TONIGHT Bullets Over Broadway opens in Memphis at the Orpheum. Last week I spoke with Michael Williams about his lead role in the show, and today I bring you an in-depth interview with Jemma Jane who plays the role of Olive Neal. Jemma hails from Australia and is a recent graduate of AMDA.
In the interview Jemma explains how she was casted in the role, how her training at ADMA prepared her for a huge show like this and why you should come see it.
Tickets are for sale now and links are below!
- Hey Jemma! As a recent Academy graduate, what did you learn from your time in school that has helped you in your first national tour?
AMDA teaches its students to work; it is not a school that only trains its art; it teaches you how to book. For me, this philosophy is what allowed me to book Bullets even before graduating AMDA. In addition to having skill and technique, you must know how to prep your work, audition and be professional, not only did AMDA teach me these things but it also allows its fourth semester students to audition during the day whilst taking their classes at night; this meant that I was attending open calls during the day before showcase rehearsals; without this I never would have been able to go in for the Bullets open call; let alone book it. I think that one of the most important lessons that I took from AMDA was how to work in any environment, being on the road isn’t always easy, its amazing and most of the time it is so much fun but sometimes it can be strenuous too; sitting on a bus all day before arriving at a new venue and jumping right into a show can be tough but I think that being a part of a rigorous conservatory program prepared me for this, you know that it doesn’t matter how much sleep you have or haven’t had, you were hired to do a job and you are lucky to have a job so no matter what, you show up, and do your job.
- You have been in multiple Australian shows. Was it daunting breaking into the American musical scene?
Making the move to New York was something that I always knew I would do, the industry is much older and fuller in the States than it is back home and so I always knew that I would end up here. Even so, moving to the other side of the world and into one of the most unstable careers was a little daunting! But mostly it was exciting! It was a little easier for me as well because I was moving to NYC to attend college; I didn’t have to jump right into the audition pool straight off the plane! I think that this world is daunting though, it was then and it still is! The sheer magnitude of people trying to do exactly what you are trying to do is unfathomable but I suppose it comes down in part to drive and belief; when I went to the Bullets open call, I signed up at 5:30 in the morning and by around midday there were 400 girls there. And this was just the singer call! But I stayed and I was seen and I was fortunate enough to be called back again and again until I booked! This industry is not easy and its often not kind but it is so very worth the work when you are working on a project that you believe in with incredible directors, creative’s and performers and when you get to go to work everyday doing what you love.
- What have you learned while touring with Bullets Over Broadway?
Bullets has taught me a lot! I’ve learnt what a wandelprobe is, I’ve learnt not to eat a big dinner between two-shows! This is the longest running production that I have been a part of and so I think I have really learnt what that is like; what it is like to live in this world, for it to be my life everyday and to live in the world of a show and a character for an extended period of time and I have learnt that I love it.
- Tell the readers about your character Olive Neal. Who is she?
Olive Neal is a young, independent woman who wants to be a star. She came from nothing and is not academically intelligent but has street smarts in bucket loads and knows how to use people to get her what she wants. Sporting a gratingly nasal Jersey accent and dripping in pink feathers and frippery, people often mark Olive as “dumb” and “trashy” however I find her to be endearing, intelligent and completely free and open. Olive’s tragic flaw is her inability to see those around her; she has blinders on to the rest of the world and sees only what she wants and not how her choices effect those around her, she is quite childlike in this way.
- What sets Bullets Over Broadway apart from other touring shows?Being a First National Tour, Bullets is unlike many other touring productions; we have the original costumes from Broadway, a lot of the original set; minus the pieces that couldn’t fit on a bus! We also worked with all of the original creative team including Susan Stroman and Andy Einhorn and then taking Jeff Whiting and Clare Cook, who were both on the original team, for our director and choreographer! This is not all that common for a national tour and I think it has an impact on the show. The dancing in Bullets is spectacular and Susan Stroman made sure that her choreography was replicated to her standards as did Andy with the musical direction. I think that on the flip side however, being a First National, we were still playing, Jeff Whiting had ideas about this show, it’s still growing and so when we got into rehearsals it wasn’t a matter of recreating a show for the 50th time, we were almost creating the show and the characters anew, only one other person had ever portrayed these people before us and that is special. There’s a lot of love and care in this production from all sides, Jeff and Clare still visit us on tour, and building it in rehearsals was the best experience I’ve ever had
- What are your favorite numbers to perform in Bullets Over Broadw
The whole show is just a blast for me, everytime I think I know the answer to this question I remember how much I love another scene! Some of my favourite moments are The Hot Dog Song, Let’s Misbehave and Runnin’ Wild.
