Emma Williams & Norman Pace have Tea With Wilma
Can you tell me about yourself and some of your career highlights?
NORMAN: My name is Norman Pace and I am currently on tour with Annie Get Your Gun tour. My career has been varied and brilliant in many ways – but winning the golden rose of montreux for Hale + Pace – doing my West End debut in Chicago has to be up there with the best.
EMMA: I’m Emma Williams and I play Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun. I’m a Yorkshire lass born and bred and I made my professional theatre debut as the original Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, opposite Michael Ball. I was nominated for Olivier awards (Best Actress in a Musical) for my last two West End musical theatre roles – Luisa in Zorro and Jenny in Love Story. I’ve also appeared on TV and in films but overall Annie Get Your Gun is certainly my favourite job to date – I’m loving every minute of it!
You are about to embark on the UK tour of Annie Get Your Gun. For those why may not be familiar with the show, what it is about and can you tell me about the character you play?
NORMAN: Its fundamentally an old fashioned love story between Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, and how they met doing the Buffalo Bill Wild West show. I play Buffalo Bill – who is equipped with plenty of facial furniture! Buffalo Bill was a real character who in his life killed 4,240 buffalo to feed railroad workers across the West.
EMMA: Annie Get Your Gun tells the story of a young sharp-shooter called Annie Oakley who is discovered by Buffalo Bill and joins his travelling ‘Wild Wild West’ show. She meets and falls in love with his ‘champ-een’ sharp-shooter, Frank Butler, but theirs is a tempestuous relationship. You’ll have to see the show to see if the ending’s a happy one or not!
Many of the characters within the show are based in reality and the story of Annie, Frank and Buffalo BIll is based in fact. Annie was an astonishing woman and a truly remarkable shot. She’s thoroughly inspiring to play.
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, which musical theatre role would you like to have a go at playing?
NORMAN: Given my age and girth – I would like to play Marilyn Monroe – and if there isn’t a musical that currently exists about her – then someone should write one and cast me in the lead!
EMMA: Hmm… that’s a toughie. I think I’d love to play Jekyll/Hyde maybe. One because it’s a great score but also because then effectively I’d get to play two very different characters, rather than just one! Make the most of it!
Can you tell me about any funny or disastrous moments you have had on stage over the years?
NORMAN: During the midnight matinee of Chicago, I forgot the 1st line of the song I had previously sung for 150 performances as I was so tired. I looked at our MD and fortunately he saved me with a ‘just in time’ prompt!
EMMA: In Love Story there was a song called ‘Pasta’, during which Michael Xavier (who played leading man Oliver) and I used to cook a meal. Properly. Onstage. With gas. Whilst singing. Quite frequently I would slice my fingers and thumbs on the knives whilst chopping the garlic up, and slivers of me would end up in the meal, hence only I ever ate from the bowl. The first time I cut myself quite badly I had to wrap my bleeding hand in a tea towel for the next ten minutes as I never left the stage for long enough to get it seen to!
Funny-wise… I’ve stacked it down several staircases before (Desperately Seeking Susan, Chitty Bang Bang, Bat Boy…) I wonder whether maybe I should avoid stairs in future?
Recently I was performing in A Spoonful of Sherman at the St James Theatre. I am notorious for drinking a lot of water during a show and went to take a large gulp during one of the introductions to a number I was singing. However, that night narrator Robbie Sherman decided to throw in an adlib joke or two. Cue me corpsing with a mouthful of water. Obviously this then led to further jokes until I was practically choking on my still full mouth, tears streaming down my face, with an audience laughing hysterically at me. Not the most appropriate start to my lovely ballad!
What town on the UK tour are you most looking forward to visiting and why?
NORMAN: Edinburgh – it’s the most beautiful
EMMA: I’m enjoying Manchester as this is where I made my first feature film, Steve Coogan’s The Parole Officer, so being here is bringing back lots of happy memories. Plus it’s close enough for my family to visit readily. I’m particularly looking forward to exploring some places I don’t know too well, like Aylesbury and Aberdeen, visiting old favourites like Edinburgh as well as hitherto unexplored territories for me such as Torquay! This is my first tour so I’m thrilled to be seeing so much of the United Kingdom and getting to discover new treasures each week.
Do you have a favourite Musical Theatre song or one that means a lot to you?
NORMAN: ‘Lost in his arms’ – from Annie Get Your Gun – I watch from the wings every night wings and each time, I have a lump in throat. It’s a beautiful number.
EMMA: ‘Memory’ from Cats means quite a lot to me as it was the first song from a musical that I ever sang solo. Mrs Moulds, my primary school teacher, let me sing it at one of the Christmas concerts. I think I was about 10 and hadn’t told my parents I’d be singing outside of the choir.
It’s not musical theatre but ‘Con Te Partiro’ is also pretty special to me as it was the last song I sang in my auditions for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The producers had asked for something of my own choice to demonstrate my range and I sang this unaccompanied (as my hands were shaking too much to find the music in my folder!). I was signed before I left the building and I’m very, very grateful for that.
Favourite Musical Theatre song – I LOVE Lance Horne’s ‘Last Day on Earth’ when sung by Hannah Waddingham. I know both of them well and this version reduces me to tears every time, without fail. Just glorious.
In terms of songs within Annie Get Your Gun, I think ‘I Got Lost In His Arms’ has to be my personal favourite. It’s so beautifully simple and yet so very truthful and affecting. Pure Berlin genius.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
The Annie Get Your Gun UK Tour runs at venues across the country until 4th October. For tickets and information visit: www.anniegetyourgunthemusical.com