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Highlighters at the ready: Gillene Herbert marks her first steps on the road towards Carousel

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Since joining Opera North, I have appeared on stage as a puppet, a can-can dancer, a Japanese geisha, a witch, a maid (twice) and a crazy bridesmaid. But this May brings the most exciting challenge I've had at Opera North so far:  the role of Julie Jordan in Carousel.

Since seeing my name appear in print at www.carouseltheshow.com alongside the other cast members, I am getting both very excited and very nervous in equal measure!

The first step I've taken in preparation for the May opening is to have dug out my trainers. I will need to have bags of stamina and energy to perform this emotional role, so am making sure I'm in the best of health before I start rehearsals. So it's bye-bye junk food and hello gym.

I am also eagerly awaiting my copy of the score so I can get out the coloured highlighters and get to grips with the rest of the dialogue and music. Although I had to learn some of Julie's role whilst auditioning, the next few months will involve more line learning, much American accent practice and lots of time in a music room with the score.

The original film starring Shirley Jones has been a brilliant resource and given me a great excuse to sit on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon - it's research!! The DVD I own also has a fantastic bonus feature of Jan Clayton and John Raitt performing the pivotal 'If I loved you' scene in a vintage stage excerpt. I also have the National Theatre cast recording with the wonderful Joanna Riding as Julie. There is a very long history to the show and a lot of amazing shoes to endeavour to fill.

This is in many ways a dream project for me, as I grew up listening to and watching all the big musicals - I was that child performing in her bedroom wishing she was Julie Andrews!! In fact, I first met Jo Davies (our director) in a production of The Wizard of Oz for the National Youth Music Theatre -  I was cast as a loud mouthed apple tree!

The character of Julie couldn't be more of a contrast. I don't believe she finds it easy to open up to others - especially about how she feels. But something about the character of Billy and the way their relationship develops makes her push against this aspect of herself. I can't wait to discover more about her in the run up to opening night.

So, between now and the first preview performance of Carousel on 2nd May, you can spot me with my head in a score, highlighters in hand and gym bag at the ready!

Gillene Herbert

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