An Interview With Classical Singer Katherine Jenkins
Once you’ve sung for the Queen, where do you go from there? For soprano Katherine Jenkins – who received an OBE in 2014 for her services to music – her next move is to star in one of her first major acting roles, in the iconic musical Carousel at the London Coliseum.
So why did the role appeal? ‘I’ve always loved singing – I was inspired as a child by watching West End musicals,’ Jenkins says. ‘My mum took me to see Phillip Schofield in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when I was seven and I was hooked. I remember feeling energy radiating off the stage. I’m a huge fan of the West End and musical theatre and I’d always secretly hoped to be in a musical.
‘Carousel is one of the greatest musicals of all time, and this version has an outstanding orchestra performing in a beautiful theatre. I’ll also be performing with my friend Alfie [Boe]. It appealed because of its music – I hummed it all day, and the songs put me in a good mood.
‘I’ve never done anything like it before in my adult career, so it’s an amazing opportunity for me and I’ll probably be nervous. But I want to give everything I have to the role. I’ve been working on the music, the choreography and with an accent coach to perfect an American accent. As my husband [Andrew Levitas] is from the States, I hear it spoken at home but I don’t practice in front of him. The first time he’ll hear my American accent will be when I’m on stage!’
All The Classics
Based on the 1909 Budapest play Liliom by Ferenc Molnár and adapted by Benjamin F Glaser, Carousel opened on Broadway in 1945, and hit the West End five years later. This version is directed by Lonny Price (Sunset Boulevard), and features music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The English National Opera’s orchestra and chorus will accompany the cast.
Expect to recognise classics such as You’ll Never Walk Alone and If I Loved You – Jenkins’ favourite. ‘I’ve sung it in concert many, many times,’ she says. ‘But in the context of the musical it feels so emotional; it’s clever and beautiful. I hope the audience will leave singing the songs.’
Jenkins plays millworker Julie Jordan, who falls for Billy Bigelow, a charming rascal from Maine. Keen to provide for Jordan and their unborn child, Bigelow takes part in a robbery. When it goes wrong, he commits suicide – but Heaven gives him the chance to redeem himself by sending him back to earth to make amends. Upon his return he discovers his daughter has become a troubled teenager, haunted by his legacy – encouraging Bigelow to vow to restore pride to his family.
If, like Bigelow, Jenkins had a second chance, what would she change? ‘I lost my dad at 15, so I’d go back and enjoy more moments with him,’ she says. ‘I don’t have adult memories of him.’
Jenkins is enjoying Carousel so much she’d love to do more stage work. ‘Musicals are my inspiration and passion,’ she says. ‘So Carousel will be good practice for me. I’d also love to play Anna in The King and I, as it’s an amazing, old-fashioned musical, which, like Carousel, has stood the test of time.’
From 7 Apr. London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ES. T: 020-7845 9300. www.eno.org
Over To You
We gave you the chance to ask the star questions on Twitter @londonplanner
Do you miss Hunt’s pasties and Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour when you’re not in Wales?
I do, very much so! I used to have a Cornish pasty but now that I’m vegetarian I have the veggie one. And I always have chocolate ice cream – if you’re going to have it, you might as well go the whole hog. I also miss cockles and lava bread; they’re staple foods from Neath Market.
What’s your favourite venue to sing at?
It has to be the Royal Albert Hall. Every time I walk on stage there it takes my breath away. The London Coliseum is also a dream come true. I saw Giselle there earlier this year.
How do you cope with fame?
I try to lead a normal life outside of my performances. My friends are from before I was famous, I have my family and I try to maintain my privacy.