Jenna Lee-James is probably best known for playing the lead part of Scaramouche in the West End hit musical We Will Rock You. Prior to that she appeared as Meatloaf in the show and was part of the Original London Cast covering both parts. Her other theatre credits include The Narrator in Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat (Adelphi Theatre), June Child in 20th Century Boy (UK Premiere) and Becky McDonald in Street of Dreams – The Coronation Street years (MEN Arena Manchester) to name just a few.
Jenna has appeared in arena concerts around the world including appearances with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. She was a lead vocalist on Strictly Come Dancing – The Professionals (UK Tour 2010). Most recently Jenna has recorded an album with The New London Corale entitled Viva Verdi.
Jenna is currently touring Europe playing the part of Killerqueen in the We Will Rock You 10th Anniversary Arena Tour. This makes Jenna the only performer worldwide to have appeared as first cast Scaramouche, Meatloaf and Killerqueen in the show.
Jenna kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about Viva Verdi, her return to We Will Rock You and what the future may hold in store.
You have recently recorded the album „Viva Verdi“ with Tom Parker’s The New London Choral. Tell me a bit about the album and how you got to be a part of it.
The Album was something completely different for me. Its described as a ‘Classical Crossover’. The New London Chorale have been going for around 20 years and have had many hits in Holland over the years. This is the first album to be recorded in 10 years. I’m the newbie to the group which already comprises of three other singers from London, Lance Ellington, Janet Mooney and Gordon Neville. I was asked by Janet whom I have known for many years if I’d like to come and audition for Tom Parker to be part of the group. I was sent various pieces of music to learn and had to audition a few days later. I met Tom and the rest of the group and basically sung in 4 part harmony with them some of the pieces from the album. Tom rung me 2 days later and offered me the job. Having never sung any classical music before I was very nervous when I went in the studio to record the album but had such great support around me. We recorded 12 tracks for the album one of which was my solo ‘Times Gone By’ which was released as the single. It’s all original Verdi material that Tom has written English lyrics to and made the pieces more funky and even a little bit rocky!! The album is a collection of songs all of which are very different and there are even some humorous ones on there too.
The album was released in Holland in November. Are there plans for a release in other countries? And will there be more live performances?
As of yet there are no plans to release it in other countries but there are a few things in the pipeline so watch this space. After having performed at the MAX Proms in Utrecht in December there will be more performances later this year. Dates are still being confirmed. There will also be a DVD released later in the year. We are filming that in May.
You are currently appearing as Killerqueen in the We Will Rock You Arena Tour. After playing Meat and Scaramouche in the West End production, how does it feel to be back in the show in yet another lead role?
I am very excited to be going back into We Will Rock You and I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity. We Will Rock You holds a very special place in my heart and to have played my first lead role in the West End with Meatloaf and then take over as Scaramouche, I can’t believe that 11 years later I am going back to play another lead in the same show and be the first person worldwide to have played all 3 leads.
You will be touring Europe, Asia and Australia with the show. Which city or country are you most looking forward to?
That’s a hard one as we are visiting so many beautiful countries on this first leg of the tour. We are only doing European dates initially so I would have to say either Prague or Croatia as I have never been to either and everyone keeps telling me how amazing they both are. Or Amsterdam as I have made so many friends there with the album release that it will be nice to see so many friendly faces in the audience.
Do you enjoy touring?
Does anyone enjoy touring? Yes and No. When you are on tour the company becomes like one big family as you literally work and live together. It makes for a really tight group of friends and everyone looks out for each other. Also you get to see some amazing and interesting places. But on the downside you miss your family and friends dreadfully. With technology now and Skype, Facetime and Email it does make it easier but every day away gets tougher so it helps knowing that we’re all in the same boat and we look out for one another. It’s also a race to find out who can get the WiFi password first.
Looking into the future: What part would you love to play at some point in your career?
There are a few I’d love to play: Eva Peron in Evita and Elphaba in Wicked would be my top two but I would love to create another role in a new musical. I created June Child in ’20th Century Boy’ in 2011 but would really love to do something new again.
Do you have a message for all the We Will Rock You fans that have been following the show throughout the years and that are looking forward to seeing the Arena Tour?
The We Will Rock You fans are like no other. There are certain fans that have been with the show since the beginning and when they found out myself and MiG were back in the show they emailed us straight away to say they were coming to see the show again. The fact that I’m sadly not doing the UK dates didn’t stop them buying tickets either as many are now coming to Amsterdam, Dublin and Belfast. I just want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support over the past 11 years. Those of you who were there from the beginning helped make the show the worldwide success that it is today. I hope we won’t disappoint with the Arena tour. This cast is superb. A few faces you’ll have seen before and a few newbies. We have a Killer band and crew too. 11 years on and we’re still rocking it out, this time instead of my white GaGa clothes I’ll be in leather with my fat bottomed girls. See you on the road somewhere soon!
Thank you Jenna for taking the time to answer the questions!
Check out Jenna’s website http://www.jennaleejames.com and follow her on Twitter @jennaleejames .
And have a look at http://www.wewillrockyou.co.uk/tour/venues/ for all confirmed dates of the We will rock you Arena Tour.