Bristol Hippodrome opens tonight with Sunset Boulevard – Interview with Ria Jones

Michael Harrison and David Ian are proud to present the UK tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s award-winning musical Sunset Boulevard.

Starring as the lead Norma Desmond is theatre legend Ria Jones, who spoke to us regarding her latest work.

Her career kick-started after she stepped up to the plate as Glenn Close’s understudy during a UK tour of Sunset Boulevard. If you’ve seen 101 Dalmatians you’ll know Glenn as the legendary Cruella DeVille.

After Glenn Close became ill for four days during the run, the responsibility fell upon Ria Jones to take over as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. It was since then that Jones has shot to fame, starring in everything from Cats to Les Miserables. She also is an accomplished author, singer as well as actress, with a lot of strings to her bow. A star was discovered.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Ria Jones 'Norma Desmond'. Photo Manuel Harlan (2)

As an understudy herself at the time she knows how hard it can be in the theatre industry, Ria Jones’ advice is: “Just keep going. It took me 34-years but those four performances changed the course of my career. Right show. Right time. Right place.”

If you’ve ever had to perform last minute you’ll know the immediate adrenaline that goes through you, “I was terrified but excited, but I also knew I had a job to do – that’s why I was there. Yes there were boos but not necessarily towards me as they didn’t know me. Just very disappointed punters, I get it! But it just made me more determined to get out there and do my job” said Ria.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Ria Jones 'Norma Desmond' and Company. Photo Manuel Harlan

Quick fire questions with Ria Jones

1. What were the rehearsals for Sunset Boulevard like?

Wonderful, the rehearsal room was such a lovely, happy and creative space it was sad to leave it.

2.Is there anything special about this particular tour/production?

The 16-piece orchestra which I believe is the largest one touring the UK at the moment.

3.What do you most enjoy about playing Norma?

I adore the score and songs, but I also love her journey. Playing her is like riding an emotional rollercoaster.

4.As someone who is involved with both music and theatre, what do you think about the concept of actors and actresses being on stage musicians?

I think that’s an almighty talent and if it’s done well it can be thrilling.

5.It seems you have a close working relationship with Andrew Lloyd Webber, how has he helped you throughout your career?

I have done many of his shows. I love how he writes such great dramatic songs for the female belt voice.

6.One of my personal aims is to make theatre more accessible to young people. I’ve seen you are an advocate for women over 50 within musical theatre. Do you think there is a way theatre could become more inclusive?

Yes I do. Lowering ticket prices for one show a week in the west end would be a start.

7.You are highly experienced within the world of theatre, how do you think theatre critiquing has changed over the years?

Everyone is a critic now, with blogs and the internet etc. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but just try and keep it kind not personal. We are only human and of course it hurts to read nasty comments.

Catch Ria and her team all this week at the Bristol Hippodrome and then in other venues around the UK and Ireland until late April.

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