Since leaving Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in 2003, Abbie Osmon has had a varied and eclectic career. As a session singer, she has performed backing vocals for Mike And The Mechanics and toured with Phil Collins; in the theatre she has understudied the role of Meat in We Will Rock You, been the alternate to Elena Roger’s Evita in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2006 revival at the Adelphi, and performed in the revue Side By Side By Sondheim. Now, the 28-year-old is relishing the chance to shine in her first lead role in a major West End musical. Osmon tells Caroline Bishop about the challenge of playing ethereal elf Galadriel in The Lord Of The Rings.
Are you enjoying your time playing Galadriel in The Lord Of The Rings?
AO: Oh it’s fantastic, what a show to be in. It’s a very exciting experience to be having, I’ve got to say. It’s not daunting, it’s exciting. I think everyone’s learning new skills and being challenged, which is really great to do. They’ve all been very welcoming to me.
Laura Michelle Kelly created the role. How did you feel about following on from her?
AO: I think, you know, obviously she was wonderful in the part. Very big shoes to fill, I was aware of that, but also I was very keen to put my own stamp on it. I was encouraged to make the part my own.
How do you play Galadriel?
AO: I suppose she’s such a wonderfully strong and powerful force, and I think intimidates everybody that comes across her, but at the same time has this ability to make them very calm and at peace. She’s a magical character, there’s not much human about her. She is telepathic, she can read minds, she can see into the future, she gets messages from beyond and you know, she’s a hugely powerful person. The music and everything is so beautifully written to go along with that and I think also the staging, the way it is lit, the costumes, it all just makes her this formidable force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t feel emotion, like we understand as humans, which is a really interesting thing to play because there’s a certain sadness. She has to give up her glorious world which she created which she feels is her child. And to have to part with that for the good of the world obviously is a hugely sad and traumatic experience, but she doesn’t feel it in the same way we would, which is really interesting to play.
You sing in Elvish. Do you know what the words mean?
AO: Yes we do. I don’t have to do a lot of it but when I sing in Elvish it’s all to do with letting go of my beautiful Lothlorien, my world. And also when I do the cry, she’s trying to draw strength to not be taken by the ring that Frodo possesses, and to overcome that, which is at the same point she realises what has to be done, that she has to give everything up. So at that point we see her as human as you can.
When they [the first cast] originally learnt [Elvish] they had all sorts of coaching, but when I came in I was very much taught exactly how to say it, the details have been very careful. So I was taught but when you read it, it’s fairly clear anyway; it’s just like any other language you have to learn really. I’m sure there are people who speak fluent Elvish! I think people can understand by the body language and how we are playing it, and they get a sense of the meaning of it, like Shakespeare really, if Shakespeare is done well. Though it’s not our usual tongue you still get a strong sense of the meaning.
You wear very elaborate costumes – does it take a long time to prepare each night?
AO: It does. We’ve got it down now but at first it took quite a long time. About an hour, because there’s a lot of makeup, and wigs, and then the costume which is double corsetry, it takes a long time to get on.
I made the mistake a couple of weeks ago of having a normal sized meal between the matinee and evening performances and I was nearly sick, coming flying down! You certainly don’t want to be on a full stomach doing this show!
This is your first proper leading role in a West End show…
AO: Well, I was alternate Evita when that came across so that was my first… I suppose my first West End was We Will Rock You and I covered Meat [as understudy], and I got on quite a lot, so that was my first experience of playing a West End lead. With Evita I was only doing two shows a week, and it was very much Elena’s [Roger] part, so I suppose this is the first experience that anything has actually been mine. It’s fantastic. You really can embrace it and live it and embody the character. You haven’t got as many restraints, because when a part is created around somebody else it’s very restricting with what you can do when you go on and do it twice a week, whereas with this I’m much freer.
Did you enjoy Evita despite those restrictions?
AO: It was fantastic, what an experience! There are few parts you can play that I think can beat that, and I did it right at the beginning of my career! It’s the wrong way round really – I’d love to go back and play it one day.
I suppose there were some frustrations but really I just got on and enjoyed it for what it was. Elena Roger was such an inspiration to me because she was so wonderful in the part. I looked at it very much as a learning experience; I really learnt a hell of a lot doing that. It stood me in good stead for the rest of my career you know.
Why did you want to get into this career?
AO: Musical theatre is the culmination of my biggest passions, singing, dance and acting. It's always felt natural for me to express myself though these three outlets. For as long as I can remember I've always been – as my mother put it so brilliantly – showing off! As a kid my parents ferried me about all over to various music and dance lessons. Every Saturday I went to the Royal Academy of Music to study flute and piano, and my mum being a music teacher taught me everything which gave me a massive head start. Although, I'm convinced I get it from my dad who would always sing Ella Fitzgerald songs to me at breakfast.
I first fell in love with musicals when I watched West Side Story for the first time. It had a profound effect on me which nothing has topped since.
Did you ever consider another career?
AO: I did consider making flute my career. I did all the grades and developed my musicality from that, but it was when I got braces and couldn't play any more that I started singing more and found that that was where my true passion lay. I think my parents would have liked me to be a flautist. When I told them I wanted to go into musical theatre I think I took a few years off them! But they've always been so supportive and just want me to be happy, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to be one of the few people in the world to make their dreams come true. Now my parents are very, very proud!
You have had a lot of varied experiences since leaving Mountview in 2003. Do you have a favourite?
I can't choose a favourite! I've been so lucky to have experienced so much, and the bad experiences have been just as important as the good because I've learnt so much from them. However I probably had the most fun on tour.
What are your plans for the future, after The Lord Of The Rings?
AO: There's so much I'd love to do. I'd love to travel more with work; I love being away and seeing new things, experiencing other cultures.
I'd love to create a role in an original musical. I'd love to make a completely self-indulgent album of songs I love to sing. Any chance I get I love to experiment with different voices and styles, so any opportunities that come up I will grab with both hands.
The Lord Of The Rings plays at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until 19 July.