Beverley Grant on living the dream in Carousel

Beverley Grant in Carousel' Pic:  Robert Workman.
Beverley Grant in Carousel' Pic: Robert Workman.
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AS a girl, nothing thrilled Beverley Grant more than sitting in the darkened auditorium of the Festival Theatre watching the latest Scottish Ballet production unfold before her eyes.

The 23-year-old recalls, “I absolutely loved going to see Scottish Ballet. I’d see every show they did.

“I always wanted to be in the show. I would live it with them; being able to perform at the Festival Theatre is a total dream come true, especially as in one of the big ballet scenes I get to do a dance solo, which is followed by an acting scene.”

Next week, when Opera North tour their production of Carousel to the Nicolson Street theatre, Grant will indeed be the one everybody is watching - at alternate performances anyway.

The Oxgangs girl who trained at The Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, London, after a spell on Scottish Ballet’s associate programme, admits that, although she would become lost in those childhood productions, it wasn’t until she got into Rambert she realised she might dance professionally.

Not that the transition from school girl to ballerina was an easy one.

“I came to dance a little bit later than most,” she says. “My sisters danced, so I didn’t want to do that. I did gymnastics instead, but I was always more into the artistic side of it as opposed to the apparatus- based disciplines. I liked doing the floor and asymmetric bars, things like that.

“Then I auditioned for Scottish Ballet’s associate’s programme when I was in Primary 7 and got in.

“From then on it was pretty much ballet every Sunday and, as I got older, every Saturday as well.”

While there, it was suggested Grant should think about dancing as a career, which led to her winning a place at the prestigious Rambert.

The training wasn’t just physically challenging, it was emotionally demanding too, she reveals.

“Moving to London when I was 17 and not really knowing anyone was really difficult, especially as I hadn’t grown up in the same world as a lot of the other students who had been in a ballet school since they were five or six.

“I was coming into it fresh having just finished doing geography and science every day, now I was dancing every day. Physically that was tiring, but emotionally it was draining.”

The hard work, however, has paid off, as audiences in the Capital will discover in Carousel.

Composed by one of Broadway’s most successful partnerships, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, whose other works include The Sound of Music and The King and I, Carousel is considered by many to be one of the greatest musical works of the 20th century.

Set in a tight-knit fishing community on the New England shoreline, Carousel revolves around the ill-fated affair between the charismatic but troubled Billy Bigelow and a young mill-worker, Julie Jordan.

When they fall in love, little do they realise that Billy’s rebellious ways will end in tragedy. Billy is given a chance to make good, but is it too little too late, or will a lucky star save him and those he loves?

At the Festival Theatre next week, Grant will share the role of Louise, Billy Bigelow’s daughter, with Alex Newton, and can be seen playing the part on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as at the Thursday matinee.

Not that she can sit with her feet up between shows.

“I have to cover the other female dancers,” she explains. “So, on the days I’m not Louise, if any of the other dancers are injured or unwell, then I go on for them.”

With a smile, she adds, “Because I have done the show before, that’s not too difficult.”

Grant has actually worked on the production for three years.

“I have had fantastic luck,” she says. “I first did Carousel when I was still in my final year and graduated early to perform in the original tour.

“Then I was asked back to do it in Paris, which was just incredible.”

Keeping the role fresh is easy, she says, explaining that for each production she has had a different dance partner.

“Because of that, this tour feels completely different. Every time I’ve had a different dance partner for the scene in which Louise falls in love. Obviously, if you are playing opposite a different man in each production, it is quiet interesting to see who brings what to the story.”

In Opera North’s production, director Jo Davies merges dance, opera and musical theatre to create a hybrid piece of dance theatre that has been winning rave reviews.

Perhaps not too surprising considering that when asked if he had ever been tempted to write an opera, Rodgers replied that he had, and that Carousel was the closest he had come to doing so.

The score is studded with some of the most powerful, uplifting music ever written for the stage, including If I Loved You and, of course, the anthemic You’ll Never Walk Alone.

“There are some numbers that definitely retain that musical theatre edge, songs like June Is Bustin’ Out All Over, but it’s a really interesting combination Jo Davies has come up with,” says Grant.

“It’s a brilliant show in my eyes and something of which she should be really proud.”

Carousel, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Tuesday-Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £17.50-£50, 0131-529 6000