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Centre Stage: Hannah Waddingham & Marin Mazzie

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 17 April 2008

The Palace theatre was awash with lake-dwelling ladies yesterday (10 January) as King Arthur (otherwise known as Peter Davison) welcomed his potential new Swedish co-stars in Monty Python’s Spamalot.

Yes, if you haven’t already heard, Swedish television channel TV3 is currently in the throes of a reality television talent contest to find a new Lady of the Lake for the West End production of Spamalot. The five finalists – who range from an army lieutenant to a show jumper – were over in the UK to meet the cast and the British press, before returning to Sweden to battle it out in front of the judges.

Joining them on stage were outgoing Lady of the Lake Hannah Waddingham, who leaves the show to join the Broadway production next week, and her American counterpart Marin Mazzie, who has just left Broadway’s Spamalot to spend a month as the London Lady before the winning Swede takes on the role.

Surrounded by singing Swedes, all of whom seemed to be looking on the bright side of life, Caroline Bishop grabbed a quick chat with Waddingham and Mazzie to find out how they feel about swapping productions and what tips they have for the new Swedish Lady of the Lake.

How are you feeling about your impending role swap?
Hannah Waddingham: I’m just glad that I’m feeling well-ish, because I’ve had this awful virus thing, and I’m still not quite over it.
Marin Mazzie: I’m jet lagged. We’ve all been sick too over there, it’s just that season. Especially in a theatre, it’s like a little petri dish, the bugs fly around and everyone gets sick.
HW: And trying to get luvvies to stop kissing each other, you’re like, no!

Are you anticipating any differences between the productions as you swap between West End and Broadway?
MM:
Well we were talking earlier. I think the audiences are different.
HW: I think that’s pretty much the only thing really that’s going to feel very different
MM: I think the audiences in London are quieter actually, more reserved. And people admit that. I remember when I did Kiss Me Kate here [in 2001, for which she was Laurence Olivier Award-nominated], I would say ‘you didn’t laugh’ and [they’d say] ‘we loved it, we don’t laugh out loud, don’t be offended’.
HW: What is that all about?! I don’t get it. So I’m going to feel like I’m at Wembley!
MM: And I’ll be like ‘I must suck’!
HW: The other thing that’s nice is, you know, because we’re both swapping over we know the roles inside out, so that’s an element you can take out. There’s the odd word different or moving round the stage in a different way sometimes… but other than that it will be pretty much the same.
MM: It’s also a very singular part. There’s one scene, one duet, everything else you’re on your own, so you really can do your own thing in a sense of you don’t have to fit in so much with what other people have done, or it doesn’t matter if people are doing stuff around you, you can do your own thing.

Have you seen each other perform in the role?
HW: No we never even met!
MM: We just met today. I just got here last night, I haven’t even seen the show.
HW: I can’t actually believe I’m doing tonight, both shows tomorrow and flying on Saturday morning.
MM: Then you’ll have Sunday and Monday off.
HW: Thank God. Then rehearsing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then five shows.
MM: Today I have a dress tech rehearsal, in costume. Everyone in New York was like ‘are they out of their minds?’! Then I have Friday, Saturday… and I start Monday.

Do you keep your own costumes?
MM: Yes, my costumes are here and hers will be going.
HW: Mine are being shipped, I literally take them off and they’re gone.
MM: I did my last show Sunday night and they kept saying, get in the box with your clothes! You know, one thing would come off and they’d throw it in a box. Packed up my dressing room… kinda crazy.
HW: The costumes are worth a fortune. They’re my babies, I love my costumes.
MM: They’re beautiful, gorgeous.
HW: The first green one, every time I put it on, I just think mmmmm!

You’re swapping co-stars. Any advice for each other about what to expect?
HW:
I don’t know who I’m having!
MM: You’ve got Jonathan Hadary [King Arthur in the Broadway show]… who I love. He’s short, you’re going to tower over him, that’s gonna be hilarious, and really darling. You’ll love him; she’ll love everybody in New York and they’re going to love her. It’s a great company.
HW: I’m going to have to make sure I don’t turn into a token strange mid-Atlantic-ish American, because I’ve got such a keen ear I just naturally want to start talking like this…[lapses into an American accent]
[to Marin] Peter [Davison], who you don’t know… I have been a massive fan. Do you know of Doctor Who?
MM: I do but I’ve never seen it.
HW: He was my doctor when I was 10. He was my first ever heart throb. I even had a poster of him on my wall. So then when he was cast I was like…what? What did you say?! Every day I still go ‘hello Peter Davison’!
And you get to kiss him every night…
HW: I know! I have to say, if he wasn’t married… He’s definite husband material. Lovely, very strapping and very handsome. I am going to be sad to leave Peter actually. Tim Curry [the original King Arthur in the West End] I had such love for, we’re great buddies, but Peter and I have really formed a lovely friendship. He’s put in lots of kisses that I’m sure shouldn’t be there. But when they’re on stage they don’t count! Just pecks, you understand!

What tips would you give the finalists of the Swedish reality show about playing the role of the Lady of the Lake?
MM:
I think they have to bring a lot of their own thing, who they are, to the part. You have to have a lot of presence and confidence. Also, we were talking earlier about having vocal stamina and getting a lot of rest, because it’s a big thing and eight shows a week is a challenge to do. I don’t know any of their backgrounds, if they have done that.
HW: I think some of them have done professional shows but others haven’t. With this part particularly there has to be an element of technically singing it clean to keep yourself ready for the next show. And also they need to drink more water than their body can possibly take! It’s just insane. My dad always teases me about how much water I drink, but you have to. It’s so overused that you have to replace, drink, drink, drink.

Marin – you’re only in the West End production for a short time. What are your plans afterwards?
MM:
I’m just going to take a rest, I have some concerts lined up, I do a lot of concert work in the states. But not for a while. I’m going to visit some family and have some time off. My husband’s in a Broadway show right now but I’ll be home with our dog at night, so I’ll be happy!

Will you go and see Hannah on Broadway?
MM:
I definitely will!

Hannah Waddingham has her final performance in the UK tonight. Marin Mazzie plays the Lady of the Lake from 14 January. em>CB

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