Celinde Schoenmaker is a West End name and superstar StageFave with a CV chock-full of West End credits including LES MISERABLES and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA but this year she's spending Christmas at the Menier Chocolate Factory alongside Marcus Brigstocke in BARNUM. Our friends at the Musical Theatre Review chatted to Celinde about rehearsals, the showbiz story and fitting such a big show into a smaller theatre...
Celinde is arguably playing to type, cast as she is in the role of the (real life) Swedish opera singer. “I’m usually either German or Russian,” she laughs when talking about her career options in English-language productions.
She is, though, none of the above, being in fact born in Dordrecht in the Netherlands. As might be hinted at in her natural, only-just discernible accent, she has since lived in the USA and now England, which she calls home and where she lives with her boyfriend and fellow musical theatre star Richard Fleeshman.
BARNUM is the biographical musical set during the peak of the American showman’s career, and shines the spotlight on key events and relationships in his life. The show is rich with circus shenanigans and spectacular set pieces, yet at the heart of the show are the relationships between P.T. Barnum and his charges.
Celinde brings her European charms to the role of the opera singer Lind – the “Swedish Nightingale” – who enchanted Barnum enough for him to offer her an unprecedented $1,000-a-night contract. In the show, the impresario becomes smitten by her and, despite his marriage to Charity (played at the Menier by Laura Pitt-Pulford), follows her on a USA-wide tour…
On the eve of BARNUM’s technical rehearsal, Celinde took 20 minutes out to talk about the production to Musical Theatre Review’s Craig Glenday, her experiences working with the show’s director Gordon Greenberg and MD Alex Parker, and her track record as a musical theatre star.
How have rehearsals gone?
Well, it’s been mental! It’s been an absolutely amazing process because of the circus acts that come along with it, and because it’s going to be in a tiny space. It’s been so rewarding and lovely, to be honest with you. No stress, which is pretty amazing. So far it’s been really nice and everyone’s been working really hard.
Did you know the show beforehand?
I didn’t know it at all. I knew it existed but I didn’t know it, so I got the script in and I read it and I thought: “Oh my god, this is going to be amazing!” And I did some research. I didn’t know who Jenny Lind was, so I looked into her. Now that I know about her and the show, I’m like: “How the hell did I not know this before?!”
Do you ever feel intimidated by the performers who’ve come before you in your roles?
As a performer, you need to not think about that. The same goes for all these other shows that I’ve done and that have been around for a while. If you start to think about who’s done it before and who’s going to come watch you, then you can paralyse yourself.
With BARNUM, we’re really focused on our version and I can’t imagine doing it any differently than how we’re doing it, which I think is a really good sign. Everyone’s so invested in it as well...