Jodie Prenger stars in Annie at New Theatre Oxford
"Don’t start wearing hot pants, having loads of spray tans and getting your leg over with a footballer! That ain’t going to get you nowhere!"
Sam Bennett went along to the show’s launch at Wesley Memorial Church on New Inn Hall Street to talk fame, drinking and chocolate…
Jodie Prenger is in a world of musical theatre stardom, but she has been propelled into it due to television, having won BBC’s I’d Do Anything in 2008. It’s not the story of working your way up the rickety, splintering theatre ladder one stage show at a time that people respect and admire. I wondered if there was criticism of her because of this. “I think there will always be a slight element of that,” she said, “but I do say to them that I tried so hard and really did graft beforehand. And I work really hard and I try my best. I learn every day from the directors and choreographers – you’ve got to be this big sponge – and I absolutely love it.”
I often think it’s not about how you get somewhere but about what you do once your there. “Exactly” Jodie agreed. “Don’t get me on to this!” She said as if she was sat in the pub talking to a group of mates. “Don’t start wearing hot pants, having loads of spray tans and getting your leg over with a footballer! That ain’t going to get you nowhere!” Perhaps, in being someone who does what they do out of love, Jodie Prenger is a rarity. “It’s becoming more about the fame than the absolute love of the entertainment industry. Working on TV I’ve loved, doing radio I’ve loved, musical theatre I’ve loved – I just genuinely love it. And if I was never in a magazine or a newspaper (sounds awful because you’re here!) it wouldn’t bother me. Don’t get me wrong, when you do a shoot or something you get a nice frock, you get a free bag, and you get a sandwich if you’re lucky...it’s lovely but if it wasn’t there it wouldn’t bother me, as long as I could just get up and do what I love doing.”
Given her demeanour during our interview, Jodie’s response to my question regarding how she deals with having a load of kids backstage was not surprising. “I’m the worst to be put with kids because I’m on the same mental level. So if they want to play hop-scotch backstage I’ll join in.” Not cruel to children or a heavy drinker (despite brewing her own sloe gin) she is some way from the character of Miss Hannigan. She must have enjoyed a few beverages before going on stage during her days on the cabaret circuit though? “No I was very strict with myself and I still am.” She told me. “I like a nice little port but it does dry your voice out – I sound like a mother don’t I?” According to the performer, musical theatre people will stand at bars and do a little vocal run to assess whether they can afford to order a red wine. Having heard it isn’t wise to eat dairy before singing I asked Jodie whether this was true. “Sometimes I find chocolate helps to coat my throat and stop me coughing,” she replied, “hence my backside!”
Whatever she does to protect her vocals it appears to be working. Annie is produced by Michael Harrison and David Ian. Ian cited Prenger’s vocal ability as an asset to the character of Miss Hannigan, who has got “big belt songs”. During the launch the producers discussed the show more generally; with Harrison saying “whether you’ve seen Annie 100 times or you’re seeing it for the first time, the story touches you” and Ian stating that “You come out of it feeling good”. Their sentiments were echoed by Jodie while she talked to me: “Simon, my fiancé, before meeting me, had never seen a musical. He came to see Annie and said it was amazing. There are certain shows that just have that appeal to people and I honestly believe Annie is one of them. If you go in and don’t smile you need to check into the mental hospital – it’s so heart-warming, it’s beautiful.”
After Annie, Jodie takes on Tell Me on a Sunday (music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black). It's a one woman show which sounds like a challenging affair for her, after working so much in shows with other actors on stage to support her; but at least she'll have an orchestra's backing and, anyway, nothing can phase someone who can make sloe gin and hopscotch!
Annie is running from 15 December-3 January.
Annie tickets can be purchased from the New Theatre box office on George Street, by ringing 0844 871 3020 or by visiting our website (phone and internet bookings subject to booking/transaction fee).
For bookings of 10 or more, or for Equal Access bookings, please call our dedicated in-house team on 0844 871 3040.
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