Manchester Evening News
Written By: Mark Armstrong
Provided By: Liverpool Empire Theatre
The Sound Of Music, one of the most legendary musicals of all-time, is returning to the Liverpool Empire next month. Playing the role of Maria Von Trapp will be Danielle Hope, who over the last five years has had a range of unforgettable experiences on the theatre stage, having been propelled to stardom by a television show which landed her a role as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz and a place in future big-budget theatre productions. I recently spoke to Danielle about The Sound Of Music, her experiences so far in theatre, and whether she could handle a family as big as that of the Von Trapps in real life …
To begin with, explain the story of The Sound Of Music, and of your role as Maria Von Trapp.
The Sound Of Music, as many, many people will know, is a very famous story based on a family that were fleeing Austria at a very dangerous time. I think the reason a lot of people feel this strongly connected to The Sound Of Music is because they were real people, and this was a very real time in the world. Now, a young girl who is training to be a nun is sent away because of, let’s say, her behaviour, and her choice of life and singing. Then, she meets this very disconnected family where the father is going through a lot, and the children have almost been army drilled because he’s a naval officer. And she introduces them to music, and then they find a connection, which ends up inspiring the captain and saving them at the end of the day while they flee.
I think people of all ages connect to this story because they’ve grown up with it; I grew up with the film with my grandmother. That being said, the stage show is different to the film in an exciting way, plus it’s the 50th anniversary of the film at the moment so we’ve had really, really great audiences. We’ve been on tour since January, and it’s amazing to be trusted with the role of Maria. I know they’re very specific about who they get to play her, and it’s been a real challenge and a real joy to share her story around the country. We’re in Dublin, Ireland right now, and we’ve already been around the UK and Scotland and, well, everywhere! I’m looking forward to being in Liverpool and getting up north because that’s home turf to me, and all the family are coming to see me in Liverpool too. So, it’s been great so far.
You touched upon the film version of The Sound Of Music. What, from a production and viewing standpoint, are the key differences between the movie and theatre versions?
There’s different songs, there’s extra songs, so all the ones you love from the film are in the show as well as some more. The order of things is slightly different, because as we all know, something that works on-screen doesn’t necessarily work on stage in the exact same way, and vice versa. So, it’s adapted for the theatre, and it’s just so beautiful. The set is so classy and so elegant, and it’s going to look beautiful at the Empire, it really is.
Tell us about how you first made your name on the BBC show Over The Rainbow.
It was five years ago now, which I can’t believe! I auditioned for the television programme for Andrew Lloyd-Webber; 9,000 people auditioned, and the programme was three months long, and I was lucky enough to win the part and went on to play Dorothy at the London Palladium alongside Michael Crawford, which was just epic really! I think it’s the only word for it! I mean, who starts their career headlining the London Palladium? It was bonkers!
It’s been amazing since then, and I’ve worked with so many people that I have admired in the theatre industry for such a long, long time. But, yeah, the programme was a very crazy experience, and I moved to London so quickly. My plan was to go to University which I didn’t do, so everything I had planned didn’t happen, but the outcome still happened, which I think proves that there’s no right or wrong way to do anything. You just have to take a chance sometimes and just be brave, which is what I did and I’m so grateful that I did. So it was a crazy time and I’ve since been in shows like Les Miserables and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, so it’s been a really wonderful and crazy five years!
As discussed, your victory on Over The Rainbow earned you your first theatre role as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz in 2011. Tell us about how you fared in this starring role, and how quickly did you take to the stage?
We opened for previews in January/February time, so we rehearsed over Christmas and New Year, and it was so exciting, plus I had such a supportive cast around me. You know, I’d always wanted to be on stage; it wasn’t like I randomly turned up to an audition, and I was like “Oh, I’ll have a go at this!” It was something that I’d always wanted to do, and that’s what I was training to do at high school and sixth form.
