Managing to fit us into her busy schedule, we caught up with Dianne on a chilly Saturday afternoon to answer a few questions for us about herself and her impressive career. From protecting the modesty of a Disney princess to a little history lesson for us all, Dianne was her usual bubbly self as we sat down to chat.
It wasn't until her late teens that Dianne decided she wanted to become an actress, explaining it was one of her friends at an amateur dramatics group who suggested that she should pursue a career in performance. "I didn't realise you could do it as a job, well I knew but it wasn't something that was an option for me, I didn't think". Dianne compared her decision to follow a career in the industry at the age of 18 with that of her husband, who made the decision at the age of 10.
It wasn't long after making the decision to follow her passion for theatre as an occupation that Dianne started her training at the Guildford School of Acting. Within her family, Dianne is the only one to have gone into the acting industry. Commenting on her family's incredible support of her choice, she noted some apprehension about the idea initially. "I think after about 5 years of work my mum relaxed," she explains with an air of amusement in her voice, "she kind of thought, 'oh okay, she is going to be alright now.'"
It is clear to see that with a string West End hits to her name, Dianne has had an impressive career since her professional debut in Les Miserables in 1997, but going beyond the surface of her career which of these shows had proved most life changing for her? Noting that all the shows she had been in had changed the path of her career, it had been Cats which had proved to be the most life changing. It was whilst touring the UK in 2006 with the production that Dianne met her husband, Claude Pelletier. "Obviously it (Cats) changed my life more than anything else but Wicked was a complete boost for me career wise". Dianne played the role of Glinda the Good, in the London production of Wicked from July 2007 until March 2010, and remains the longest serving Glinda, in a single contract, world wide.
Since performing together in Cats in 2006, Dianne has not collaborated with her husband on any projects, other than him making a guest appearance at her 2011 Lauderdale House cabaret, where the couple sang a version of the Buddy Holly song, Maybe Baby. Dianne smiled as we asked if going back into a show with her husband would be something she would like to do, "I would love to, but I wouldn't know what show we could both be in at the same time, because I'm certainly not a rock singer where he does the rock and roll thing brilliantly." Whilst Dianne can currently be found performing Amina's aria from La Sonnambula each night in Master Class, her husband's band The Vinyl Stitches can be found performing in the clubs of Shoreditch, reproducing the live spirit of rock 'n' roll.
After her sell out cabaret at Lauderdale House in 2011 maybe Dianne would consider another soon? "When I've got a bit more time I'll put one together. Claude and I have actually been talking about a few things." With the suggestion of this involving a collaborative album Dianne laughed with a smile. "I'm not telling you... but we've talked about it because Claude would like to do something which would merge our styles a bit more in that way." After the successful release of her debut album, Little Stories in December 2010, a further album from Dianne would certainly be received with open arms from her fans.
Recently Dianne has recorded for a concept album for the new musical, The In-Between, written by Laura Tisdall. The duet she recorded with Cassie Compton is different from any style of song we have heard Dianne perform before. "I love that Laura Tisdall stuff, she is amazing, and I had the best time in there with Cassie giving it Rocking!" Interrupting her own flow of speech Dianne started to play air guitar, suggesting it perhaps isn't just her husband who strums the chords of a guitar at home! "It is kind of what I started doing in musical theatre really because Taboo and Tonight's the Night were very Rocky, so I like to think I can Rock it out a little bit occasionally." With the suggestion that her next move in musical theatre could be into Queen's critically acclaimed West End show, We Will Rock You, as the Killer Queen there were a few laughs, but by no means did Dianne dismiss the idea, "Oh I'd love to do that but I don't think they'd have me, I don't think I'm quite that Rocky yet, I'll give it a go. I'll have a chat with Mazz (Murray) about it." Mazz Murray played the Killer Queen in the production for almost a decade, with her and Dianne having met through mutual friend, Kerry Ellis. It wasn't long before Kerry was brought up in conversation. With Dianne having starred opposite Kerry in Wicked, in the roles of Glinda and Elphaba respectively, the pair formed a close friendship "I love Kerry. I lurrve her," she commented about her former co-star.
Having started in the acting industry at the age of 18, Dianne has a wealth of experience to help her through, however if she could give her 18 year old self some advice about going into the industry what would it be? "I'd say go to dance classes and stop hanging around at the back of them. I think that is it, because I was really attentive at college but I was naughty in dance lessons, it was bad because I could have tried a little harder, I think I was just afraid of failing." The fear of failure can be crippling for up and coming performers, Dianne continued, "Don't be afraid of failure. I think I was very afraid of not succeeding in things and doing badly at something as I took it very seriously, and that is why I wasn't as studious in dance class because it was that feeling of 'well if I am going to suck at this I won't try'. So I would tell myself now it really isn't that bad, what is the worst that can happen? People will laugh for five seconds and they will forget about it because something else will happen."
"I think it was, absolutely," Dianne commented after being asked if it was the worry of others people's opinions which caused the fear of failure, "I was quite new to it as well. It kind of freaked me out. I was constantly thinking people would be saying 'she's rubbish'." Something she shouldn't fear today with her allegiance of loyal fans that travel from across the globe to watch her perform. "It doesn't even matter, don't listen to other people. It is like Master Class, one should not beg for favour, in the words of Terrance McNally through Maria Callas and Tyne Daly". Wise words indeed which echo the sentiments of many performers.
