October 9, 2008

Success in a Flash

By Steve Pratt

Victoria Hamilton-Barrit chats to Steve Pratt about landing the starring role in Flashdance ? The Musical and reveals what it?s like to work with Arlene Phillips, who invited her to audition

TOUGH-talking choreographer Arlene Phillips speaks highly of singer, dancer and actress Victoria Hamilton-Barritt.

Looking for a leading lady for the stage version of the film Flashdance, she remembered the performer from a production of Saturday Night Fever and invited her to audition.

?She?s the only girl who we believe can sing, act and dance this role to the standard we need, ? says Phillips, one of the hard- hitting judges on BBC1?s Strictly Come Dancing.

She was lucky Hamilton-Barritt was available. She would?ve been on stage in another musical, Desperately Seeking Susan, except it?s London West End run was short-lived.

?The Flashdance people had been auditioning for months, ? she says. ?I was doing Desperately Seeking Susan and knew they had auditions for Flashdance, but thought I wouldn?t make it. Then our production only lasted two months in the West End and by that time they still hadn?t found someone to play Alex. ? Alex is the central character in Flashdance ? The Musical, which is based on the Paramount Pictures film about an 18-year-old welder by day and flashdancer by night, whose dream is a place at a prestigious dance academy.

Hamilton-Barritt says of the auditions: ?It was a long, gruelling experience. I think the first audition lasted four hours, the second seven hours and the final one fourand-a-half hours. ? Although Alex is a dancer, the role calls for acting and singing skills too. ?You have to feel confident with all three, ? she says.

?I?m nearly always on stage. It?s literally taking a quick sip of water or doing a quick costume change. You need stamina to do eight shows a week. ? Now she?s in the middle of a year-long tour that?s taking her to theatres up and down the country, including York and Sunderland this month. She admits it can get tiring and she hasn?t got the easiest job in the world but says, ?I absolutely love what I do. ? It helps that the show?s winning good reviews and the rest of the cast are great to work with. They include Bruno Langley, best known as Todd Grimshaw in ITV?s Coronation Street; Bernie Nolan and former Hear?say singer Noel Sullivan.

?I know they saw a lot of girls for the part, it was just a bit of luck on my side, ? she says.

?A rlene?s pretty tough. She had a reputation for being tough in the industry long before she was on Strictly Come Dancing and those other TV shows. I?ve known her for most of my little career, about eight years. She?s always been a bit ofa tyrant and boss lady. But we respect that and wouldn?t want it any other way. ? As for Flashdance, she feels that most people are aware of the film which she ?absolutely loved? when she was a child.

Her mum and her friends were fans too, so she wasn?t alone in her liking for the film that starred Jennifer Beals.

?I remember watching and thinking, ?I want to be like her, that?s what I want to do?. Little did I know I would be doing it for the stage production, ? she says.

Ask her what the hardest part of Flashdance ? The Musical is and she opts for the What A Feeling audition dance sequence. ?That?s an iconic thing from the film. At the beginning, I found people?s expectations meant there was quite a bit of pressure. If I got a little worried about something, it would always be because I wanted to do it right, ? she explains.

The score of the stage show includes the Oscar-winning title track Flashdance ? What A Feeling as well as songs including Maniac, Gloria and I Love Rock And Roll.

But it?s different to the film, not least that, unlike Beals, Hamilton-Barritt does all her own dancing. A dancer, a gymnast and a male dancer (for the break-dance bits) stood in for Beals in the dance scenes on screen.

She began dancing when she was three, with the singing and acting coming later. ?I was always a bit of an actor but singing I didn?t find until I was 13 or 14. I realised I absolutely loved to once I found my voice.

?I used to do dancing school shows and take part in dancing competitions, which I was never too fond of so mum and dad pulled me out of competitions. ? Since she started working professionally, she?s appeared in a series of musicals in the West End and on tour, including Mamma Mia, Fame, Saturday Night Fever and West Side Story.

When we spoke earlier she was home in London, as the show is playing at Wimbledon Theatre this week. Most of the time she?s away from her family and fiance.

?Most of them are one-week runs, so it?s pretty tough. You get one day offand that?s a Sunday. Like everyone else you want to chill out and relax, but you tend to be travelling to next venue. ? Her fiancee, who doesn?t work in the business, is used to her being away a lot of time. ?It?s not as bad as when I first started out. I?m able to get home from time to time, ? she says.

Flashdance ? The Musical is at Yo rk Grand Opera House from Oct 13-18, Box Office: 0844-8472322 or online grandoperahouseyork. org uk) and Sunderland Empire from Oct 20-25 (0844-8472499 or online sunderlandempire. org. uk)

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