‘Opening in Love Never Dies tonight will be a moment I’ll never forget’
This evening Bangor’s Niamh Perry is on stage for the opening night of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new show. She tells Peter Robertson about love, life and the West End
In May 2008, Niamh Perry from Bangor was gutted to only take fifth place in the BBCTV audition series I’d Do Anything.
Jodie Prenger went on to win the part of Nancy in the London stage musical Oliver! which the 12 girls on the TV show had been desperately competing for.
Later this month on March 27, Jodie’s run in Oliver! comes to an end, but ask Niamh if she’d like to play Nancy now and she says: “It’s a brilliant role and Jodie was brilliant in it, but I’m not really interested.”
This is because Niamh is about to originate the key role of Fleck in a brand new show opening in London’s West End tonight — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his classic Phantom Of The Opera, entitled Love Never Dies.
“Opening in Love Never Dies is something I will never forget. Along with making the final 12 for I’d Do Anything, this is one of my top achievements,” says Niamh.
“The fact that I get to originate a role in Andrew’s most recent creation is a major thing in my life. Since I was a child I’ve loved musical theatre, so this is a dream come true. I keep having to pinch myself.”
Love Never Dies was already a possibility for Niamh when she lost a sing-off to Belfast’s Rachel Tucker in Week 8 of I’d Do |Anything.
“When the TV series was going-on, I was told about Love Never Dies. At that stage I was in the ensemble, doing workshops with some of the other Nancy |contestants.
“When I was voted off I’d Do Anything, Andrew told me he’d see me play a lead role by the time I was 20. Then Andrew and the director saw me sing in cabaret at Andrew’s house in Hampshire.
“They must have seen a different side to me and realised they wanted me for this show. From then I began workshops as Fleck.”
In this show set on New York’s Coney Island, 10 years after the Phantom’s mysterious disappearance from the Paris Opera House, Fleck is one of the Phantom’s cronies — and a freaky character, which Niamh relishes.
“My make-up takes about half an hour, and I’ve a couple of quick costume changes, but it’s fun and I get to look like a completely |different person.”
At 19, Niamh is the youngest member of the cast. She’s also the only Northern Irish one, as she was when she played Sophie in the London production of Mamma Mia! from June to December 2009.
“There are a lot of talented Irish people in this industry; it just so happens that in the two West End shows I’ve done I’ve been the token Paddy!
“I like it. People are constantly talking to me in my accent, because they find it hilarious. The directors are all American and they can’t stop laughing when I’m speaking.
“I’m glad I haven’t lost my Irish accent because it’s part of where I’m from. Fleck is American, |Sophie in Mamma Mia! is English, and Nancy is a Cockney, but fortunately I’ve never had a problem doing different accents.
“No one else in the cast knew until two weeks ago that I’m 19. I didn’t think it was necessary to mention my age, but people thought I was in my mid-20s.
“I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing! But there’s no way I could act like a 19-year old in this industry because you have to make big decisions and fend for yourself, and you’re constantly surrounded by people who are older.
“There are times when I wonder what it would be like to be a normal 19-year-old living a student life at uni, but what I’m doing now is what I’ve always wanted.”
Supporting Niamh from the audience at this evening’s opening night will be her mother, Zaron, and father, Liam, (who are both headteachers), her sister Ciara (who’s 22 and a student at university in Chester), and her boyfriend Luke Kempner (an actor currently touring in Les Miserables). “I can’t wait, but I haven’t even had time to buy a dress for the party afterwards and I’m panicking a bit about that,” admits Niamh.
Niamh hasn’t been home to Northern Ireland since Christmas and doesn’t expect to again until May.
“I miss Northern Ireland a lot, but the longer I’m away the more it means to me when I go back. All my life my parents have had the same house, and so many great memories are there.
“A couple of my friends from Northern Ireland are also in England now and we meet up quite a lot, but the Irish bars over here are usually fake so I only go to the real ones back home.”
Niamh shares a flat in Chiswick, West London, with Samantha Barks, who’s 19 and came third in I’d Do Anything, and Samantha’s Chihuahua puppy, Lily.
Niamh explains: “Samantha’s parents own the flat and it’s lovely — about to be fitted with a new kitchen.
“But, rather than pay rent to someone else, I’d like to have my own mortgage. Now I have a regular income, my main goal is to buy my own place and set myself up for the long-term.
“I’d like to stay in this part of West London — it’s nice, peaceful, safe and suburban, which reminds me of where I come from.”
Niamh met her man, Luke, in July 2008 when they both appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“As we’re so busy working in theatre, we often only see each other on Sundays when we pack in as much as we can.
“If you’re not with someone in the industry, sometimes they don’t understand your lifestyle.
“But then, when you are with someone in the industry, the danger is you only ever talk about work!”
And she exclaims: “I don’t know why anyone is interested in my love life. I’m definitely not a celebrity!
“But I wouldn’t be with someone for a year and a half if they weren’t my perfect type of person.
“You’ll always remember your first love whether it lasts forever or not. It’s difficult for us to settle down when we’re both working, but that’s something we’ll have to seriously discuss if we keep going the way we are.”
As for Niamh’s professional plans Her contract with Love Never Dies is for a year. In that time, she also hopes to complete her debut album (for which she’s written songs with Lloyd Webber’s son Nick) and have it released through a major label.
“That’s had to take a back-seat because of this show, but I’ve been in talks with Universal though nothing is signed,” she says.
“It may never happen, though I am really excited about it. People think I’ll only ever do musical theatre, yet I also want to branch out into different things like recording, performing concerts and straight acting. I wouldn’t want to be thought of as a one-trick pony.”
For a while now, all Niamh has been able to focus on is the new show.
She adds: “It’s been really long days and not being able to escape the Love Never Dies bubble, but the excitement will build on Tuesday when we realise this is the |moment we’ve all been waiting for.
“ Hopefully it’ll be as exciting as we’ve all anticipated.”
Love Never Dies, Adelphi Theatre, London, box office, tel: 0844 412 4651