The Hot Dog Song is the first time that David Shayne, the playwright, and his producer, Julian Marx, meet Olive. In order to impress the pair in the hopes of getting a larger part in the show Olive performs for them a number that used to stop the show every night in one of her old club shows. Olive performs this number as a sort of ‘peacocking’, she is sure that it is so incredibly impressive that the boys will be blown away by her talent; throw in some giant dancing hot dogs and how can they not be? David and Julian don’t exactly have the response that Olive was hoping for however. This number is always so much fun for me because it is the point at which the audience really starts to understand the world of the show and the world of Olive and It’s where I really am able to get a feel for them and their energy.
Let’s Misbehave is another real stand out moment for me in the show as it’s a delicious tug-of-war seduction scene between Olive and Warner; another actor with whom she has developed an interest. The choreography of this number is beautifully crafted so that the two are constantly coming together and then pulling away, building the tension all the while and showing off to each other as they do so. This number is a whole lot of fun to me, Olive has such a clear intention during the scene and playing against our incredible Warner (and Dance Captain), Bradley Allan, Zarr, is a joy every night.
Runnin’ Wild is a lot of fun for me because it is the closing of act 1, it is a huge ensemble number and we really are running wild. Olive is running between hiding with Warner and bidding farewell to her boyfriend Nick while gagsters prowl the background and gorgeous showgirls personify the train itself, the energy is high, the staging is artful and the number is fun and exciting! Not to mention my outfit matches my luggage.
- How would you describe the show to someone who has never seen it?
Bullets Over Broadway is a big, Broadway comedy. It is filled with every type of humour from slapstick bordering on farce to witty, Woody Allen intellect and innuendo. There is something and someone for everybody in this show and I feel it’s impossible not to relate to some character or aspect of the show. It is full of gorgeous showgirls with impeccable technique, dancing gangsters; menacing and deadly and giant dancing hot dogs! It is a show for those people ready to come and have a fabulous time.
- What keeps you motivated to continue performing the show every night?
Before opening this show I wondered if I would ever reach a point where I was less excited for it. I can now safely say that it hasn’t happened yet and I doubt it ever will. That is the beauty of live theatre; the show is different every night and the crowd is different every night, which gives you an entirely different experience from show to show! I aim to listen and respond in my work as honestly and impulsively as I can; you know what you want from the scene and you have done the work so that you can be at a point to where you can respond in the moment and it will still take the scene to the place that it needs to go. This is a wonderful place to be because it keeps you excited and experiencing moments for the first time! Even now after more than 160 shows I am finding new things and I would be a fool to think that I could ever know and find everything about a show; every option and every facet; that’s what makes it exciting!
Having said that, there are nights that you are tired or under the weather and you might think you’d rather stay in bed with a tv show and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s however it’s in those moments that you remind yourself of how fortunate you are to have a job because that is not the norm of the majority of people in this field. You remind yourself that there is another 5’ 3” blonde in New York waiting tables. That’s all it takes to get you to the show and honestly, the tiredness usually passes by the time you feel the audience. I love my job and I love the work and so I love to do my job. If I ever need reminding of that it just takes one kind word from an audience member or one moment of reflection on what I’m paid to do everyday. Sing about hot dogs.
- Finally, why should audiences come see the show in Memphis?
Audiences should come to see the show in Memphis because they’d be crazy to miss it! With Susan Stroman’s original direction and choreography and Woody Allen’s hilarious book reworked and maintained by the incredible Jeff Whiting and Clare Cook along with all the honesty and hilarity that this show has to offer; I can’t see what would keep somebody away.
Ticket info is below!
DATES: May 16 – 22, 2016
· Monday, May 16, 2016 7:30 PM
• Tuesday, May 17, 2016 7:30 PM
• Wednesday, May 18, 2016 7:30 PM
• Thursday, May 19, 2016 7:30 PM
• Friday, May 20, 2016 8:00 PM
• Saturday, May 21, 2016 2:00 PM
• Saturday, May 21, 2016 8:00 PM
• Sunday, May 22, 2016 1:00 PM
TICKETS: $25 – $125
BOX OFFICE: 901.525.3000
GROUP SALES: 901.529.4226