With Oliver! opening at Leeds Playhouse on 24th November, it has been announced that Kayleen Nguema will be in the cast, with rehearsals currently taking place. Kayleen made her professional debut as part of the children’s ensemble for The Grinch Musical LIVE, and has since toured for the first time playing Jade in Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, and in the recent UK Tour of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, she played titled character Charlie. In the latest series of CBBC’s The Dumping Ground, Kayleen joined the cast as regular role Dita for her first screen character, and she has attended Stagebox for a number of years for her training. We talked to Kayleen about her upcoming run in Oliver! at Leeds Playhouse, touring with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World and her regular role of Dita in The Dumping Ground.
It’s been announced that you will be in the cast of Oliver! at Leeds Playhouse opening next month, what are you looking forward to for the run?
I’m really excited to be back on stage acting, singing and dancing. Oliver! is such a classic so it’s an honour to be part of this new production. I had a wonderful time performing at the Leeds Playhouse last year, so it’s great to be back.
How was it meeting the rest of the cast for the first time and how are rehearsals going so far?
Meeting the cast was awesome and I’ve already made lots of new friends. Rehearsals are going well. We’ve only just started and we’re working really hard to bring this production to life in the next couple of weeks.
Who do you think will enjoy watching Oliver! at Leeds Playhouse?
I think anyone who loves musical theatre in general and all the Oliver Twist fans, adults and children alike.
You have recently finished starring as Charlie in the UK Tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, what was Charlie like to play?
I really enjoyed playing Charlie (a role previously played only by boys) so it was interesting, yet challenging, to play it as a girl. The whole cast and crew were a joy to work with, especially the other kids who played Charlie. Being one of the main roles in the musical was an amazing experience.
How did you feel finding out you’d booked the role and how was it learning the music and choreography?
The audition process was quite long, there were lots of recalls, so I was really happy when I found out that I got the part. I love dancing and singing, and I’ve enjoyed learning the choreography put together by Emily Jane Boyle.
What was the show like to be part of and how was it working on a Roald Dahl production?
Being part of the show was as magical as Roald Dahl’s stories are. Everything was so nicely put together; the sets, the costumes, all the unique characters, and the amazing special effects.
How did you find the experience touring for the first time with Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World as Jade?
Touring for the first time was really incredible. I got the opportunity to perform in different venues across the UK, but it also came with challenges as I have had to learn to quickly adapt to different audiences and stages. It definitely was a great learning experience.
What did you enjoy most about playing Jade and performing in the musical?
Jade was an interesting character who went through a difficult period in her life where she felt lost. She then embarked on a journey where she met many women who changed the world for the better. Learning about these women and their experiences helped Jade have the courage to be herself. It was quite an inspiring story, which is why I loved playing her character. It also gave me the chance to learn more about all those fantastic women.
We understand you were part of the children’s ensemble in The Grinch Musical LIVE, how was this?
It was my very first role as an actor and I was lucky to work alongside experienced actors such as Matthew Morrison and Booboo Stewart. The songs and the dances were very joyful, and I love Christmas so it was lots of fun!
As a screen actor, you play the regular role of Dita in CBBC’s The Dumping Ground, how would you describe the character?
Dita is a very shy character who likes to keep herself to herself and her books, and when she gets anxious she starts reciting facts to calm herself down. She had a difficult past which explains why she struggles to interact with other people.
What is Dita like to play and how is it having her as your first regular character on screen?
Dita is my most challenging character so far because we’re the complete opposite. Dita is shy and relatively quiet. I’m outgoing and more talkative. Playing her as my first series regular character gives me an opportunity to explore the different parts of her life and show off her character development.
What is it like on set and filming alongside your fellow cast members?
Working on a TV set is different from performing on stage. It was a challenge at first, but all the crew members and fellow cast members were really supportive and made me feel part of the family.
What was it like joining the cast in Series 10 and how are you finding your time working on The Dumping Ground so far?
Being the new kid, I was a bit nervous to join midway through the season but everyone was so welcoming and quickly made me feel at home.
How did you get into acting and performing and was it something you always wanted to do?
I began my journey as a dancer from the age of three. I’ve had the opportunity to take part in many competitions and it was during that time that I discovered my love for performing on stage. Casting directors Keston & Keston cast me in the musical of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, which ended up being my professional performance debut. I have been training with Stagebox for several years and I’m represented by Stagebox Management.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
Hamilton is my absolute favourite musical, I could listen to the songs every day. My favourite movie is Sister Act. It is funny, and full of joyful gospel songs. My current favourite TV show is Secrets of Sulphur Springs on Disney+.
How do you like to spend your free time?
In my free time I love singing, and I choreograph my own dances. I love art and being creative, so I do lots of crafting, painting, drawing and creating different hairstyles. I also enjoy just spending time with my family.