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Stage star Mia Richards: I felt like a princess every day

By Heather Large | Weekend | Published:

Actress Mia Richards is holding out for her West End dream. . .

Dreaming big – Mia as high hopes

Mia Richards is living many young performers’ dreams. The 21-year-old has already wowed the crowds alongside a star-studded cast in her first paid role as Princess Jasmine in pantomime Aladdin.

And now the 21-year-old is heading into her final year at a prestigious musical theatre school to help fulfil her biggest ambition of one day performing in Les Miserables on a West End stage.

“It’s hard to describe that feeling when you are standing on the stage in front of an audience who have paid to see you perform – it’s just amazing,” says Mia from Lower Gornal, who attends Performance Preparation Academy (PPA) in Guildford.

Dreaming big – Mia as high hopes

She received rave reviews for her performance as Aladdin’s love interest in the 32-show run at Marina Theatre in Lowestoft last December with a cast that included former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe.

It was an enjoyable experience for the former Ellowes Hall Sports College pupil but also proved a ‘real eye-opener’ too as it was her first foray into professional theatre.

“I loved it, I felt like a princess every single day. It was a lot of fun but a lot of hard work too. It was even harder than I expected it to be because it was both vocally and physically demanding. I would feel myself falling sleep in the dressing room. We did two shows a day so that was 12 shows a week.

Royal review – Mia starred as Princess Jasmine in Aladdin

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“I didn’t have an understudy so if I woke up feeling groggy, there was no one to go on for me. I had to give the best performance I could give because I think if people have spent their hard-earned money – theatre tickets aren’t cheap – to watch us then they deserve the best performance,” she said.

Mia also paid tribute to the rest of the cast, especially former politician Ann who appeared as the Empress of China and her lines made a number of references to her infamous stint on Strictly Come Dancing, along with Brexit, and her time as an MP.

“Everybody was lovely but Ann was so much fun. She bought us all Christmas presents – House of Commons mints, After Eights, and a bottle of wine. She left us and went into the Big Brother House,” she tells Weekend.

In May, the rising theatre star landed another role, this time, in a pilot comedy musical called Can’t Stop It which was showcased at The Other Palace Theatre in London to an audience of potential investors with the hope of securing backing to take it to the West End.

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Centre stage – the actress wowed in Jekyll and Hyde

It follows an American high school student as he takes a trip to Cancun to reunite with his childhood best mate, dragging a bunch of friends behind him as well as his mother.

“It had a bit of an Inbetweeners feel to it and I was a Mediterranean waitress. Jason Gardiner actually came to see one of the rehearsals which was a surprise. It’s had some interest so it will be good to see what happens,” explains Mia.

She started her theatre journey in productions such as Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables while at school.

After leaving Ellowes Hall she went on to audition and study for a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performing Arts at Birmingham Ormiston Academy, which saw her perform in shows such as Little Women and Spring Awakening.

She has also appeared on stage with West End stars such as Bonnie Langford and Samantha Spiro after a successful audition for an evening to celebrate the work of composer Stephen Sondheim at Yvonee Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.

What a performance – the rising star says it’s hard work

She also studied at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Arts Educational School in London for a year before securing a place on her degree course at PPA.

Now she’s ready to start her final year which will see her perform in the school’s in-house shows including Made in Dagenham and The Pajama Game and she’s excited about what the future holds.

Her daily schedule is jam-packed with dancing, singing and acting lessons and she also fits in a part-time job working in the theatre bar at G Live in Guildford as well as some promotional work.

“I start at 7.45am – it’s a good job I only live five minutes away. I might start with some ballet or body-conditioning and we work straight through with back-to-back classes until 6pm or 7pm.

There's a lot of physical fitness required

“It’s enjoyable because it’s what I want to do but it’s not for the faint-hearted. People might think it’s all jazz hands and it’s easy but you’ve got to be physically fit.

“But I would definitely recommend theatre to school to someone if it’s what they’ve always wanted to do and they can’t think about doing anything else.

“You’ve got to have that fire in your belly to do it and put the hard work in even if some days you’re sat on the floor doing the splits at 8am and thinking you must be crazy!,”Mia tells us.

Mia will also be hoping to secure auditions for when she graduates next summer and is already preparing by getting her professional headshot photographs taken.

“This is the first thing casting directors look at and if you haven’t got the right look you won’t get a call. The auditions will be for West End shows, touring productions, cruise ships, pantomimes. Audition season is from March until June so my agent will start putting me up for roles.

“Although I love musical theatre, I would like to do television or film as well. Something like EastEnders would be great. I just want to have a go at it all. It’s exciting,” says Mia.

But her dream roles would be taking to the stage as part of the cast of Les Misérables or starring as Christine, the female protagonist Phantom of the Opera.

“I just love Les Misérables – I’m sure it’s at the top of most people’s lists. I wouldn’t expect to walk straight into a lead part, you have to work your way up by being part of the ensemble. They hold open auditions for their tours as they like to recruit new people to the ensemble cast so there is always a chance,” Mia tells us.

“It’s very exciting, there are so many different opportunities – I can’t wait to get started,” she adds.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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