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Up close and purrrrrsonal with the cast of Cougar The Musical!

Posted on 12 May 2015

With excitement building in countdown to the U.K premiere of Cougar The Musical in Coventry, we decided to get up close and purrrrrsonal with our fabulous cast of four at an exclusive press launch held in our very own B4 Grill-turned ‘Cougar Bar’.

As part of the afternoon’s celebrations, guests were invited to pose their questions to the cast after which they were treated to an exclusive preview of three numbers appearing in the show which included up-tempo opening number ‘On The Prowl’ and life-affirming ballad ‘Say Yes’.

After a quick refreshment break, it was time to turn up the heat with a guest appearance from ‘bear cub’, Barnaby Hughes, who set pulses racing with a performance of his signature number ‘Swagger’, complete with audience participation and shirt-ripping!

You can catch up with the gossip from the day in our interview with Suanne, Dawn and Pippa below plus look out for a blog post with Barnaby coming soon…..

Cougar the Musical tells the story of three women who are on three very different journeys. Can you tell us a little bit more about your characters?

PW: My character, Lily, has just come through a divorce – her second divorce in fact. She’s a woman who isn’t comfortable unless she’s in a relationship and her story is really about learning to stand on her own two feet and her becoming a stronger person in her own right. Ironically, it’s through her relationship with a younger man in the show, that she finds that inner strength and experiences a truly loving relationship for the first time. She didn’t plan to fall for a younger guy but in falling for him, she finds herself in a way.

SB: I play Mary Marie de Beau regard de Champaign, with an emphasis on the pain! Mary married for money – she’s a widow whose husband left her very well off and she’s at a point in her life where she thinks, ‘I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt’ and so decides to open a Cougar Bar in New York City, Manhattan because young flesh is where the excitement is! She’s all about celebrating this wonderful time in her life. She’s vivacious, witty and not shy in coming forward in the bedroom which leads to some interesting and hilariously unexpected results.

DH: My character, Clarity Jackson, is quite different. She’s a sharp-dressing no-nonsense businesswoman who has learned to walk on her own two feet. With a son who’s recently left for university, she’s finds herself in the throws of empty nest syndrome. This leads her into volunteer work and to an interest in women’s issues. In the course of the show, she decides to ditch her six figure job and go back to school. Along the way, she becomes fascinated with the ‘Cougar phenomenon’ which is how she meets Mary Marie and Lilly. And whilst she goes into her degree judging women who make this choice, she learns that – ultimately – there’s no one way to live your life and that inner-strength comes in all guises!

In some quarters, the term ‘Cougar’ can be seen as derogatory. How far do you think the show goes in reclaiming the term ‘Cougar’ as something far more positive?

PW: I think when Donna Moore, the writer, first started this project she was very much attacking that derogatory term and the whole idea of the label ‘Cougar’ being used to talk disparagingly about female sexuality. What’s so wonderful about this show is that it really does embrace all the fabulous qualities that make up a woman. The show goes a long way in celebrating the courage that comes with breaking away from the past and taking a chance on a younger man. Age is just a number after all.

DH: There’s a wonderful line in the show which goes: ‘What do you call an older woman linked with a younger man…..a WOMAN!’

SB: It’s interesting isn’t it that when a man is with a much younger woman, he gets congratulated and slapped on the back and somehow when it’s the other way around, it’s never quite the same so I definitely think the show touches on that gender gap. But just in case there are any men thinking their coming along to a womens’ self-help group, it’s not at all. There is something in this show for everyone, it’s not just about women lusting after younger guys. It’s a show about relationships – relationships between mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, friends, fathers, men, women. It’s about life as we know it with all of its ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns. So don’t be scared boys….we don’t bite!

It’s been nearly nine years since Donna Moore first had the idea for Cougar The Musical, which successfully ran for over two years off Broadway. How do you think British audiences will respond to the humour and what do you think has contributed to the show’s success so far?

PW: I think it’s a show that everyone can relate to in some way. It’s a show about finding fulfilment and saying yes to whatever life puts your way. There’s a real sense of joy and positivity about the show, which audiences seem to warm to instantly.

SB: Great humour is universal – if something is funny, it’s funny. What strikes me about the show is how it touches upon universal human emotions and experiences. I mean – ladies, how many of us haven’t woken up on some days and thought it’s time for the big pants! How many of us haven’t come home from a terrible day at work and cracked open the wine and ice cream?

