In Theatre Trip’s “Spotlight On” series, we’re chatting with some of the most inspiring people in the theatre industry. And today we’re doing a special feature on Christina Bennington – a leading West End actress who is especially known for her outstanding performance as Raven, the lead female in the hit musical Bat Out of Hell.
Christina Bennington originated the role of Raven on the West End and will be bringing it to the New York City Center this summer. So keep reading to learn more about Christina’s background, along with her pre-show rituals and tips for aspiring actors and actresses!
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What was it that initially inspired you to step into the theatre world?
“I’ve always loved telling stories and thought from a young age that actors were so lucky to get to play for a living. Turning a passion into a job is a great privilege. I suppose the definitive ‘light bulb’ moment was seeing Mary Poppins in the West End. My first role at the age of five was playing ‘Queen of the Mermaids’ at school. I actually got it because I told a white lie and said I already had a mermaid costume. Thankfully my mom is a brilliant seamstress and was able to get one together before I was found out!!”
Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like to play the role of Raven in Bat Out of Hell?
“It sounds cliché, but Raven is an absolute dream come true. To be a part of shaping this amazing show and to create an original role is unbelievably emotional. I’ve become very attached to her and love sharing her story every night. She’s complicated – playful, stubborn, dark, smart, difficult, joyous – just a typical teen who’s been locked away in a tower her whole life I guess! Haha! It’s a beautiful challenge as Raven’s story involves very small camera acting, very physical elements and big vocals.”
Would you say that the show has changed much since you first joined the cast?
“Yes! A lot! The show is constantly evolving. There have been many scenes and songs lost and added along the way. It’s quite a magical process. This iteration is new again and it’s extremely cool to be able to say I still have lots of discoveries to make with this cast and this space. Audience reaction is important in the ever-changing beast of Bat and it’ll be very interesting to see it finally play to the city where the show is set.”
Bat out of Hell is such a demanding show! Do you have any tips for staying in shape physically and vocally?
“Leading a demanding show really involves a whole lifestyle. I love what I do, and my vocal and physical maintenance is a huge part of that. I work out every day – a mix of reformer pilates, running, spinning and weight training keeps me full of energy and strong enough to be jumping and rolling around on stage 8 times a week. Jim’s music is full throttle and requires the whole body to do it justice. I make sure to warm up my voice and constantly check in with the more technical elements involved in getting that huge rock belt sound.”
How has this whole experience changed you as an artist or as a person?
“Bat Out of Hell has been the biggest adventure of my life so far. As a performer, it’s given me a lot more confidence in my ability to create something new. I have a new found ability to stand up in what I believe in creatively. Consequently, I now find it a lot easier heading into audition rooms for future projects as I’m more aware of what I have to give.
It also really stretched me. Before this, my last three jobs were period soprano musicals where I wore a lot of corsets and petticoats. Let’s say Bat is a liiiiittle different. As a person, it’s brought me a huge amount of life experience. I’ve travelled new places with the show, met incredible people and done so many things that I always dreamed of as a kid. It’s very surreal to step back and remember the day I got the job when I’m about to open in New York City.”
Are there any pre-show rituals that you like to do before stepping on stage?
“I have a playlist of music that I think Raven would enjoy. I tend to turn it up during the last 5 minutes before I head to the stage and really rock out. I also like to be overly prepared so you can usually find me in the theatre a lot earlier than I have to be. Doing my wig prep slowly and warming up my voice helps me feel calm and ready for the show.”
“See as much theatre as you can and have opinions as to what you do or don’t like. It’ll help you grow as a creator.”
Can you maybe share with us one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in your career so far?
“One of the hardest things is trying not to be pigeonholed in one genre. I am passionate about so many areas of the performing industry. I love so many styles of singing, both musicals and plays, and I adore the detail and magic of screen acting. It took me a couple of years to convince people to consider me for all of these things. I’m lucky to have an incredible agent who is constantly breaking down walls and getting me in to meet for exciting projects.”
Would you say that your studies at the Guildford School of Acting has contributed to your overall success in the industry?
“Definitely. My training was a learning curve. Not only did I learn the practical skills I’ve needed (acting, singing, dancing etc), but I also spent three years growing up and discovering who I was. It’s an intense time when you’re training with people all day every day. It teaches you to be vulnerable and open which is such an important skill. GSA is a wonderful school and I’m very grateful for the support they’ve shown me in my career so far.”
Do you have any advice for those who are aspiring to perform on Broadway or in the West End one day?
“Believe in yourself – it’s a competitive industry and you need confidence in your own ability. Be kind. Always. To everyone you meet and most importantly to yourself.
See as much theatre as you can and have opinions as to what you do or don’t like. It’ll help you grow as a creator.”
And why would you say that people should go see Bat Out of Hell?
“It’s truly a theatre experience like no other. The energy of a rock concert, the scale of a Broadway musical and the heart of Jim Steinman. Don’t miss us!”
What did you think of this interview with Christina Bennington?
Are any of you working as or aspiring to be an actor or an actress? We’d love to hear all about what you’re up to in the comments below! In the meantime, you can check out even more of our interviews with inspiring people in the theatre industry!
*The featured photo of Christina is by Joseph Sinclair.
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