Danielle Hope made her professional debut as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium, after capturing the hearts of the country and winning the BBC's smash hit Over The Rainbow - which saw her take the show crown having having competed against more than 9,000 girls.
She has since starred as Eponine in the West End production of Les Miserables, Cathy in The Last Five Years, Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Maria Rainer in The Sound of Music (National Tour).
Danielle talks us through her theatre career, how she fills her time between shows, and explains why you need to go ans see her current show, Grease, when it arrives at Milton Keynes Theatre next week...
Tell us about your first memory of the theatre…
I think the first thing I ever saw on stage was CATS, it was in Manchester. I managed to sneak onto my friends (she was in the year above me and was already at high school) – school trip with them on the coach. Obviously, the teachers knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there! It was just amazing – and ever since then I haven’t stopped going to the theatre.
And the moment when you realised the theatre was your calling…
Me and my best friend when we were 11 (year 6, final year of primary school) watched the movie GREASE every day until we wrote down all the script and we put it on with our entire year as like an end of year show, and it was the first time they had ever done that and as of then they now do shows every end of year in year 6.
It was the first time I ever thought I’d even stand on a stage, I wasn’t one of those kids who went to drama class, I was really shy – so for me GREASE is the thing that gave me the bug for theatre, so it’s cool that now I get to do the show professionally.
Any dreadful calamities, or funny happenings on stage that you would care to share with us?
My first job I worked with dogs and children… that says everything! There was definitely a ToTo whoopsie on the yellow brick road – that was very difficult to try and clean up while you’re singing to some Munchkins.
Which stage actor, living or dead, would you most like to meet, and what question would you ask them?
I don’t know… such a hard question!
Do you have any superstitions, or pre-performance routines?
I think it’s good to stay away from real set, strict routines, because anything can happen in live theatre and it’s very easy for you not to be able to perform those routines – so I think the least superstitious you are the better, because things are different every night.
There are certain comforts that I like, that I call my anchors, I like crystals and I have a bag of angel cards and I pick a different one every day. So, I guess my routine is… keep it different.
The best piece of advice given to you when you started in the business…
I’ve been so blessed and been able to work with so many wonderful people. The first job I did I got to work with Michael Crawford, who has done EVERYTHING from stage and screen. I think the best piece of advice, which I don’t think just applies to ‘the business’ is to just be kind and be honest.
I think you should always act with humility and kindness in everything you do and you really can’t go wrong, because I think your attitude backstage reflects everywhere.
What do you think has been your steepest learning curve?
Every job I have done has been very different and challenged me in many different ways from animals to then having large groups of children to then touring the country, which changes everything, including your personal life!
I think my one woman show – my solo concert – was probably one of the most terrifying things, therefore something I learnt the most from – I did this in London and New York, both very different venues and audiences. I was learning what worked in one country and what necessarily doesn’t work in another, and recording an album from that. I learnt so much from that!
How do you fill your spare time while on tour?
So many things, because we get to visit all these amazing cities. Me and Louisa, who plays Rizzo, we love to find the best independent coffee place, the best independent restaurant and shops. I also make crystal jewellery, which is a good thing because it’s very easy to tour and keeps my hands busy.
Nerves or excitement? Which takes over just before the curtain rises?
New venues are always very nerve-racking because the stage shape changes and the set, and things like that! So when you’re running off into a dark wing you’re not sure whether you have 3 metres or just 1.
But, definitely excitement takes over once you hear the music start, I mean you can’t do anything else apart from be excited to share this wonderful show.
How can the future of theatre be safeguarded? What would you do to entice new blood to audiences?
I think theatre is doing very well and I know that they did a version of Grease live on the television recently, which was very similar to the stage version but it showed the backstage stuff too.
I know we’ve had an influx of younger people coming, who have been introduced to Grease as well as their mums and dads, grandparents, aunties and uncles who grew up with the original version.
I have been in the back of Taxi’s, and the drivers have said ‘Oh, that was mine and my wife’s first date watching Grease’, and then there’s 10 year olds who are like ‘Oh, I watched Grease live, so we’re going to see Grease’, so I think making theatre very accessible and open to all ages is important, and it’s so, so doable these days with social media platforms.
You can’t beat live theatre – it’s a one off, every single day is different. You can watch the same thing on repeat on Netflix and stuff but it never beats the buzz of live theatre.
Now tell us about the three favourite roles you have played so far, and what makes them special.
1 My first one, which was Dorothy. I’ve been very challenged in my career because everything I have done has been an iconic movie, including obviously Grease, Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz – with amazing actresses had taken on these roles previously, and who are well loved by the public. But Dorothy was very special for me.
2 Grease is very special to me because it’s where it all started. Sandy is such an amazing role – she gets to make a massive transformation, it’s not often one character gets to make an entire transformation during one show.
3 The Last Five Years – I did a small production of. I played the part of Cathy. We did it in Greenwich and Brighton, and it’s basically two people in the whole show who don’t communicate, so it’s like a one woman show. It was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life, but it gave me the confidence to go on and do my solo show and create my album.
Finally, for those yet to grab a ticket to GREASE, sell the show.
Grease has got everything you want, the characters, the songs, the costumes, the colour! Everything familiar that you want from Grease, everyone singing along. It’s high energy, it’s a fantastic cast with a new but fresh spark to fill all your wonderful needs! It’s good for all ages – come and join the fun!
> Never miss leisure news in Milton Keynes - Follow us on Twitter: @thisistotalmk
And on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thisistotalmk