Actually, the first time that I ever performed was on the Palladium stage was for the Children In Need live broadcast with Terry Wogan. I sang Over The Rainbow, and the theatre was full, plus (in addition to TV) it was being broadcast online and on the radio, so in effect all three mediums, which was so crazy. I remember that was one of the most nerve-wracking things I ever got to do, but it was nice having already performed once on the stage. And the Palladium is one of the most beautiful theatres that I’ve had the pleasure of being in, so I just absolutely loved it.
For The Wizard Of Oz,I was there for a whole year, and you just grew in the part over the year because you get to do the same show eight times a week, and you find new things constantly. I think that’s why I love live theatre and why a lot of people love live theatre. I mean, it’s great to be able to press Fast-Forward on your Sky box or whatever, but when you go and watch a show, what is happening in front of your eyes can’t be paused or rewound, it can’t be redone, and even if we try and recreate things, we can’t because we’re human, so it’s always going to be different. I think that’s why it’s so attractive and appealing, because you’re really part of something unique and special every time you go to the theatre.
As you mentioned, your other theatre credits over the last few years have included Les Miserables, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. What were your memories of those productions?
Well, Les Miserables was straight after The Wizard Of Oz, and it was incredible. It was a very different role, one of an aggressive, torn young girl from the streets. It was amazing to be able to play something so different straight after doing Dorothy, and I loved it, plus I made some of my best friends on that show. I think it was nice to have the responsibility of such famous songs, but Jean Valjean was leading the show, so I felt like the pressure was off a little bit in comparison to Dorothy. But I still had enough responsibility to drive me and feel like I was a real core part of that show. Plus, the film came out when we were in it, and I got to go to the premiere, so it was a very cool time to be a part of Les Miserables that year.
Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat was my first tour. I started The Sound Of Music two weeks after I finished Joseph, so it’s been a bit of a crazy year being on the road. Again, Joseph was so different, and it was very cool to see some parts of the world that I’d never seen.
Snow White was my first panto, and it was hilarious. The cast included Gok Wan, John Partridge (who judged on Over The Rainbow), Stephanie Beecham, Gary Wilmott … the names were endless, and we had such a good time at Birmingham. It ended up being one of their biggest pantos, so that was exciting.
I also did a show called The Last Five Years which has just got two people in it, and you only actually get to interact for about 30 seconds in the whole show! So, it’s like doing a one-woman and a one-man show, and that was one of the most creatively challenging things I have done so far in my career. It was something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as well as something that terrified me every single night, but it also gave me the confidence to do my own solo cabaret in London, which I then took to New York and recorded my debut album of that. I released my album in June of this year, which is a live recording of my New York concert which I did in February. So, there’s been lots of things that I’ve been able to do and that I’ve worked towards that I’ve just never thought would happen, not within these few years anyway.
Do you feel a certain level of pressure as you take the famous role of Maria Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music?
Of course. With a show like this, as with the Wizard Of Oz, there comes a huge responsibility, but I think you have to just acknowledge that and just release it. This role and the story and the characters are so well-loved. But I’m not here to imitate Julie Andrews, nor was I there to imitate Judy Garland. I’m just here to tell this story in the best, most honest and truthful way that I possibly can, and to just have a really joyous time doing it. The cast are wonderful, the children that I get to work with are just marvellous, and we have such a good time, and such a lovely connection and bond throughout the show. So, I acknowledge the responsibility and the pressure, but I love it. Also, getting to be blonde is very cool; I have very, very long dark hair, so getting it under that tiny little wig is an event! (Laughs)
The last question is, in The Sound Of Music, the Von Trapp family have a lot of children. Do you think in real life you could cope with that many kids?
(Laughs) Oh, I know there’s a lot of children! I don’t know. I think if they were all my brothers and sisters and or nieces and nephews, absolutely, because that’s what they feel like. I feel like I’ve adopted them while they’re on stage, and if they were all as charming and as lovely as these children are, absolutely I could handle it! Yeah, I would be blessed to have children like the ones in this show; they really are little beauties!