The next interview in our stagey chat series is with the sensational Emily Benjamin, who's currently playing Antoinette Lily in musical, Bronco Billy. Bronco Billy is currently playing at Charing Cross theatre until 7th April 2024. You can book tickets here.

Get yourself comfy and join us for the next segment of Stagey Chat!

Hi Emily, how are you? Thanks so much for chatting to Stage to Page - we're so excited to catch up with you! Would you mind introducing yourself and telling our readers how you first got into acting?

Hello! Thank you for having me! I’m Emily Benjamin and I’m currently yeehaw-ing around The Charing Cross theatre in Bronco Billy The Musical. I’ve been acting since I was a dwt (a Welsh term for small), in whatever I could get my hands on! From playing Prince Charming in a Brownies pantomime, to Stagecoach on a Saturday morning and also a hefty amount of amateur dramatics in the local theatres, it was always sort of inevitable that I found my way onto a stage of some kind. I was very lucky in the sense that my childhood was filled with Disney, musical theatre, stories and a gorgeously supportive network of family and friends who both indulged and encouraged my very enthusiastic attempts at showmanship.

You're currently playing Antoinette Lily in the West End production of Bronco Billy. Can you tell us about the show and what initially drew you to the role of Antoinette?

The show is a mad cap caper across America set at the tail end of the 70s with this over arching theme of dreaming and becoming whoever it is you want to be, no matter if there's someone telling you that isn’t okay. My character Antoinette is, at the start of the show at least, a privileged heiress struggling with a lack of direction in life after the loss of her father - I remember reading the initial script and loving that within this truly (no truly) wacky show there was this real core of love and identity and being brave enough to carry on carrying on even when the path ahead is unclear. The world can be a scary and unsure place no matter who you are and this is a seemingly simple story was unafraid to encourage people that having a dream and being brave enough to follow it is still something worth being celebrated.

You've been part of Bronco Billy since the workshop stage of the production. How much has it changed since you initially read the material, and how has it been to a part of the process?

The funny thing about Bronco Billy was it never felt like a stranger to me - often when you begin shows you sort of have to sit down with the script, pick it apart, find those connecting moments but as I mentioned - I was immediately drawn to the honesty of what the show had to say. so the workshop we did initially (which I can hardly believe was only a week long!) we ploughed through all this material and had so much fun with it and it was this wonderful gift of an environment from Hunter Bird and the writers because as a cast our opinions on the piece were so valued and things got added and taken away and moved around and ripped to shreds and stitched back together again - which you expect in a workshop but imagine my joy when we started rehearsals and it felt like everything was still on the table and up for grabs! It’s hard to fully articulate the kind of generosity it takes from a writing and creative team standpoint to allow for that level of input from your cast but it’s what has brought this show so close to my heart!

You've not long finished your run of alternate Sally Bowles at Cabaret. Is it refreshing to be a part of a newer, more light-hearted production? And does it come with less pressure?

The pressure is different definitely - Cabaret was, and unfortunately still is, a very poignant and relevant piece of theatre that asks the audience to take responsibility upon themselves for how they act in this world, Rebecca Frecknall created an incredible piece of theatre that acts like a mirror to the scariest parts of society and to lead that show was to shoulder that knowledge and understand that the story you were delivering was bigger than you or the part you had to play in it.

The joy of theatre - especially, I think, musical theatre - is in it’s range. The same art form that I employed to challenge audiences as Sally I now use as Antoinette, twirling a sword around and singing in Victoria Hamilton-Barritt's face while doing so, to ask them to escape their minds for a little bit, to reconnect to their inner child and remember what huge dreams they used to hold. It’s not so different an outcome really. I think we all really want the world to be a kinder place and sometimes you can ask for that by pointing out people’s shortcomings and sometimes you can remind them that people have the freedom and bravery to be whoever they want in this world and that dreams and love are still things worth telling stories about. I also am a sucker for a disco ball and a pink sequinned cowgirl outfit.

Regardless of gender and age, which stage role would you choose to play and why?

OOH. Well, I’m truly obsessed with Nathan Lane. Like, I literally just paused a video of him going through his career on YouTube to answer these interview questions and there's a bit in Bronco Billy where I get to have this sort of one-breath-monologue-breakdown where I go through all the things that have happened to me in the play so far and make stupid noises and blah blah blah and when we were trying to figure out how to get it to work I kept referencing Betrayed as sung by the icon himself in The Producers and so the thing that just immediately cam to mind was Max Bialystock himself.

A question I ask everyone we chat to - my blog is called Stage to Page. But if you could turn any book, from page to stage, what would it be and why?

Now this I am OBSESSED with. One of my favourite books of all time is How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff - they made it into a film a few years ago but I always thought it would make the most gorgeous musical - British and moving and I can just see the set being this big tumbling down English grand house that transforms into different magical things. Maybe I’ll try and write the lyrics if someone’s up for lending me their musical talents. It, weirdly, is also is a story of found family and love and making the best of what you have.

And finally, why should anyone reading this book tickets to see Bronco Billy?

Because everyone has a dream and at some point in your life you either decided it was time to give up or you decided it was time to grow up, or any other number of platitudes that we tell ourselves when the responsibilities of life overtake our joy in it. Come and ride with a troupe who don’t care who you are or who you been, just who you wanna be.

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