Co Down star Rhiannon Chesterman rocks up on Belfast stage for 80s musical
Hillsborough's Rhiannon Chesterman is back home and ready to get rocking as Regina in classic musical, Rock of Ages. Ahead of the show opening in Belfast next week, she tells Gail Bell of her excitement to be singing and dancing on the stage she has loved since a child sitting in the audience
CO DOWN-born performer Rhiannon Chesterman is rocking up in Belfast for her first major role 'back home' in ultimate musical ode to the 80s, Rock of Ages, which opens next week.
Hillsborough native Chesterman is "super excited" to be back on home turf, playing social activist Regina in the LA love story starring Strictly Come Dancing champion Kevin Clifton (Stacee Jaxx), Kevin Kennedy, Zoe Birkett, Jodie Steele and Andrew Carthy.
A global smash with hit seasons on Broadway, Las Vegas and London's West End, the show plays homage to 25 classic rock anthems including We Built This City, The Final Countdown, and I Want to Know What Love Is – although, despite the musical's title, the Def Leppard song of the same name is not included.
After leaving Methody to study first at the MGA Academy of Performing Arts in Edinburgh and later at the ArtsEd School in London, Chesterman – a contemporary of Belfast leading ladies Rachel Tucker and Niamh Perry – counts herself lucky to have been working steadily ever since.
"I've performed at the Grand Opera House before, in the Hairspray tour and in panto with May McFettridge, but this is my first show in Belfast playing a leading part, so I would say it's the highlight so far," she enthuses. "It's also the most fun – Rock of Ages is a bit raunchy, but while everyone else is scantily clad, Regina is more of a hippie.
"I love my character because she's so different to everyone else in the show. I toured with Grease last year and played Frenchy and she's also quite quirky. I think I'm drawn to the funny ones."
Part of the fun too, she says, is interaction with enthusiastic audiences, among them the loyal 'Roadies' who follow the show on tour and and are to be found in most of the UK theatre stop-offs in this, Rock of Ages' 10th anniversary tour.
"We started rehearsals last August and have been on the road since September," Chesterman continues. "I'm in Woking at the moment, but some mornings I waken up and can't remember where I am for a minute or two. It's full-on, but I love what I do, so I'm not complaining; it's like one big party. I've been very lucky."
A career on stage beckoned from early years spent in ballet lessons in Lisburn and school choirs in Belfast and was consolidated from countless trips to the theatre with her mum and best friend.
"My mum used to take me to the Grand Opera House to see ballet, but it was when she started to take me to see musicals that I thought, yes, this is what I really want to do," she says.
"The first show I saw was Cats and I think I fell asleep, but I remember the magic of it. That seems a long time ago now, but, even though I work in theatre, I still love going to see as many shows as I can.
"For this one, I expect to see a few familiar faces in the audience and as long as everyone goes with an open mind, ready to sing along and have a great time, I think they will absolutely love it."
:: Rock of Ages opens in the Grand Opera House on Tuesday, June 18. More at goh.co.uk