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Hayden Thomas interviews American Idiot's Amelia Lily
After finishing in third place on the 2011 edition of "The X Factor," Amelia Lily is now embarking on a career in the theatre. She has already completed a UK Tour as the Narrator in 'Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and is currently making her West End debut as Whatsername in the West End premiere of Green Day's American Idiot at the Arts Theatre.
Our reporter Hayden Thomas (Twitter: @WestEndReporter) popped down to the Arts to catch up with Middlesbrough's finest.
Hayden Thomas: You are 12 weeks into your run in the West End premiere of Green Day's 'American Idiot' at the Arts Theatre. How are you feeling? Are you shattered?
Amelia Lily: I'm really, really enjoying it and I'm actually a bit sad that it's ending on November 22nd. But I feel I've learned so much by doing this show. It's been something completely different - nothing like I've ever done before - taking my clothes off on stage and all that... Woohoo! But it's been such a great vibe on stage every night and I will miss it.
HT: Do you ever get used to taking your clothes off on stage? How was the experience of having to do that for the first time?
AL: I was really scared! Rehearsals were the worst to be honest. I was petrified of doing this bed scene. I kept saying: "Oh my God! I really don't like it!" But then once you've done it the once, it just become routine. I just have a laugh with it now. It's like that awkward first time of young lovers getting into the bedroom for the first time, so you can actually make it quite comical in a way.
HT: It's a bit like being on a nudest beach, I suppose. The first half an hour, it's dreadful and you don't know where to look, but after that you feel like a complete free spirit in all your glory!
AL: (Laughs) That's exactly it!
HT: So how would you recommend 'American Idiot' to non-Green Day fans?
AL: Well, this is the thing. Before I signed up for it, I thought to myself: "Is this just for Green Day fans?" But it's a musical! It was a concept album that was written and then turned into a musical. It's just like any other theatrical production made for the stage. Yes, it's a little more hardcore in terms of the music, but it's big, it's bold, it's in-your-face and I think the way the story flows with the songs is just brilliant. What Green Day have done with this is absolutely amazing. I would definitely come and see this show, even though I didn't know much about Green Day, other than their hit songs. It's such a fun show and so full-on.
HT: It does have that power to reach a new kind of audience too - an audience that wouldn't necessarily go to the theatre often. I think that's a positive thing, introducing them to this new world of theatre. But a bit more about your character, how do you perceive her function in the narrative?
AL: So my character is called 'Whatsername'... which is strange. And I don't know whether she's real or not. I don't know if she is part of Johnny's imagination or if she's real. I can never put my finger on that. But that's what I like about it. She might just be a hallucination. I think what's interesting is that Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day's Frontman) said in an interview that Whatsername is the most powerful character in the show. She does have this ballsy attitude about her and I also think that she is very caring. She is a very sensitive girl. She sees Johnny at gunpoint. She can be a hysterical girlfriend, but she also rejects him when he chooses drugs over her. She has a journey through the show herself. She shows a humble, emotional side, but then comes out and sings "Letterbomb" and really lets loose! It's a real Girl Power song! It's been challenging for me as an actress and I've loved taking on the part.
HT: How do you interpret the ending of the musical for both your character and Johnny?
AL: I think it was a one-off thing with him and her. I think she's gone on to do better things and he's sorting himself out. The show leaves it on a bit of a cliffhanger which I think is great because it leaves you wanting a bit more. Maybe there could be an American Idiot 2?
HT: Mr Armstrong will have to get cracking with the next album then! So we touched on this before, but you're actually working with your real-life partner Steve Rushton, who plays Will in the show. However, your onstage partner is Aaron Sidwell as Johnny. Has it been #Awkward? How has that whole experience been for you?
AL: Steve is actually on stage singing the song as me and Aaron are doing the bedroom scene! Steve doesn't watch and I'd like to keep it that way. But it is a job. He has to do some intense scenes with Natasha (Barnes) who he works with. It is what it is. We've both signed up to do a job. We have to give it our best shots...
HT: And look away and think of England at the appropriate moments!
AL: (Laughs) Exactly!
HT: So after finishing with "The X Factor" in 2011, how long did it actually take before the theatre offers started coming in? Was the UK tour of 'Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' this year your first offer?
AL: Yes, that was my first offer. This year has been so spontaneous. I just can't get my head around it. In January, I got a phonecall asking what I was doing for the next six months, as they needed a Narrator for 'Joseph.' I know 'Joseph' really well. My brother Lewis actually played Joseph in the West End. I knew the Narrator role was gonna be a big sing. They then asked if I could come straight to rehearsal, learn the whole show in five days and then go on in Edinburgh. It literally happened overnight. I got called into Bill Kenwright's office, he offered it me there and then and then I went into rehearsals the next day. It was so bizarre. I had to learn 22 songs and the whole staging of it. I didn't think I was going to be able to do it. I went on for my own opening night in Edinburgh and I remember asking repeatedly "Is it Asha? Is it Asha? Is it Asha?" instead of all the other brothers' names. Well, I just felt like after I've done that, I can do anything. I conquered 'Joseph.' And 'American Idiot' happened as I was coming to the end of the 'Joseph' tour. I got a phonecall from my agent saying the Green Day musical is coming to town and do I wanna go in for it. I got that offer then while I was still doing 'Joseph.' It all came out of the blue. Sometimes life is better when it's sponateneous like that and that's been my journey so far this year.
HT: Well, my hat really goes off to you for learning such a huge role in five days. I'm sure even hardened theatre veterans would have struggled with that too.
AL: I nearly lost my mind. But I did it and I'm proud of myself for getting through it.
HT: And after you've got through 'American Idiot' by the end of November, are there any other theatrical aspirations for the future?
AL: There's actually a few things in the pipeline at the minute, which I'm not allowed to speak about, but I'm also doing panto this year, which I'm really excited about. I don't really know what kinda shows I would like to do next. I'd look forward to another spontaneous year, to be honest. This year has been great and I really do love theatre. I've been doing it for almost a year now and it does feel like home. I grew up with a theatre school. I went to a dance school and we did lots of theatre productions. This is something that I always wanted to do as a child. I've had a taste of two very different shows so far and I'm ready for the next challenge. There's been lots of talk about "True Love" (a musical in development based on the life and music of P!nk) and that truly would be a dream to play my idol.
Green Day's American Idiot is booking through to 22 November 2015 at the West End's Arts Theatre.