For Kelly Brown her role in as Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s iconic Company The Musical is the latest achievement in a musical career that remarkably still has her doubting herself, despite numerous achievements.
Overcoming that inherent fear is something the 40-year-old Bangor native instils in the children she teaches in vocal and drama, as well all who pass through the JH Academy of Theatre Arts, where Kelly is head of Musical Theatre.
First unleashed on the world in 1970 Company showcased Sondheim’s comedic take on the evolving nature of relationships amongst the Baby Boomer generation, as the Hippy movement was challenging traditional marital status.
Kelly’s role in Company is one she can’t wait to bring to the stage at Belfast’s Grand Opera House.
“Joanne is very dominant female character who does not shy away from life,” she explained. “She enjoys a few too many Vodka Stingers at times and maybe doesn’t appreciate her very loyal and lovable fourth husband.
“I like her sassy attitude and get what you want thinking.”
Performing is something Kelly was born into, with her mother Renee Marsden a showband singer and her uncle, the renowned entertainer and Downtown Radio star Derek Marsden.
Her biggest break, however, came when she won the BBC/RTE ‘Let Me Entertain You’, in 1999 judged by Louis Walsh and several other famous faces – and beating Samantha Mumba to the top spot.
As well as her teaching at the JH Academy and private lessons Kelly is an Activity Therapist in a Care Home for the elderly, but still considers her biggest achievement is her family.
“It really is being a mum/step mum,” she said. “Corny, I know but so true. It’s the hardest job I have ever had.
“Also becoming the teacher I am today and hopefully inspiring people to find their confidence to be whatever or whoever they dream of being.”
And, it is still her own experiences she wants to pass on.
It is dealing with self-doubt,” Kelly explained. “I hear praise from a lot from people yet even now at the age of 40 I don’t believe I’m as good as others say I am. It’s the one thing I want to help the children I teach with the most, that battle with self-doubt that has very much held me back in a lot of ways over the years.”
And, it has made her appreciative of all that goes into performances and shows such as Company.
“You need to appreciate the work of those who aren’t on stage,” she said. “All the technical engineers, crews, wardrobe teams make up teams even the ladies and gentlemen that clean my dressing room.
Truly the performance is only as good as the entire team and I am always thankful to the entire team. I can sing, act and dance my heart out but if the support isn’t there from the full team my show won’t succeed.”
Darren Gardiner of LSFX Productions said Company was a show he had longed to bring to the Belfast stage.
“When Sondheim released it, Company confronted so many assumptions about what was considered the norm in America at the time with his typical aplomb,” he said. “To shake up the middle classes in the United States he used wit and music.
“And, the messages still hold true today. I’m sure that all our cast, under the direction of James, will bring the production values of the West End to the Opera House stage.”
Director James Huish, whose previous sell-out Les Miserables show in 2016 at the Great Victoria Street venue earned critical acclaim, is determined to showcase the many facets of Company.
“On one level we follow the 35-year-old Robert as he ponders whether to be happy alone or try to conform and find a romantic partner,” said James. “On another level Sondheim challenges what we understand about the traditions that we take for granted.
“But above all, no matter what messages you take from it, Company is great fun with great songs.
“Kelly Brown is an absolute delight to work with as a director. She is so open to to all ideas and exploration of a character. And she just gives everything she has to a role. With not only her incredible talent but with sublime panache. This is the second time I have directed Kelly in the Grand Opera House as she played Ode Mae Brown in my production of Ghost.”
Including ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’, ‘Side by Side, by Side’ and ‘Sorry – Grateful’ all the tracks will be familiar, but all are woven into the contemplative life of Robert with the mishaps and mayhem of himself and the anarchic relationships of his friends.
More information – including how to book tickets – can be found at: https://www.goh.co.uk/whats-