Actor's Diary: Fake Scandanavians and the cherry on top
Kelly Johnston began performing with Glasgow Music Theatre in 2011’s West Side Story. Since then, she has been one of the company’s most regular faces, through ensemble and principal parts alike. She is currently rehearsing for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, in a part unlike any other she has played with GMT before...
I’ve been working with GMT now for five years, and in those five years:
I’ve taken part in seven shows
I’ve met amazingly talented people, most of whom are now my best friends
I was introduced to the choreographer who now employs me to run her dance studio
Last, but not least: when I first started with GMT I was in the ensemble, but the experience of working with GMT quickly built me up to become a more confident performer which has led to me landing some amazing lead roles - many of which I could only have dreamed about before. So yeah, it’s not been a bad five years when you put it like that!
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is the first studio show that I’ve been involved in with GMT :where the casts are smaller, the turn-around is quicker and you get to work more closely with other cast members and the production team - so I was really excited once the show was announced and couldn't wait to get started after the auditions. Being cast in such an amazing part as Shy was just the cherry on top. After the dance and singing-heavy role I had in Flashdance, I'm happy to get back to my acting roots and get involved with a character that has a more tragic back story behind her - something that I can really get my teeth into.
The rehearsal process for the smaller show is very different to what I've become used to from being in previous big GMT shows. For a start, the rehearsal period is a lot shorter, but you have just as much to do, so it's pretty stressful at times! It’s still lots of fun though, otherwise why would we do it to ourselves?! You pretty much have to be focused at all times, and the concentration levels are pretty epic… Oh, apart from on April Fools' Day when you manage to convince all your cast mates to deliver their lines in a cockney accent and act like everything is totally normal so that your director thinks he’s losing it – sorry Ally! He might not actually have known that was my idea, now that I mention it…
With about 3 weeks of rehearsals to go (...oh crap), we’re now all beginning to see the show taking shape, which is really great. With the smaller shows you don't see many of your cast mates much as everything is so bitty, so once it came to the run of Act 1 a few weeks ago and everyone was "off book" (i.e. didn’t have their scripts, for those who don’t know the stage lingo) it was great to see how hard everyone had been working on their own scenes and songs, and it made you realise just how funny this show really is! I thought the run went amazingly well considering most of us were still using scripts a half hour before the run even started. (Again, sorry Ally!) It was great to see everyone’s characters come to life, and hilarious watching Ryan’s interpretation of a Scandinavian... Well, hilarious, and a little scary.
We’ve been working on Act 2 now for a couple of weeks, and I’ve started to really notice how un-realistic my accent is – everyone else is nailing it, and then there’s Shy who apparently steps out of the whorehouse and jumps straight into an alley in the New York Bronx! This is actually the first time I’ve had a real problem with an accent, and I’m having to really concentrate on the pronunciation of each syllable in every word, which is actually pretty tiring! I think it’s getting there though, which will make all the hard work worthwhile.
I have to say, I think my favourite part of this process has been seeing how a few of the main characters grow as you go through the show from start to finish. At the beginning when you meet Shy and Angel (played by Ciadhra McGuire), Angel is the type of girl who seems to just be able to take on the world; she knows what the deal is and how things work. And then there’s Shy… She’s pretty much the total opposite, this young dopey kid who’s just stepped off the farm and probably can't even spell Chicken Ranch, let alone know what she is about to walk into – she just knows what she wants to get away from. By the end of the show though the roles reverse a little: Angel wants to get out of the business, get a real job and spend time with her son, whereas Shy is now confident enough within herself to take centre stage and take on the world one man at a time. It’s a great personality change to act, and I can’t wait for people to see the show and love it as much as I do.
Oh look at the time! Must be time for you to log on to www.cottiers.com/events, scroll down the page a little until you come to May 5th, click on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and book a ticket or two (or three, or four…) – it couldn't be easier. You’re so welcome!