Meet the Principal Cast of Southampton Musical Society’s next Production
If you are a regular reader of CarnsTheatrePassion.Com you will know that I rarely cover non-professional productions. I refer to them as non-professional because the word ‘amateur’ does not, in my opinion, do Southampton Musical Society members justice. They work extremely hard, to deliver nuanced performances, they are unpaid for and they have day jobs as well!
As I move into a new chapter in my career, I’m honoured to have been asked to work with this talented group to promote their latest show Rent. This is a show that I’m very passionate about and being a ‘Marmite’ show, I sit very firmly in the ‘love it’ camp.
So just who are the principal cast of Rent and at what do their characters mean to them? Well let’s hear from them in their own words.
Liam Baker (Collins)
I was a bit of a latecomer to the Am Dram scene. I’ve always loved watching musical theatre since my parents took me to see touring productions of Beauty and the Beast and Grease when I was a little boy. My mother decided that at the tender age of 7, I was probably a little too young to go with her to watch Jesus Christ Superstar, however she brought home the cast recording and I played it to death.
I’ve always been a lover of music and actually went to study music at university. It was upon finishing my degree and ending up in office work that I decided to find a musical hobby to occupy my evenings. I stumbled across a local society and lo and behold, their current production was the show that started it all, Jesus Christ Superstar!
From that point, I haven’t looked back. I have worked with numerous groups around Southampton and have had the honour of playing some great roles, including Will in American Idiot, the Busker in Lift and most recently, The Man in Whistle Down the Wind. I’ve also entered into a writing partnership with Chris Ball (the MD for Rent) and we are working on our first full-scale musical as we speak.
I am absolutely thrilled to be performing the role of Collins. It is one of those very special roles that really challenges you as an actor. The journey that Collins goes through in Rent is emotionally exhausting yet incredibly touching. Not to mention, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to sing!
I’m a very lucky man to have an understanding and supportive family at home who allow me to go out for multiple evenings a week. I know I couldn’t be doing this without them!
Katy Watt (Maureen)
So I am the ultimate cliché… Maureen Johnson is a part I wanted to play ever since I was 17 years old.. ever since, fresh out of stage school, I heard Idina Menzel utter the words “moo with me!”
I loved the fact that these two power house, sassy women got to sing this incredible duet because to me, powerhouse, show down numbers were always sung by men… Jean Valjean and Javert for instance. Then there’s the fact that you hear so much about Maureen, but never actually see her until she decides she is ready to show up, asking “Joanne which way to the stage?” She arrives and boom when she arrives, she arrives!
Being a new mum, it is so liberating to get to play Maureen; she is loud, obnoxious, narcissistic and almost like a drug to Joanne and Mark. It is so much fun to play someone so outside of the box!! As for my motivation… everything you shouldn’t be as a mother to a five-month-old, you are as Maureen! It’s all ‘me me me’ with her and it’s an honour to step into those Dr Martin’s of hers and moo to an audience.
Angharad Morgan (Joanne)
In order to get into character for any show, but especially for a show like Rent where the characters have a lot of depth to them, I write out a mind map at the start of the rehearsal process and keep adding to it as I get to know the character more, right up until the show itself. I try to discover every single detail of the character to work out exactly what makes them tick: how they walk, how they talk, how I’d describe them, their relationship with each and every character in the show, right down to the nitty-gritty details that aren’t even written in the script and that I have to decide for myself.
Combining all these traits allows me to compare the character to myself so I can channel emotions from my own experiences and work out what I need to change about my walk, speech etc to completely embody the character.
Sam Gregory (Mark)
I’m Sam, and I am so excited to be playing Mark Cohen in Rent. I’m a bank manager by day, and singer, musical theatre performer and musician the rest of the time. I grew into a love of performing with Centrestage Productions Youth Theatre, and in Barton Peveril college, and I went on to train in musical theatre at the Southern Theatre Arts Centre, near Brighton. I’ve been part of Southampton Musical Society for many years now, and have had some great opportunities with them, such as playing Bobby in Crazy For You, Leo in The Producers, and directing the concert West End Exchange.
I’ve always found inspiration in the score and messages in this show, and I fell I can relate to many of the characters on a personal level. Having said that, growing up listening to the soundtrack on repeat in my bedroom, the story of Mark always resonated with me the most. As a young man, I felt his struggle to tell his own story, and to be honest with himself and those closest to him. I was very socially awkward as a teenager, and I definitely identify as a nerd, which if you know the show, fits the character description pretty well! But more than that, I see Mark as a man with an internal conflict between doing something honest and heartfelt, using his talents with integrity, or selling out and capitalising on his skills for financial gain. As a journalist and filmmaker, he longs to tell a true and real story of what it’s like to live, as he is, on the bread line.
I take my motivation from his strong connection with friends, and his fear of losing them. From his viewpoint, standing on the side-lines and feeling separation from those closest to him, as I often felt growing up. From his bursts of exuberant enthusiasm in La Vie Boheme, to his introspective doubt and fear in Hallowe’en.
