For her first time touring, Gracie Hodson-Prior played Kate on the UK Tour of Annie, also understudying the titular character and played her twice during her run, including her last show with the musical. Having been in the cast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical for her West End debut before the pandemic, Gracie returned to her role of Amanda Thripp when theatres could reopen, and most recently, in September, she was on the line-up of Schwartz at 75 at the Lyric Theatre. Training for Gracie sees her attend Genesis Performing Arts and Stagebox, who are also her agents. We caught up with Gracie about playing Kate in the UK Tour of Annie, making her West End debut as Amanda Thripp in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical and being on the line-up of Schwartz at 75.
You have recently finished performing as Kate in the UK Tour of Annie, what was the musical like to be part of?
Being a part of Annie was such a fantastic experience and I was lucky to learn lots from the amazing creatives and supportive cast who allowed me to develop my character throughout the tour. From growing up and listening to the songs of the musical, I was thrilled to be able to step into the character myself and experience the iconic moments of the show that I had grown so familiar with. The whole experience will never leave me and it has been an incredible journey full of excitement and pride!
How was it touring for the first time and did you have a favourite venue to perform in?
I loved how I was able to explore the country whilst doing the things I love and being able to share the incredible show with such a range of supportive audience members. Personally, my favourite venue to perform in was the Edinburgh Playhouse, which was one of the biggest theatres in the whole of the UK, meaning the audience really added to my excitement. This venue has always stuck with me because of the amount of incredible performers that have shared the stage before me and it really reminded me of how lucky I am to experience these life-changing opportunities. I also had the pleasure of performing with Paul O’Grady and I will never forget the laughs we had, and the joy his stories and kind heart brought to everyone.
What was Kate like to play and how was it learning the music and choreography?
I really enjoyed the role of Kate because I loved having the freedom to be rebellious and play with her character as she interacts with Miss Hannigan and the other orphans. As the rehearsal process progressed, I was able to really interpret and understand her character, as well as tuning into her fun side in numbers such as Never Fully Dressed. I loved learning the clever choreography and music as it seemed surreal being able to perform in something that was so prominent in my childhood. I also loved finding the contrast between the dances and highlighting the moments of emotion in each number, to really enhance my performance and add to my enjoyment on stage.
You also understudied the role of Annie, how did you find the experience playing the lead character?
Annie was my first experience of playing a lead role and I am so incredibly grateful for the amount of time, effort, support and constant love from everyone I worked with to make it happen. I still remember the adrenaline, excitement and joy that playing the character of Annie brings. Although it required a lot of hard work, the whole process was extremely rewarding and has given me a deeper insight into my confidence as a performer, and my ability to do my best regardless of the situation and pressure. I also had the privilege to perform the role twice, one of them being on my last show, which was very special, as not only did I manage to settle into the character and enjoy myself more, I got to perform in front of my family, and I was so grateful for all of the incredible training that had helped me to get on that stage. The show really did go by in a blur, but they are memories that I will never forget!
What was it like making your West End debut in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical as Amanda Thripp?
I feel so privileged to have performed my West End debut in a musical that has brought me so many incredible experiences. It has always been a very special musical for my family and I was lucky to share the magic with so many incredible creatives, cast and teammates who supported me throughout. I am so grateful to have been able to have such a long run after the pandemic and Amanda was such a joy to play. The incredible dance numbers, music, and magical scenes are incredibly special and the whole experience will always stay with me.
Was there anything you enjoyed most about performing as Amanda and being part of a Roald Dahl musical?
Matilda was my favourite Roald Dahl book and the ‘Thripp Throw’ was always something I had thought of in bewilderment after reading the book, so I loved being able to share such an exhilarating moment of the story. Seeing the audiences’ faces when Miss Trunchbull flung Amanda into the air are moments I will never forget. As well as this, I will never forget the buzz that each show brought. My favourite part of the musical was When I Grow Up as it’s the one part of the show where we are free from the restrictions of Crunchem Hall and it allowed me to reflect on the key messages from the story.
How was the atmosphere on your final show as Amanda Thripp and do you have any favourite memories from the run?
My final show was the most special one I have ever performed, as I got to perform alongside the majority of the adult cast (who were also leaving) and it really felt as though we were a family. The friends I have made on the show are ones that I will always have a special connection with, and some of my favourite memories are definitely rehearsing with my friends and the first show back after the pandemic. It really gave us all the hope we were looking for and it was an incredible reunion. We all knew that this experience would bring us closer and we worked harder then ever to perform the show even better than before.
How was it returning to the show after the pandemic closed theatres and what was it like filming the When I Grow Up cast video during lockdown?
The atmosphere from my first performance back has always stayed with me, as it felt as though Amanda’s character had adapted and grown through my own experiences and it was incredible to be back with the company and share the magic again. To this date, it has been one of my favourite performances, and reminded me of how grateful I was for the whole experience.
In September, you were on the line-up for Schwartz at 75 at the Lyric Theatre, can you tell us about this?
I was incredibly lucky to be selected for the line-up for Schwartz at 75 and I was honoured to have listened to the amazing music and sensational work Stephen Schwartz has created throughout his lifetime, as well as meeting him and hearing him sing. This once-in-a-lifetime experience has reminded me of how lucky I am to perform on stages with such incredible talent and the whole process was so rewarding.
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you get into it?
I started dancing at the age of two as I was heavily inspired by the people around me and, ever since, nothing has compared to the feeling that overtakes me when I perform. I am ultimately transported into a world where I can express myself, and my training has provided me with confidence and resilience. All of my hard work makes me appreciate how grateful I am for the incredible teachers I have and how much I look forward to building my future!
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
I have lots of favourite theatre shows, such as Hamilton, Wicked, Les Misérables, Heathers and Dear Evan Hansen because of how moving, and engaging the stories and music are. There are a few I would definitely love to see in the future, including SIX and MAMMA MIA! as I love the music so much and I really want to experience them for myself. I always find musicals very inspiring, so I am hoping I can find some more time to get to the theatre.
Do you have a favourite aspect of being an actor and can you tell us about your training?
I train with Stagebox and I’m represented by Stagebox Management. I also train in dance with Genesis Performing Arts. My favourite aspect of being an actor is being able to step into another character that is different from myself. It allows me to channel my emotions and portray feelings that I have worked hard to communicate to the audience. Every moment of my training has encouraged and built me up, and I’ve been so lucky to have such supportive teachers that always make me feel accomplished and appreciated. I am always yearning to learn more and be pushed and challenged as hard as possible, so that I’m always doing the best I possibly can.
Have you been given any advice over your time as a performer so far that has stuck with you?
I always try and remind myself that everyone is on their own journey and pathway, which means that no matter your talent, your experiences may be different to someone else’s and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. Rejection is only redirection!
What do you hope the next few months bring for you and do you have any projects coming up that you can share?
I am really focusing on my training at the moment and building my skill base. This industry moves so quickly you never know what’s around the corner.