What drew you to want to be in the show as actresses?

DH: I’d just come out playing Rosa Parks in Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys at the Young Vic which later transferred to the Garrick – a very honourable, respectful and sad story. After playing a number of very serious, intense roles, I just got to the point where, the next job I did, I wanted to laugh. My artistic spirit needed that injection of fun and joy so when Cougar The Musical came along, I thought, do I dare? And I can honestly say it’s been an absolute joy to work on. This show does so much more than I thought it would do – it’s fun, it’s sad, it’s moving, it’s high-energy, it’s got eye-candy, it’s got bedroom candy …it’s got the lot!

PW: For me, Lily – my character – was just so wonderfully awkward and that’s me to a tee in my real-life. I keep getting older and older but somehow, I still have the mental age of an eleven year old who trips over things so it was nice to find a character whose experience chimed with my own experience. The other thing I love about this show is, being a woman of a certain age, I don’t get to play a lot of love stories. I’m always the mom or the school teacher and in this show, I get to fall head over heels. It’s just so much fun.

SB: It’s also really and refreshing to find a piece where all three women – as different as they are – are strong in their own right and feature as leading characters in their own story! When you get to a certain age as an actress, really meaty roles are few and far between. There’s that wonderful line in First Wives’ Club about women in Hollywood, ‘First you’re a district attorney, then you’re an ingénue, then you’re Driving Miss Daisy’ and it’s kind of true. Once you get to thirty, you’re on your way to playing granny so it’s wonderful to be in a show where women are celebrated and where the female characters are so well-developed in their own right.

As any self-respecting Cougar knows, you have to feel good on the outside to feel good on the inside. Can you tell us a little bit about your characters’ personal style and about some of the costumes you’ll be wearing in the show?

SB: Mary Marie is your stereotypical ‘Hollywood wife’. She married money so she doesn’t struggle. If she needs to go and buy something, whether it be a new pair of shoes or a new pair of boobs, she goes and buys them! She’s a worshipper at the temple of Saint Dolly Parton! She’s glamorous, fun, a fan of bold colour and animal prints – there’s absolutely nothing shrinking violet about Mary Marie! When she walks into a room, you know about it!

PW: My character, Lily, has such a huge journey. She starts out very girlish and feminine and slowly but surely, Mary Marie takes her under her wing and Lily learns the joys of being a Cougar. But in the end, she opts for a lovely mature dress that shows off her figure. She’s owning it finally, she’s not trying to be anyone else – she’s at one in her own skin. So the costumes go along way in telling the story of Lilly’s journey. It’s a transformation that happens on the inside as well as out.

DH: Clarity is a real sharp-dresser. If it’s designer, you can bet it belongs in Clarity’s wardrobe. She likes the very best in life, Donna Karen, Jimmy Choo, Bloomingdales….she’s a real high-end gal! She’s earned a buck or two in the city and she’s not afraid to flaunt it. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to take it.

Do you have a favourite musical number in the show?

DH: For me, it has to be ‘Say Yes’, the finale number because it really encapsulates a way of looking at life that we all could learn something from. It’s about seizing opportunities and making the most of every experience, good and bad. You live, you learn, you move on and – in the process – you grow in strength. Ultimately, it’s about learning to love yourself and I just can’t get enough of that!

SB: What I love about the score is that it draws on so many different musical styles. We’ve got Latin, there’s some salsa in there, we’ve got a reggae number, a blues number, some beautiful love songs – very Burt Bacharach and they’re all incredibly catchy! I have to stop myself from singing them when I leave the rehearsal room!

Is a little bit of ‘Cougar’ rubbing off on any of you? Are the male population of Coventry safe?

SB: I’m married, happily married but yes, a bit of ‘Cougar’ is rubbing off on me and I’m glad to say my husband is very happy about it!

PW: I’m also married and I have two lovely sons. When I was cast in this show – they were like ‘Mom, that is so awkward. You’d better not be putting any of this on social media!’. If there was an award for ‘Most Embarressing Mom’ right now, believe me, I’d be in with one heck of a shot.

DH: I’m not in a relationship at present but personally, I’m not sold on it….yet!

Cougar The Musical makes its U.K premiere in Coventry from Sat 16 May – Sat 6 June. For tickets, call the Belgrade Box Office on 024 7655 3055 or visit www.belgrade.co.uk where tickets are cheaper.

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