THE NEXT STAGE…
Jade Jones meets Samantha Harper, a singer and actress in London, who recently returned to Lancashire to appear on stage in the lead role. Photography: MUG Photography
On the cusp of her career and at drama school in London, Samantha Harper’s tutor told the students: “Anything else you can imagine yourself doing as a career, go and do that.”
The performing arts is a notoriously difficult industry to enter but as usual, Samantha rose to the challenge and hasn’t looked back since.
A former pupil at St John’s School in Read, Samantha’s talent was recognised by her music teacher at the tender age of seven, who encouraged her to join the choir and develop her talent for singing.
Clearly younger than the rest of the cast for such a large role at primary school, she landed her first part as ‘The Narrator’ in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat, as Samantha recalls: “I’ve always been small, I had to stand on a box at the front of the stage so people could see me!”
Nevertheless, Samantha was bitten by the performing arts bug and after attending St Augustine’s School, Billington, starring in various plays as well as attaining outstanding grades later at St Mary’s College, Blackburn, Samantha travelled from Newchurch in Pendle to the ‘big smoke’ in order to pursue her musical theatre dreams. Reminiscing, Samantha adds: “I love a challenge!”
Living in London for the past six years, Samantha has attended Mount View drama school for a foundation year before completing a two-year intensive course at the Musical Theatre Academy.
Learning a lot during this time, drama school has had a lasting effect on her career so far, “You’ve got to be hungry for it. There is so much rejection in the industry but when you hear a ‘yes’ to a role you’ve auditioned for, it’s completely worth it.”
It’s this resilience that has led Samantha to spend time working for the prestigious Glyndebourne Opera Company before a spell where she was performing as a lead vocalist in the Canary Islands and more recently, landing a role at Blackburn’s Empire Theatre in the J M Barry classic Peter Pan.
Playing the eponymous hero, Peter Pan, Samantha lives with the belief that getting older gives you confidence, especially in the entertainment industry. But although she loves London and its pace and energy, revisiting her roots on a local stage was a real pleasure for her. With a supportive family, friends and present pupils from Samantha’s former schools attending the performances, Samantha donned the famous green leggings and feather cap 68 times in four-and-a-half weeks.
“We were all so tired. The only day off we had was Christmas Day, but when I’m on stage tiredness isn’t an issue,” Samantha reassures me, adding with a sense of surprise: “I sometimes think to myself, this is what I love doing and I am being paid for this!”
As well as performing on stage, Samantha is a fitness trainer in London: “It’s great because I’m getting to earn a living through a hobby, which keeps me in good shape for the demands of the theatre too.”
And her busy lifestyle doesn’t stop there as Samantha’s new agent has big plans for her future. Giddy with promise and excitement, when imagining and discussing new projects to come, we discuss Samantha’s dream roles, Evita Peron being number one. “I think it’s a great role, she sings beautiful songs!” (Cue … ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’)
“But it’s also a heavy acting role too, which is me,” she adds. “I love to sing but I also love a dramatic role.”
Samantha adds: “Rizzo in Grease is also a pretty great character as everyone loves a rebel.” However, unlike Rizzo, Samantha knows where her future is heading as she is determined to succeed, which shines through when meeting her. She has a get-up-and-go mentality, a drive to achieve and make it happen, which is underpinned with her love of performance and her ability to be patient.
“It’s all about patience and being realistic. You learn more about the industry and yourself as you go along.”
A philosophy that certainly seems to be working for Samantha so far.