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Norfolk actress’ journey from pantomime babe to West End star

PUBLISHED: 16:15 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 22:30 05 December 2017

Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton (left) is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in London. Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton (left) is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in London. Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton is currently appearing in the London production of Mamma Mia! She speaks to arts correspondent Emma Knights about her journey from pantomime babe to West End star.

Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in London.
In this photo of the whole cast Harriet  is third on the right on the front row.
Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in London. In this photo of the whole cast Harriet is third on the right on the front row. Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Hit musical Mamma Mia! has entertained millions of people around the world with its feel-good story set on a Greek island and to the soundtrack of ABBA tunes galore.

And among the current cast of the musical’s London production at the Novello Theatre is Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton who plays the role of Lisa.

Her character is one of the best friends of bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan who during the opening of the show - and with the help of the lyrics of ABBA’s Honey Honey - reveals to her bridesmaids she has secretly invited three men that could be her father to her wedding day without telling her mother Donna.

What follows is an enchanting story of family and friendship mixed in with hit after hit from the Swedish pop superstars, a winning formula which has to date been seen by more than 60 million people worldwide - including eight million people in London - and also been turned into a film starring Meryl Streep.

Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton (pictured second left) is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in London.
Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton (pictured second left) is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in London. Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Harriet joined the London cast in May and she said it was a dream come true to be part of the Mamma Mia! musical because she has always been a big ABBA fan.

“Ever since I was little I have always been a massive ABBA fan. I had the karaoke CD and Super Trouper has always been my favourite ABBA song since I was about six,” said 25-year-old Harriet, who grew up in Horstead.

“Mamma Mia! has always been a show that I have wanted to do. I feel lucky to be a part of it.”

When asked about her favourite parts of the show, she said: “I like doing Voulez-Vous, that’s a big dance number and it’s always fun,”

Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre.
Photo: supplied by Mamma Mia! Norfolk actress Harriet Bunton is currently starring in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre. Photo: supplied by Mamma Mia!

And she said she also loved seeing just how much the audiences enjoy the show.

“Every single night everybody is up and dancing at the end. You realise just how much joy it brings. It’s impossible to leave unhappy from this show!”

Before Mamma Mia!, Harriet was last on stage at Norwich Theatre Royal playing the role of Dolly the Fairy in the 2016-17 pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk set in the Wild West.

She said it had felt like a real homecoming because the city venue was where she had first discovered her love of performing. She was a panto babe in 10 of the Theatre Royal’s festive productions, starting with the 1999 pantomime Cinderella.

Harriet Bunton as Dolly The Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk and Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Simon Finlay Harriet Bunton as Dolly The Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk and Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Simon Finlay

“I was doing pantomime when I was six. It was the first time I properly experienced being in a show and I absolutely loved it. I was so excited, “ she said.

“My mum says it (performing) has always been in me. She didn’t have a choice, she had to take me to dance classes!”

The former Coltishall Primary School and Thorpe House School pupil honed her craft at Norwich’s Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts and at age 16 she went to train in musical theatre at Laine Theatre Arts.

While in her final year there, she landed a role in We Will Rock You at London’s Dominion Theatre at the age of just 19.

Dress Rehearsal of the Norwich Theatre Royal panto 'Jack and the Beanstalk'

PHOTO: Nick Butcher Dress Rehearsal of the Norwich Theatre Royal panto 'Jack and the Beanstalk' PHOTO: Nick Butcher

“I think We Will Rock You will always be a special show because it was my first show in the West End,” she said.

Since then she has played the lead role of Janet in a tour of cult musical the Rocky Horror Show across Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and she has also played Joyce in the West End run of the hit Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon, which saw the legendary Ray Davies bring his experiences of Sixties stardom to the stage at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

When asked what words of wisdom she would share with aspiring young performers, she said: “Just keep going, I guess, because it’s really difficult but I think if you want to achieve you have got to believe that you can do it, don’t give up.”

Harriet will be starring in Mamma Mia! until at least June next year and is also excited for what other roles the future may bring.

Dress Rehearsal of the Norwich Theatre Royal panto 'Jack and the Beanstalk'

PHOTO: Nick Butcher Dress Rehearsal of the Norwich Theatre Royal panto 'Jack and the Beanstalk' PHOTO: Nick Butcher

“It is one of those careers where you cannot plan, you never know what’s round the corner, the world is my oyster!” she said.

She added she was looking forward to a trip back home this festive season when she will also be taking her seat to watch Norwich Theatre Royal’s 2017-18 pantomime Sleeping Beauty.

“I’ve got a couple of days off and I’m coming back to Norfolk,” she said.

“I’ll be watching the pantomime and I’m really looking forward to it - the Norwich pantomime is the best!”

Mamma Mia! is currently on stage at the Novello Theatre in London. For more details, including ticket prices and how to book, visit www.mamma-mia.com

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