VIDEO: West End debut for Chichester woman
Theatre is in the blood for Alice O'Hanlon '“ and she loves every bit of it.
The 22-year-old has made her professional West End debut in MAMMA MIA! at the Novello Theatre in Aldwych.
The high-energy musical keeps her on her toes in the ensemble but she is also first cover for the lead role of Sophie and her friend Lisa.
Alice, who was born and brought up in Chichester, said: “It is very full on and a very fun show. My ensemble track does a of dancing, it is high energy.”
Speaking on a day where she was appearing on stage as Lisa, in both the matinée and evening performances, she added: “It is nice to be able to do a bit of everything and to go back to my track in the ensemble after being on as something else.”
Alice had great grounding at Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, having been dancing since she was two.
She attended St Richard’s Primary School, Arabesque School of Performing Arts and Chichester College, then went on to train professionally at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in Wood Green.
She was a ballet girl in Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace for six months when she was 13 but MAMMA MIA! is her first professional West End role as an adult.
“I have been very lucky in finding something so soon, straight out of drama school,” Alice said.
“It is one of those things you put down to being in the right place at the right time. My year has actually done well but it is a very rare thing.”
Alice’s grandmother, Ann Williams from Bognor Regis, was an amateur actress and a member of singing groups around the south, and her mum, Cath O’Hanlon, was very musical, too.
Alice was the middle child of three siblings and all of them attended Arabesque. Brother Sam, 24, is currently starring in the international tour of The Simon and Garfunkel Story, while sister Megan, 18, has just done Fiddler on the Roof at the Chichester Festival Theatre.
Alice said: “We are very different but we share the same passion. We were brought up listening to music and have a great interest in it.
“I was the first one to instigate wanting to go to do dancing. My brother is more on the actor side, Megan works in musical theatre.
“Arabesque became a full-time performing arts school, so me and my brother were like ‘please let us go’. Mum said as long as we did one year at normal school, we could go and so we did, and that was the inspiration for us to make a career of it.”
Alice started her year-long MAMMA MIA! contract in June and for the time being, is just enjoying the experience.
“Acting is my first love and what I would love to do in the long term but musical theatre these days is buzzing and dancing is what I have been doing since I was two, so this is the thing I do the most at the moment,” she said.
“It is on my list of things that I would like to achieve, to go back to Chichester and do something there. Most of the shows are revivals that go on to London as well.
“It doesn’t feel like hard work. The only different side to it is that most people do 9 to 5 but we work 5 to 11 in our job. It is just such a great lifestyle. It is something that really suits me. You have the whole day to do other things.”
Alice has trained in various styles of dancing, including tap, ballet, jazz and street, and is lucky to have avoided injury.
She explained: “Because I did a lot of gymnastics as a child, I think it has helped me to build a strong core. It teaches you to land safely from lifts and things and if you fall, how to right yourself.”
Alice has lived in London for four years and enjoys the museums but she spends a lot of her spare time doing acting workshops and dance classes.
While training, her theatre roles have included Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot, Karen in Girlfriends and The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods.
Alice said: “During your third year, you do a lot of different public shows and it is your responsibility to invite different agents and you hope an agent will find you. I have been lucky in finding a very good agent.
“I am going to just go with the flow. This industry is so unpredictable. My aim is to stay in London, and to go on tour.”