From The Muppet’s Christmas Carol to The Phantom of the Opera, you have starred in some defining productions – what is your personal favourite?
Tricky question. Les Mis. for being a University. It was incredibly looked after as a production at that time and taught me so much over the two and a half years. Phantom, for being gorgeous and such fun to perform. Secret Garden, a gift of a ‘grown up’ role with beautiful music that came at just the right time in my life. Out of the Blue, for teaching me how to direct and Bernadette for being the biggest quotable flop of all time.
What was it like playing a character as interesting as Eponine, who suffered such an unjust fate night after night?
Deeply depressing sometimes. It’s demoralising being someone who never gets her love returned. Repeatedly. Muppet Christmas Carol was filmed in the middle of Mis. though. And that cheered me up.
What can people expect from your new album, ‘When Love Is Gone’ and what was your inspiration for how you chose the songs?
The songs tell a story of an Everywoman surviving through a coercive and controlling relationship. It’s a problem that I believe should be spoken about more openly, so that people can seek help when they need it, without shame or judgement.
When you were growing up, what would have been the ultimate role to play?
Eponine. I saw Frances Ruffelle play it when I was over from New Zealand at 13. I desperately wanted it.
What is it like to work with someone as iconic as Andrew Lloyd Weber and has he ever given you any great advice that has really helped you in life?
He’s a passionate artist who cares deeply. A wonderful example. I love his enthusiasm and he was always an absolute pleasure to work with. Very loyal. I’d like to buy a chapel and put on my own version of the Sydmonton Festival too!
It is the 25th Anniversary of The Muppet’s Christmas Carol – how do you feel knowing that it’s become a bit of a cult movie?
It’s completely marvelous! I had no idea when I filmed it that it would come around every year as it does. Not the cleverest of me, I know, as it’s a Christmas movie…! My children have grown up with it and I regularly meet grown-ups who cherish it. I was always a huge fan of the Muppets, 6.30 every Sunday night in New Zealand through my childhood, so it was the biggest honour to work with them. I was completely star-struck at the read through and Brian Henson the director and Paul Williams the composter are just the nicest people.
Do you have a favourite Muppet and what were they like to work with?!
It’s always been a secret but have to admit that Fozzie and I flirted a bit. I wore a fairly low cut dress and he only reaches a certain level… And I’m a sucker for those who make me laugh.
Are there any other projects on the horizon that you are excited about?
There are plans to devise ‘When Love Is Gone’ as a ‘Vagina Monologues’ with music – five or six women telling their stories. I’m also desperate to sit at the piano and continue composing and arranging. And one day I’d love play Fosca in Passion and Rose in Aspects of Love, I think the latter could be directed as an interesting piece given the current media coverage of historic abuse. More imminently, I’m introducing a sing-a-long screening of ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ at London’s Prince Charles Cinema on December 4th.
Why should people buy your new album When Love Is Gone?
It deals with a very difficult issue but it’s also got some fabulous songs by a huge range of composers that might surprise you. Barry Manilow, Carly Simon, Noel Coward, Sondheim, Me! And finally, I can never resist the really big belt notes.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
Interview by Sarah Fortescue
Meredith Braun’s new album When Love Is Gone is out now!