Birmingham’s Essential Entertainment Guide
Get the latest updates, offers and competitions from What’s On…
Amber Davies’ star is definitely in the ascendent. Winning the third series of Love Island in 2017 catapulted the girl from North Wales into the full glare of the spotlight. In the years which have followed, she’s launched her own boutique clothing range and participated in numerous celebrity-focused TV shows.
But no matter how exciting life became post-Love Island, Amber’s ultimate goal was always to become an actor - it was what she’d spent her childhood and subsequent years at London’s Urdang Academy preparing to do.
In 2019 she got her second big break, starring as Judy Burnley in Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 The Musical, a role which earned her plenty of critical acclaim.
Now she’s about to make her Midlands debut in another big role, playing cheerleader queen Campbell Davis in Bring It On The Musical, which stops off at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in January.
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeff Whitty and Tom Kitt, the hit Broadway show centres on Campbell’s journey from squad captain at Truman High School, through an unhappy move to the cheerleading-bereft Jackson High, to her ultimate return to a life of high kicks and pom-pom twirling. It’s a role which the affably self-assured Amber is relishing playing, particularly as she previously played Campbell in an Urdang Academy production.
“I see my young self in Campbell,” says Amber. “She’s a bright, motivated woman and she knows her worth. She knows her talent, and although she has some obstacles come her way, she manages to overcome them and learn what’s actually important in life. She goes on such an amazing journey in the show - both emotionally and physically. She knows when to be the team leader but she also knows when to be a friend, and I think that’s super important. One of the biggest lessons she learns is that it’s not always about winning. For me personally, it’s not always about getting that job, it’s about enjoying the journey - and the little moments in life as well, because they are just as important as the big things.”
Playing opposite Amber in the role of Cameron is retired British gymnast Louis Smith. The pair, together with the rest of the cast, are about to undergo a five-week camp where they’ll learn the basics (and tricks) of cheerleading; enough to convince audiences, anyway.
Bring It On is a very physical, high-octane show that requires a lot of stamina from its cast, who will be required to do eight performances a week. This is something which excites rather than fazes Amber: “It’s a lot more fun than it is daunting. Because it’s so intense, your body naturally gets used to it. I did some really hard years of training and find I go into muscle memory. I feel I can get through it all a lot easier now than I would have done when I was in college. And of course there are things in life you can do to help yourself. I won’t be going out after a show and I won’t be drinking alcohol. I will be doing the necessary things to protect my voice and my body. Other than that, if you love the job then you’ll get through every day. The buzz the audience gives you, and the adrenaline you get after every show, makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
Amber’s story is one to inspire others who dream of a life on the stage. Dancing, singing and acting lessons as a child, followed by all her hard work at Urdang, has certainly paid off. Taking nothing for granted, she is very aware of the fickle nature of the industry and its many pitfalls. Like everyone in the profession, she’s experienced rejection but has never once let it dampen her ambition.
Her ‘golden ticket’ came with 9 To 5 The Musical...
“When I came out of the reality world, I realised there was something missing in my life. I’d always worked so hard to become a performer and knew I needed to make a decision. The role of Judy in 9 To 5 came up and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is perfect’. Judy was actually meant to be an older woman, and I was a little concerned as to how it would work. Anyway, I went for it and it was just the most amazing experience - and they actually wrote her into the show as a younger woman. It was a dream. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. Initially I was very anxious but soon realised there was nothing to be scared about. Doing 9 To 5 was one of the best years of my life.”
Playing in Dolly Parton’s musical is one thing but actually coming face-to-face with her is quite another... Amber travelled to Nashville to meet the country-music icon for Amber Meets Dolly - a fly-on-the-wall show commissioned by ITVBe to follow her in her pursuit of West End stardom.
“I was fortunate enough to meet Dolly twice. They flew me to Nashville, where I interviewed her for the show. I’ve never been so nervous in all my life, but I don’t know why because she was the most humble woman. She really cared about me and how I felt about playing the role.
“Then, on opening night, I interviewed her again, and she was so excited to see me - asking how rehearsals had gone etc... Then I got this gorgeous letter from her after our press night saying she was so proud of us all, and that Jane Fonda - I was playing Jane’s character in the film - was so proud of what I’d done with the role. It was a dream come true.”
So what one piece of advice would Amber give to anybody wanting to follow in her footsteps?
“There’s one mantra I go by in general and that is: ‘the most successful people in the world are those who have rejection after rejection but never lose their motivation’. I was told that years ago, and it has rung in my head every single day since. We can get het up in comparing ourselves to others, especially on social media when you see people getting jobs and you’re wondering why you aren’t. But even after those rejections you just have to stay motivated because that’s when things will start paying off...”
Bring It On The Musical shows at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Wed 26 to Sat 29 January, and then at The Alexandra, Birmingham, from Tues 10 to Sat 14 May
Posted on Fri 26 Nov