I’ve grown up with Mark, and in a way, grown into him, and back out the other side. I’m so happy to get a chance to take on this role.
Jim Smith (Roger)
I am an acoustician originally from Buckinghamshire, also playing guitar for local 80s rock tribute band – HAIR TRIGGER, which is much more fun! Long-time musician but still new to musical theatre, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be playing such an iconic and challenging role in only my third musical and show with SMS, who have once again been incredibly supportive – last time casting me as the sparkling Stacee Jaxx in their production of Rock of Ages in 2016.
Roger’s approach to music resonates with me – I remember as a teen I was so strongly influenced by certain specific melodies and lyrics, and so see a lot of myself in Roger’s value in legacy, and of the impact that just one song can have. As an avid guitarist and budding songwriter, I relate to the power the instrument can have to channel emotion, and the frustration of not being able to find the right sounds, often spending a lot of time trying, and coming out empty-handed.
As a character he is a lot of fun to play, Roger goes from being cool and distant, to having bursts of explosive emotion; he chimes in with humorous quips even in dark times, and although sometimes awkward and irrational, he is still a valued member of the group. Whilst I may be physically healthy compared to the character; to feel lost, regretful and indecisive, only to turn it all around and make the right decisions is an incredibly important message, to which I can relate.
I am motivated to try to resonate with anyone who has ever grappled with the frustration of internal conflict; and to challenge myself to portray Roger’s journey and express the positivity that comes at the end of it: commit to love, don’t turn your back on your friends, don’t be too proud to seek help, and live life to the fullest.
Every minute of rehearsing this show has been a joy. Great music, great story, great cast & crew – what more could you ask for?
James Gould (Benny)
I am James and I’ve been in the am dram game for about 5 years now. I really enjoy a couple of things in life, lifting weights and performing. I’m a Gym Manager and Personal Trainer by day and I prance about, act and sing at night. I feel very lucky to be able to do both of the things I love on a weekly basis. I’m fairly new to musicals as I’ve been mostly doing plays since starting out but I’m finding them a lot of fun.
Rent is particularly one that stood out to me ever since hearing ‘Seasons of Love’ as you do. I love all that emotional stuff and still get goose bumps when some of the songs come on. It’s awesome to get a principal role in such an iconic musical and I’m trying to learn as much as I can from my super talented cast mates too!
I’ve had a couple of musicals/plays on the go at once before, which means you’re rehearsing more nights than not, and being honest it can start to wear you down. The trouble is, as soon as you hit show week and you love every second of it, you just can’t stop yourself from auditioning for the next one. It’s definitely addictive and I’m totally a junkie.
I am looking forward to getting my fix with Rent and Benny is a great character to play. Going from an asshole to a reformed asshole as the musical progresses it’s definitely challenging. You still need to keep him likeable enough so that the audience are accepting of his turn of face. I’m looking forward to see how it all pans out in April.
Vikki-Jo Keens (Mimi)
I’m absolutely in love with the theatre and always have been. I was fortunate enough to train and work in theatre for a few years but now I work in an office job. I continue to take part in shows because it is my passion. I don’t need to be paid to keep at it, it’s a part of who I am and I love it. I like to push myself with the parts I audition for – the more challenging the better! I think for a lot of us who enjoy acting, it’s something of a release.
It is rather amazing how a piece of theatre can really speak to an audience and I think that as a performer it’s important to remember that. You have the potential to inspire someone and that’s pretty special. We are so privileged to have these abilities and to be able to share them. For those of us that do so alongside a full-time job is proof that if we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t do it.
Gerson Sunggay (Angel)
It was my lucky day that day sat in the library trying to study when an advert on Facebook has come my way, It said: “Are you our Angel?” Oh, and I should tell you my candle was lit with excitement!!! But with a University degree, 2 Part-time jobs, a college course and another production will I really add another one to my busy schedule? There’s Only YES! No day but today… Right? So I got in contact with the chairman and went to an audition. The morning after I got an exhilarating email: I’m Angel!
And as Collins replies to me in the show, “Angel? Indeed!”
As a gay man and a real life drag artist, the role of Angel resonates to me. Sweet, sassy, comical, artistic… the list could go on; there is so much about Angel’s character I identify with, hence why I’m so thrilled to be playing her. The musical RENT is one l I grew up with and, I guess, my biggest motivation in wanting to be part of it is because it reflects my life’s biggest maxim: to celebrate life, to live with hope, to share love, give love and spreaaaad love!!!
Southampton Musical Society Presents
Wednesday 11 April – Saturday 14 April
The Point Eastleigh
Full Price: £15.00
Over 60s: £12.50
Student: £10.00 – £12.50
Under 16 Years: £12.50
023 8065 2333
Cast on Instagram
Katy Watt (Maureen) @katywatty17
Angharad Morgan (Joanne) @angharadmorg
Sam Gregory (Mark) @sammygeev2
Vikki-Jo Keens (Mimi) @veejo
Gerson Sunggay (Angel) @poppyaphroditequeen
Watch the rehearsal images below and book your tickets Now!