Harriet, you’re best known for your roles as Carole on BBC’s The Brittas Empire, Fleur in Absolutely Fabulous and your extensive work with French and Saunders, what do you love about comedic roles?
I love that laughter cures everything. We’ve needed it throughout history. I’ve never played anybody ‘normal’ so why would I start now?
You’ve also had a fantastic musical theatre career playing roles such as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Madame Thenardier in Les Mis, Fraulein Kost in Cabaret, Tanya in Mamma Mia! and Madame Morrible in Wicked. Growing up, did you have any musical influences that led you to musical theatre?
As a child I watched every movie musical – its Hollywood musicals that inspired me and hooked me as a child. Whether it was The Sound of Music as a little girl or Singin’ in the Rain – with music, laughter and drama you’re always transported #whatsnottolike.
You recently starred in A MAD Drag Night’s ‘Beat for the Gods’ supporting The Make a Difference Trust. It sounded like so much fun! How was it?
The talent of the West End performers – triple threats all of them – is so moving and inspirational because not only are they doing brilliant drag it’s for the most important cause. Make a Difference Trust – I was honoured and thrilled to be a part of it.
You’re about to star as Vera in Jerry Herman’s MAME at Hope Mill Theatre. Can you tell us a little about your character and what the show’s about?
She is witty, and a wonderful friend. She enjoys a cocktail and is ultra, ultra-theatrical. The show is about friends, love and purpose in life.
A classic 1960’s musical, MAME is being revived for the first time in the UK since the original West End production in 1969 starring Ginger Rogers. How does the show speak for modern times? Is it still relevant today?
It absolute is. It’s human nature at its finest. Funny, tragic and heart-warming.
Another Jerry Herman musical, Hello Dolly recently had a Broadway revival and US tour. Any dreams of descending the stairs of the Harmonia Gardens as Dolly Levi yourself?
#always – but I think there’s a queue and I’m at the back of the line!
You trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, how important is training for an actor wanting to break into the industry?
There is no one way to be an actor. But certainly, training gives you a lot of chances to learn about yourself and make mistakes – which is the only way to learn about yourself anyway. But I know a lot of actors who are brilliant who have never trained so it can work both ways.
The last time we spoke with you, you told us about a 1950’s rock musical you were in featuring a horse. Aforementioned horse got nervous on press night and went to the toilet in the middle of the stage! Since then, have you had any other funny things happen while on stage?
Nothing that can compete with a pooing horse!
In your own words, why should audiences come and see MAME?
Tracie Bennett is iconic as Mame, the cast and creative team are fantastic, you’ll know so many of the songs which you didn’t realise were in the show – heart-warming, and uplifting. It’s wise witty and wonderful. #WhoCouldAskForAnythingMore
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
Questions by Stuart James
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