‘I’m a big fan of

Lucky Laura lands lead­ing role in stir­ring stage show “So much emo­tion” “It is a real hon­our” Young­sters fol­low their own script

Evening Express (City Final) - The Guide - - ARTS AND STAGE - By Scott Beg­bie By Sonja Ras­mussen

THE Phan­tom is set to stalk His Majesty’s next week ... and the prospect has Laura Row­ley’s nerves jan­gling.

From left, Saileiti Songe, Me­gan Mac­Beth, Ge­or­gia Harkins, Ca­tri­ona Burt and Paige Smith. Laura. “I have such a pas­sion for singing, it’s just some­thing that makes me happy. “You don’t have to think about any­thing else, you just sing and get on with it and it makes you feel so much bet­ter. “When I sing, no mat­ter what mood I’m in, ev­ery­thing seems fine.”

DI­REC­TOR Marie Skene scores a hat-trick at the Aberdeen round of a na­tional drama fes­ti­val next week. Per­form­ing in this year’s Scot­tish Com­mu­nity Drama As­so­ci­a­tion Fes­ti­val of OneAct Plays at Aberdeen Arts Cen­tre, three of her groups com­pete for the youth tro­phy. Act Two and Act Daft, two youth groups based at Aberdeen Arts Cen­tre take part, as does Corn­hill Drama Group from Corn­hill Com­mu­nity Cen­tre. They will be up against a fourth group from Ury Play­ers at Stone­haven. Each group is per­form­ing de­vised dra­mas, cre­ated by the young ac­tors them­selves with the help and inspiration of 26-year-old drama ex­pert Marie. She says: “Nor­mally when we de­vise a piece, we do an im­pro­vi­sa­tion and then it’s a re­hearsed im­pro­vi­sa­tion so they know what they are do­ing. “With the SCDA, they need a script, so they had to get a script to­gether for their pieces. “Over the last few weeks they’ve been work­ing on how to lay a script out, work­ing on sub-text and writ­ing stage direc­tion, which are new skills for them all.” There has been no chance of Marie – or in­deed the au­di­ence – get­ting fed up of the pieces as they are all very dif­fer­ent. The di­rec­tor ex­plains: “Act Two’s play is called Oh What A Train Wreck and it’s based on a train com­ing up to Aberdeen from Edinburgh.

Which is un­der­stand­able, given it will see her de­but as a lead­ing lady in a main stage pro­duc­tion – just like the char­ac­ter she plays, Christine. But Laura isn’t at all ner­vous about how au­di­ences will re­act to this, the Scot­tish pre­miere of Phan­tom, staged by Aberdeen Opera Com­pany. She is con­fi­dent they are go­ing to love this dif­fer­ent take on a fa­mil­iar story, of a tal­ented young girl who is pro­pelled to fame by a mys­te­ri­ous, Sven­gali-like fig­ure. It is Phan­tom, but it’s not Phan­tom Of The Opera, the Andrew Lloyd-Web­ber mu­si­cal. “It’s based on the same story, but it’s dif­fer­ent,” said Laura, of the show with mu­sic and lyrics by Maury Ye­ston. “I take it as more of an op­eretta genre than mu­si­cal theatre – but the songs are just soar­ing, es­pe­cially the cho­rus pieces,” said Laura. “There is so much emo­tion in the songs. My True Love, one of the last songs Christine sings, brings tears to the eye. “I think it is just amaz­ing and I can’t get that one out of my head.” The Lloyd-Web­ber ver­sion is known for its spec­ta­cle, but there are more than a few jaw-drop­ping mo­ments in this ver­sion of Phan­tom, too, Laura said. “The au­di­ence can ex­pect the un­ex­pected,” she said. “We have a crash­ing chan­de­lier, which was quite a chal­lenge to stage. “I think the boat jour­ney is one of the most at­mo­spheric scenes ... there’s even an elec­tri­fied stair­case. That’s shock­ing. “I think the au­di­ences will lap it up be­cause there’s so much to see on stage and the stun­ning cos­tumes are from Scot­tish Opera. I know they will be amaz­ing. But I think the cho­rus pieces will be the wow fac­tor. When we

PRAC­TICE: Aberdeen Opera Com­pany re­hearsals for Phan­tom. prac­tise the room shakes.” Laura, who by day is a high-fly­ing ac­coun­tant with a city oil firm, is look­ing for­ward to play­ing Christine, star­ring op­po­site Peter We­ston as the Phan­tom. “I’m re­ally en­joy­ing the chal­lenge of it. It is a real hon­our to get the lead in a pre­miere,” said Laura, 27, who has been re­hears­ing the role for months. “I’m not new to the stage, but I’ve never taken on a lead role, so it’s a bit nerve-wrack­ing. “The main chal­lenge was the acting side. I have al­ways sung on stage, or danced, but acting was some­thing I hadn’t had any pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with, so it was hum­bling to have peo­ple put so much faith in me to do it. “But with so much sup­port from the com­pany, I’m a lot less ner­vous about it than I have been.” The fact that she is play­ing a char­ac­ter who makes her de­but as a lead­ing lady isn’t lost on Laura. “I sup­pose there are par­al­lels there,” she said. “She feels out of her depth and it’s all very new to her, which is very much how I felt. I think I re­lated to it some­what. “I thought ‘this is me’. “To­wards the end, Christine gets her con­fi­dence and does a spec­tac­u­lar job. I hope I do as well.” It’s a dream come true for Laura, who has had a life­long love of mu­sic and singing. She was so pas­sion­ate she had hoped to go on to study and per­form at univer­sity, but was un­able to find a place. That was a blow that stopped her per­form­ing for eight years, un­til she moved to Aberdeen from her na­tive Bur­ton-On-Trent three years ago. She de­cided to re­turn to her first love, while meet­ing SPEC­TRAL: Peter We­ston and Laura Row­ley in ac­tion. new peo­ple, and joined Aberdeen Opera Com­pany for their 70th an­niver­sary pro­duc­tion last year. Laura, who lives in Tur­riff, made such an im­pact she was able to win the cov­eted role of Christine – and hasn’t looked back. “I love singing, it’s some­thing you can do to take you away from the hum­drum, I think,” said

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