26th March, 2015
The last time popular Welsh singer Shân Cothi trod the boards of the West End was when she sang the role of Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera. She has been enticed back this month to understudy Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson in the role of rough Cockney schemer Mrs Lovett in English National Opera’s semi-staged production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Shân made her debut in the role of Mrs Lovett last year at Llangollen International Eisteddfod with Bryn Terfel in the Title Role.
“Performing Mrs Lovett in Llangollen was a great introduction to the genre. People often ask me whether Sweeney is musical theatre or opera, but I think it’s more of a drama. The story is gripping and the music is smart. There’s a specific rhythm and dynamic to every word. There are no easy bits, no repetitiveness and it’s definitely not predictable. It’s a good workout for the brain!”
“I never thought I’d get the opportunity to perform such a role. I didn’t have a répétiteur when I first learnt the role, as you would normally have with an opera, so it was a real challenge for me. I was fully aware that the audience would be full of people who knew Stephen Sondheim’s work inside out, so I had a lot to live up to. It’s great to have the opportunity now to explore her character in greater depth with ENO.”
Shân has been fortunate enough to do some of the production rehearsals whilst Emma has been away filming.
“Lonny Price, the Director has inspired me. I’ve thought a lot about how I want to present this mature, scheming, rough old Cockney bird to the audience. There have been some amazing performers who have played the role, people like Angela Lansbury, who was the original Mrs Lovett, and of course Emma, who won critical acclaim in the role in New York last year. Although I have not intentionally projected a part of myself in the character, some of my natural mannerisms have gotten through – a laugh, a walk, a spark. It’s a collaboration of Shân and Mrs. Lovett."
“It’s a great honour to understudy Emma Thompson and it adds to the list of experiences in my career that have inspired me. When you’re young you want to do everything, but as you mature, you realise it’s the quality of work that matters, to work with the best and do to the best. I aim to be the best that I can be.”
Shân has a busy time ahead. After finishing with ENO she goes into the studio to finish recording the tracks for her new album, due to be released this Autumn. She then embarks on a tour of churches around Wales to promote the album.
Bryn Terfel, Emma Thompson and John Owen- Jones will appear in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the Coliseum, London from Monday 30 March until 12th April.