seeing and feeling a full audience being able to come and enjoy a piece of theatre again.
Can you tell us about your time involved with Broken Wings which saw you perform as Selma Karamy and appear in Dubai, Doha and Lebanon?
Broken Wings was and forever will be one of the most special jobs I have done. It was not only both my professional and international debut, but it was also just the most beautiful experience. It allowed me to see some of the Middle East but, more importantly, it gave me the privilege of telling a hugely important story which is still highly relevant in many regions. It is such a hauntingly beautiful piece of theatre and I feel honoured to have been with the show during its infancy – I also met some of the most incredible people through Broken Wings so I will always be grateful!
What’s it like seeing the show go from workshopping at The Other Palace to the full production?
It was a wonderful thing to see the show grow and flourish and to be part of its journey.
Can you tell us about being involved with the COVID Relief video for India which was organised by Irvine Iqbal?
I felt honoured to be a small part of this incredibly important cause – Irvine put together something so amazing in such a small amount of time and it turned out so beautiful. The video helped raise a huge amount of money for India.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
I love seeing new writing, I think it’s really special to go and support something that is either finding its feet or is a passion project for a writer.
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you start?
My love of performing started when I was about ten years old. My primary school employed a singing teacher and I took up lessons, realised I wasn’t bad and just kept on doing music and drama throughout my school years until I was of age to start auditioning for performing arts schools as I knew it was something I wanted to make a career of.
Had you always wanted to train at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and can you tell us about your time there?
I auditioned for a place on a musical theatre degree at lots of drama schools in London before getting my place at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. It was by far the most friendly and welcoming audition process of all the places I went to. This was a really great indication of the kind of college it is. I had a brilliant experience there albeit quite tough and gruelling at times.
What do you enjoy most about performing in theatre?
The thing I enjoy most about performing in theatre is feeling as though you are coming together with like-minded people and making an audience really feel and take something special away with them. It’s also just that incredible buzz of adrenaline you can feel constantly on stage.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I really like to make time for family and friends in my downtime. I also enjoy exploring new places and I love being out walking in the countryside.
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