Cassie Compton first came to the nation’s attention as the last female standing in the original series of The X Factor in 2004. Since then, Cassie has carved a successful musical theatre career with roles in Les Misérables, Dirty Dancing and Wicked. She is set to star in new musical Monkee Business, which opens in Manchester on 30th March. John Roberts caught up with Cassie to talk touring, reality TV and unbeatable theatre moments…
I don’t want to give too much away as it is a lot of fun. Think a wacky Austin Powers-type musical that is upbeat, very funny and filled with the music of The Monkees and you are very close. However, what it isn’t is a biopic musical like Jersey Boys. The musical is more like The Monkees TV show, filled with lots of surprises.
What can you tell us about the character you are playing?
I’m playing Mary Gray who on the surface is your typical American girl next door. She is the love interest to Micky and she is so different to all the other roles I have played. She’s not as moody or brooding as the other roles, so it is nice to be able to have something to contrast against.
The Monkees were well known for their tomfoolery with each other – has any of this anarchic fun started to seep out amongst the company?
(Laughs loudly) Very much so, and that is really important – the original team had such amazing chemistry that it was vital to the production that they found a team who could connect with each other and carry that quality across. Amazingly they have done just that. The boys have fantastic energy and really have the banter down in the rehearsal room; sometimes it feels like we aren’t really rehearsing as we are having far too much fun.
Monkee Business is another first for Manchester, following on from recent hits such as Ghost and All New People. Why do you think Manchester is a good starting ground for new productions?
I think with every production the pressure is always there, even more so with a brand new production. I love Manchester and the Opera House and it means even more that we are opening the show in Davy Jones’ home town. If I thought too much about the pressure, I wouldn’t be able to get my lines out – you just have to get on with it and do the best that you can.
After Manchester the show heads to Glasgow and Sunderland – are there any plans for the show after this tour?
Officially not yet, I really hope that it does as I am loving every moment of it so far. Being able to create a role is a fantastic opportunity and I would like to do more of that in the future.
You first came to the nation’s attention in series one of The X Factor – what made you enter the contest?
I was 16 and doing my A-Levels, not very well unfortunately, and my mum came to me and said, “Simon Cowell is doing a new TV show do you want to go for it?” I was at that transition period where I really needed to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I had already been performing a fair bit (including Whistle Down the Wind at the Aldwych Theatre) so I had to decide, do I carry on performing or do I knuckle down with my studies? So it was all my mum’s fault that I entered! However, I have to say that I wouldn’t normally advise this kind of route into the profession and people should really make sure they do their best at school.
What were the pros and cons of being part of such a show?
The pros were I was only 17 when I started the live performances (it was 8 years ago this year) so I really had nothing to lose; I learnt so much about how live TV works and the production elements of being on such a show, it was an incredible experience. I don’t think I had any negative aspects, I think it is really important to take and learn as much as you can from the whole experience and enjoy it. It is also important that you put into context that you are only a part in a very big picture and at the end of the day it is just a TV show. I learnt a great deal especially from doing the live tour at 17; singing in front of thousands of people every night was amazing, something that not many people get to experience.
Are you still in touch with any of your fellow contestants or judges?
Not really. If I see them I will obviously talk to them – that is one of the great things about Twitter and Facebook, that you can still keep in contact – but I wouldn’t say that I am in regular contact with any of them.
You have appeared in two of the biggest musicals in the West End (Les Misérables & Wicked). Both shows have huge fan bases – does this affect how you approach your performance?
It is very, very scary; on one hand, it doesn’t make a difference as I can only do what I can do, but with Les Mis and more so with Wicked, they have a phenomenally supportive fan base and with that comes pressure. They love the story, the characters and you try to make sure that once you have performed it they still do. What is great is seeing how many young people have gained an interest in musical theatre because of shows such as Wicked. On opening nights when you are performing a role the fans and public have very high expectations, and so they should.
Who did you most enjoy working with from those productions?
I am very lucky that I have worked with some incredibly talented people, but working with Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman every night was amazing. Here we have two people who can produce faultless performances 8 times a week, especially Rachel who sings Defying Gravity day in, day out with such power and emotion, which is exceptional. I also loved working alongside George Ure as my Boq and had so much fun.
If you could take one memory away from the shows what would it be?
It would be my opening night as Eponine in Les Misérables and coming out and singing On My Own for the first time – nothing has come close to that for me yet.
Touring and spending a lot of time away from home can be hard – what three things do you always take with you to make you feel at home?
I always take my mobile phone and use What’s App and Skype a lot – my boyfriend is in Notre Dame De Paris in Malaysia at the moment, so it is great to be able to keep in contact with him. I always take photographs with me wherever I go; they are usually of my family, friends, my boyfriend, but most importantly, my dog. My third item is now essential after learning the hard way… a large sturdy suitcase. After I finished working on The Little Prince in Belfast, I acquired rather a lot of stuff and ended up having to pay £155 in excess baggage after just 3 months – the bag I had actually broke when I tried to lift it onto the scales at the airport.
So, what can we expect from Cassie over the next year?
Hopefully, working. I would love to be doing more new work; there is nothing more exciting than creating a new role and this past year I have had two jobs where I have been able to do that and support new writing.