In the year since first captivating television viewers as a finalist on the BBC’s 2010 show Over the Rainbow (featuring the search for Dorothy Gale in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of The Wizard of Oz), 23-year-old Lauren Samuels has gone on to become a leading lady in the West End. She has appeared as Sandy in Grease, Cathy in The Last Five Years and, currently, Scaramouche in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. Lauren spoke exclusively to A Younger Theatre about her time on Over the Rainbow, her routine as a West End star and her tips for breaking into the performance industry.

When did you first fall in love with musical theatre?

When I was around 10, my mum took me to see my first musical, The Phantom of the Opera in London’s West End, and that’s when my passion really grew. I begged my mum to put me into singing lessons and I joined my local youth theatre. From then on, it really became an obsession!

Who are your inspirations?

I know it’s really lame to say, and such a cliché, but definitely my mum. She has fed my passion for musical theatre all my life and we are such good friends. I owe her so much.

Many of our readers will know you from the BBC show, Over the Rainbow, where you applied for the role of Dorothy. What made you decide to audition?

Some friends from drama school and I had heard about the open auditions and I toyed with the idea of going for a few weeks. Eventually I decided I’d go as I didn’t really have much else to do that day! So I took a book and a lunch box and joined the thousands of girls waiting in London to audition. It was a long day!

What did you feel you gained from being in the live shows?

I learnt a lot about myself not only as a performer, but [also] as a person while on the live shows. It was a very difficult situation that we were all thrust into so quickly, and when I look back I’m really proud of myself for all that I achieved. It was great to gain recognition as a performer from so many great industry professionals, including the Lord [Andrew Lloyd Webber] himself!

What is your favourite memory from the series?

There are so many! The whole series was like one big slumber party, living with all the other girls, and we had so many great times in the Dorothy house. But I think my favourite memory would have to be visiting Andrew’s house when the three of us reached the final. It was such a surreal experience.

Do you get nervous before you perform? If you do, how do you counteract those nerves?

I think everyone gets nervous before they perform, and if they say they don’t, they’re a liar! It comes with the job. I usually give myself a good talking to before any big performance. A pep-talk type thing, the usual, “Come on Lauren, you can do this!” But I think the most important thing to help control nerves, is to know that you’re prepared. So be as prepared as possible for what you are about to do. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

What is your routine when you prepare for performing in a professional West End show?

When I’m in a West End show, it kind of takes over my life. Everything becomes about making sure I’m fit and well, and my voice is OK. Lots of steaming, drinking gallons of honey and lemon, taking tons of vitamins and getting plenty of sleep. It’s tough, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What do you feel you have brought to the previous roles you have played? What’s been your favourite part to play?

I’d like to think I’ve brought my own spin and personality to other roles I’ve played. It’s all about making the character your own rather than copying another actor, and that’s where the rehearsing comes in. I’ll stand for ages in the mirror going over one specific line until I find the perfect way to say it! I would definitely have to say that the role I’m currently playing, Scaramouche, is my favourite role to date. I just love her!

What do you love about being in We Will Rock You, particularly playing the role of Scaramouche, a wilder character than Sandy or Dorothy?

Scaramouche is like no other role on the West End. I have dreamt of playing this part for years, so it really was a dream come true when I was cast. She is so sarcastic and dry and wild, like you said. I love her humour and how she takes the mick out of Galileo for practically the whole show! But above all, I love the fact that we all get to rock out on that stage every night to such fantastic music. There’s no band out there like Queen anymore. They were a revolution, and being a part of their amazing show is simply fantastic!

If you could choose to play any role, male or female, in the history of theatre, what character would it be?

Tough one! There are so many musicals and roles that I adore! I have always had a passion for Les Misérables, so one day I’d love to play Eponine, and I’d also love to be painted green in Wicked one day…

Would you ever consider directing a show?

I’d love to direct. It’s something I can see myself doing in the very distant future, when performing is no longer for me. I’d love to be able to pass on the knowledge I’d have hopefully gained over the years to those just starting out in the business.

If you weren’t in musical theatre, what career do you think you would be pursuing?

This is a really hard one for me as I’ve never not wanted to be in musical theatre and, if I hadn’t been so lucky with my career so far, I’d still be trying my hardest to get into the West End. Saying that, I love the idea of opening my own shop – musical theatre based (obviously). That would be really cool!

Do you see yourself staying in the West End, or do you think you will try other roles outside of the theatre, perhaps on the big screen?

I love all aspects of performing, not just on the stage, so yes I’d love to branch out to TV and film one day. It’s incredibly hard to do though, so I’ll have to keep working hard!

What advice have you got for our readers who would like to break into the musical theatre industry?

Drama School! [Lauren attended the Guildford School of Acting] I think it’s really important to learn your craft in a professional environment, so I would advise as many people as possible to apply for drama schools. It’s what I did when I was 17 and I’ve never looked back!

Lauren will star as Yonah in a West End Charity Gala performance of Children of Eden on 29th January 2012 at the Prince of Wales Theatre. More information available here. For more information about Lauren, visit her website here.