Jens Radda chats with Heather Manley from Aladdin the Musical about covering a lead role
This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Heather Manley from Aladdin the Musical to chat about life as a cover. She’s been the Jasmine cover and ensemble performer in Aladdin since graduating Drama School in 2015. Here are some of the topics we discussed:
Tell me about yourself and where you comes from.
I’m 26 years old, a WAAPA grad (2015) hailing from the tiny but beautiful island of Guam.
What is it like being in a show like Aladdin?
The perfect word to describe being a part of a show like Aladdin is MAGICAL. The details in the costumes, the set, the work ethic of all the departments, and the relationships I’ve made with the cast and creatives, have truly made this experience so special. Without everyone’s hard work, this mammoth of a show wouldn’t be able to go on every night.
What is the most challenging part of being a cover?
The hardest part about being a cover is getting that unexpected call saying “You’re on!” Especially when it’s been months since you’ve gone on and months since you’ve touched the material. Nothing is as hard as the first time you go on in front of an audience. The nerves! The self doubt. The “Do I actually know what I’m doing?” But it gets easier the more you get to go on for the role you cover.
What is the best part of being a cover?
The best part is that being a cover gives you, as a performer, the chance to break up the routine of doing the same show 8 times a week in a long running contract. One day I’m dancing away in the ensemble, and I’m a Disney princess then next!
Do you have any stories from your experiences in this show?
Back in July, I had some shows where I was scheduled to be Princess Jasmine. Because I had enough notice, my mom was able to see it and fly all the way from Guam! It was so special to have her in the audience, especially since my family haven’t really seen me perform anything solo in person for over 2 years!
What have you learned from being a cover?
I’ve learned to always be ready for anything. Be open to change especially going on with other covers because every actor has their interpretation and you have to be aware enough to react with their choices. Making sure I know my lines and songs back to front. I also learned how much my nerves affect my performance. I just have to remember to tell the story I’m supposed to tell and connect with my fellow actors on stage. When I truly do that, nothing else matters, and the nerves go away.
If you could look back on yourself as a fresh drama school graduate, would you have any pieces of Advice?
Make bold choices, and trust that what you have to offer is good enough and valid. And to not stop taking dance classes, haha!
What types of roles do you want to play in the future?
In the future I’d love to dabble into some leading lady roles. Some roles I’m currently obsessing over: Dawn or Jenna in Waitress, Kim in Miss Saigon, Maria or Anita in West Side Story, or Nala in The Lion King.
Do you have any other hobbies you enjoy doing outside of the theatre?
I just finished doing a film and tv course and would be keen venture more into that area. I love being outdoors, and if I had a car I’d go to some prime fishing spots and cast my rod. I’m a major foodie and love cooking and I’m always down to try restaurants to add to my list of favourites. And I love traveling! I want to visit every country before I die.