It is well documented that Dianne can be a little clumsy and has had a few mishaps on stage, from rebounding wands from the wings at Wicked to drinks poured over her own head in the 39 Steps, we thought why not find out what she thought was the most embarrassing thing ever to have happened to her on stage? We weren't however expecting the answer we received. "So many embarrassing things that have happened but I think the only one I've not shared with any one so far is when I was doing Beauty and the Beast, my whole dress undid itself down the back," Dianne laughed, "there was a lot of strategic acting in the library scene between Belle and the Beast as I tried to face with my back to the back of the stage. Oh my god it was awful." Attempting to stifle our own laughs, Dianne continued with a smile "Alex Bourne was extremely helpful that is all I've got to say, after laughing at me quite a lot." When it was suggested that Belle exposing her underwear wouldn't have been behaviour fitting of a Disney princess, there was a shaken head with a smile, "I protected Belle's modesty, we managed it, but the whole thing undid itself and there was nothing I could do, I think it was broken so I spent a lot of the time facing out front, the audience probably thought to themselves 'wow that actress she just can't stop facing out front, she's not even talking to the Beast.'"
It was recently that Dianne mentioned in an interview with The Stage that when she got stressed her voice would become strained, we were interested to know, exactly what it was that de-stressed her. "I think that the worst thing for the voice is stress in any way, I go to the gym." Dianne's gym trips are no secret with twitter updates happening whilst she is on the cross trainer. "The gym helps me de-stress quite a lot. Now I take Ludo for walks." Ludo is Dianne and Claude's, 8 month old Labradoodle puppy, Dianne continued to tell us about Ludo's escapades which perhaps were a little stressful in themselves but on the whole he was a calming influence on her life.
Dianne has also gained a new love of baking which she has found to be useful for de-stressing, "I bake, this is a new thing. Before press night I went home and decided I was going to make cupcakes for the cast and crew. I had to make loads obviously, so I made three batches of cupcakes which took me until one o'clock in the morning. Normally before a press night you are getting really jittery and I'd probably have a glass of wine or two which isn't helpful either, I found that the baking really relaxed me and the next day I had to ice them so I was really relaxed come press night."
Having already had discussions with Dianne about the success and failure of her baking efforts, she laughed as she told of her success being charted at home by her family, "My step-son said the other day 'now you can make good cakes all the time Dianne', meaning they were rubbish to start off with, but you know, the truth comes out of children."
Whilst relaxing off stage involves a playful puppy and hours spent in the kitchen, on stage when tense these relaxation methods cannot be used. Whilst on stage Dianne commented that she had to try to be in the moment to prevent your voice going or tension showing. "There are certain exercises I do before I go on stage to make sure there is no strain in my shoulders because that is where I hold my tension so I try to get rid of that." Whilst sometimes the outside world can produce its own stresses, Dianne was clear in the fact that you have to commit to the show and concentrate on what your character is doing at that point, which can help you overcome any stress. "I think if I've got a cold and the voice isn't quite there then I'm just going to have to make up for it with the acting. Somehow when you do that your voice comes out any way, it is amazing what happens when you are on stage." Perhaps the old myth of Doctor Theatre isn't such a myth after all.
No interview would be complete without a few slightly obscure questions to find out a little bit more about Dianne. With various different interviews and websites reporting different responses, what exactly is Dianne's favourite colour? "Well it changes all the time but actually at the moment it is yellow, because of the daffodils. I planted some in the front, well actually my dad planted some in the front garden, but they are mine, I love them and they've got happy faces" Clearly her changing love for colours is reason enough for the different responses.
Like her favourite colour another question which varies in response is her favourite food, so as with her colour we decided to find out. "Cheese," straight to the point, Dianne didn't need asking twice, but it certainly wasn't a response we were expecting. Was it any particular cheese that was her favourite? "I like all cheese," again Dianne was very sincere in her reply "I'll quite happily eat a block of cheese. I love cheese; it is a real problem for me." Despite her love of cheese Dianne was very clear we were to ensure no one started taking her cheese to stage door.
So, despite being in 2012, if Dianne had the use of a time machine, when would she travel back in time to? "It would be the Tudor times, Henry VIII." Confused by her responses we had to ask why she would choose this time period, "Because I love all that," giggled Dianne. Going on to tell us of a friend who writes her letters from Henry VIII nicknaming her Anne Boleyn we had a whistle stop tour through Tudor history, a self confessed History geek Dianne is very knowledgeable of the time period and had to stop herself continuing for hours on the subject, but she was very clear that for her to go back to then she would need to have lots of money and a palace because she wouldn't want to be a really poor person back then!
Finally to end the interview, we thought we would ask Dianne where she saw herself being in a year's time. With a moment to ponder her response, she was honest as she replied, "I don't know. I try not to because I just think if you start focusing too much on where you think you should be then you don't go where you're supposed to go. It is true, and I think that sometimes when things don't work out the way you expect them to it is because something else is going to come along and that is more the direction you should be going. I've always just gone 'okay' and with hindsight you look back and think 'oh yeah if I didn't do that I wouldn't have done this'. If I hadn't have gone and done Cats, which terrified the life out of me, I would have never of met Claude," Dianne smiled, "You never know what is going to happen."
Dianne is currently staring as Sophie De Palma, in Master Class, opposite Tyne Daly. The show runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until April 28th 2012.
We would like to once again thank Dianne for taking time out of her busy schedule to sit down and chat to us.