The Fame Reporter interviewed the incredible Australian West End performer, Vivien Carter, part of the ensemble and understudy to the iconic role of Reno Sweeney in the Tony-Award winning production of Anything Goes the Musical live recording filmed at London’s renowned Barbican Theatre. The film sails onto Australian cinema screens for two days only on Sunday 27 March and Wednesday 30 March. For theatre screening locations around Australia of ANYTHING GOES and bookings: www.anythinggoesmusicalcinema.com
Originally from the Gold Coast, Vivien has spent the last sixteen years performing in London’s West End. Upon graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Vivien began her career touring Australia with We Will Rock You, concluding the tour in Tokyo.
She then headed to London where she attended an ‘open casting call’ for Guys and Dolls at the Picadilly Theatre and was cast, performing alongside Patrick Swayze and Don Johnson. Productions of Evita (Adelphi Theatre), Eurobeat (Pleasance Grand, Edinburgh) and Oklahoma (Kilworth House) followed, before Vivien landed the leading role of Velma Kelly in Chicago in the West End (Cambridge Theatre). She has worked at the National Theatre in productions of Medea, with Helen McCrory and Michaela Coel, and with Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson on the world premiere of The Light Princess and many more wonderful credits.
As restrictions eased in the UK and a few theatre productions were starting up again, Vivien was thrilled to be cast in Anything Goes at the Barbican understudying the incredible role of Reno, played by Sutton Foster.
We talked to Vivien about what enticed her to want to join Anything Goes the musical with Sutton Foster, her incredible career in London’s West End, understudying as a superpower and more.
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Vivien, what enticed you to become a performer initially?
My Mum had been a contemporary dancer and was passionate about the arts and she passed that on to me and my siblings early on. We watched a lot of live theatre and I would obsessively watch videos of ballet, particularly the Royal Ballet production of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, starring Alessandra Ferri. I wanted to be her. Also Fred and Ginger and all the MGM films. I’d rewind them and watch them on loop. The music and storytelling lit me up.
I wanted to be a part of that magical world.
Being Queenslanders, we love that you hail from the Gold Coast, how did attending WAAPA in Perth assist in your current career progression?
My three years at WAAPA were incredible. We had just 18 in our year which I’ve learned is tiny compared to the drama schools in the UK. We were immersed, living and breathing Musical Theatre and we shared the campus with students from other courses like design, technical theatre, jazz music, dance, etc, so you felt part of a creative community. WAAPA definitely gave me the confidence to go out there and audition. I felt so ready after the 3 years.
What was it like moving to London and performing on the West End coming from Australia?
I was backpacking at the time, as I’d never been to Europe and a friend told me they were holding open auditions for Guys and Dolls in the West End. I remember having to buy dance shoes and sheet music and lined up around the block with 300 others.
I made sure I was front, centre in the dance call because I didn’t want to get lost and miss this opportunity and I got the job. It was such buzz. I then officially moved to London thinking I’d be there a year, maybe two. Work has been great for me here and life happens (I’m married to an English man and have a son), so sixteen years later I’m still here.
What drew you to be involved in Anything Goes?
I actually had seen the video of Sutton and the Broadway cast rehearsing back in 2011 and thought, ‘Wow, I wanna do that’. I was asked to tape for all the Reno material and it felt like a great fit for me. I love the style.
I was thrilled to get the job as my first gig after our Covid-enforced isolation period.
How excited were you to be part of a live recording filmed at London’s renowned Barbican Theatre?
I was thrilled that more people were going to get a chance to see our production.
It felt like a really special show – that cast, the timing, our audiences – it was a once-in-a-lifetime combination of ingredients.
What was the process of filming the live recording of Anything Goes?
We had the cameras set up for about 4 days (I think), which was a combination of rehearsals for the camera operators and film director, the official recording and close ups/pick ups. It was a busy and intense week.
What was your experience like performing alongside Patrick Swayze in ‘Guys and Dolls’?
Patrick was the most lovable & hilarious cast member. He was always telling goofy jokes and knew everyone’s name. He had no airs and graces.
I think that was because Patrick Swayze was a dancer before he was a movie star – he knew how to work hard and was passionate about perfecting the work, doing his tendus and plies every day at warm up.
He and his wife Lisa made the effort to be part of the family while they were in our company.
What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
Fred Astaire, Bette Davis and Cole Porter
What role have you embodied that has stuck with you or has changed you the most?
I played Velma Kelly in Chicago for a year in the West End. It taught me about stamina, taking care of my body and my energy. It also taught me about keeping my performance fresh with new ideas and finding ways to stay present, 8 shows a week.
I realised that for the me the most enjoyable work happens once rehearsals have finished – you need an audience to keep having new insights.
Also what you’re reading, listening to and being inspired by in the day, influences what you do at night and helps you to see things through a fresh lens.
What has been your favourite moment being an understudy and why do you think they are vital?
The first time I was thrown on for Carole King in Beautiful was pretty terrifying. I was on holiday but luckily nearby, and got a call on a Saturday afternoon saying most of the company had come down with norovirus and could I please come back and be Carole that night. That role has very few moments in the wings where you can breathe, check your script and see what’s coming next. I was very thankful to my dresser and the team for thrusting props in my hand and pushing me onstage. Amazing adrenalin.
I loved learning to fly to understudy Althea in The Light Princess at the National Theatre and I also loved playing Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls with Patrick Swayze. Understudies allow the show go on so they are vital to any production. They also allow the person playing the role to be human and take a night off if they need to, which is so important for everyone’s mental health.
What do you love or admire about the cast and creative team of Anything Goes?
The cast and creative team behind Anything Goes were all at the top of their game, so there was a very high standard of work. Kathleen Marshall, our Director and Choreographer, knows this material inside-out and offered so many great anecdotes and insights.
We had all been changed by the pandemic and nothing was taken for granted. There was a lot of love and laughter in the room.
Any upcoming projects or future dreams you can share?
For now, I am back to auditioning. There are a lot of new shows I’d love to be involved with so watch this space. I hope to be able to work in Australia sometime soon too!
Why should Australian audiences come along and see Anything Goes in cinemas and how does it differ from seeing the show live?
The show is a classic for a reason – it’s very funny and the scenes roll along at a pace and then there’s Cole Porter’s beautiful score played by a full orchestra as well as tap dancing sailors, big dance numbers and plenty of comedy.
It’s beautifully filmed, glamorous escapism and you get to see the fantastic performances up close.
Fame Reporter Word Play
Causes you are passionate about
Protecting animals, Climate change, Access to arts
Dazzling / Crochet
Vegemite or Bangers and Mash
Dressing Room necessity
Savoury or Sweet
Play a leading role in an Australian musical/ TV show
Charity Hope Valentine/ something new
The Light Princess
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Being able to split my time between Australia and UK, working in both countries and enjoying Summer all year round
Finally, favourite thing about performing
Connection and being in the moment
Thank-you for joining us at The Fame Reporter Vivien and we wish you all the best.
All photos and videos – Supplied