A star is born – meet future musical theatre actress Chantelle Wilson
After three years of musical theatre training in the North-East she has secured a coveted place at the prestigious ArtsEd in London whose alumni include Martin Clunes, Nigel Harman, Bonnie Langford, Sarah Brightman and her idol, Julie Andrews.
Chantelle won lead roles in all six shows staged at Stockton Riverside College (SRC) during her studies from Beauty and the Beast to Cinderella and Grease but it was her powerhouse performance most recently as Momma Rose in Medley of Musicals which showcased her raw talent.
Coming from a musical family, Chantelle, now 19, started dancing when she was two. Her dad was a club singer, her younger brother, 14, is a fledgling actor and one of her two older brothers, Dean John-Wilson, is already in the West End, stealing the limelight at the moment in Songs for a New World.
“My mum, Sharon Li-ping, doesn’t class herself as a singer but she’s so supportive, she’s my rock. When I got a principal role in Gypsy I watched a lot of videos of actresses playing Momma Rose, like Imelda Staunton who’s on in the West End but I also did research by going to dance competitions as the mums in the North-East are very competitive.
“My mum is my inspiration for Momma Rose, she knows she’s pushy but she knows she has to be to get the best out of me. I think it means being very determined and when she saw me sing in Medley of Musicals she got really emotional.”
As well as the skilled tutors, masterclasses and classmates at SRC, she also credits successful Teesside playright and director Gordon Steel for developing her range and technique. “I believe I would not be the actress I am today if it was not for him. I’ve sung and danced all my life but I’ve only done a certain amount of acting which he has really helped with. For a monologue you have to think every thought and its only after learning the script that you can put in characteristics,” explains Chantelle from Middlesbrough who learns her lines by reading two to five scenes over again and over again and rehearses songs by typing out lyrics.
“I get nervous about five minutes before the curtain goes up, and I wait up in the dance studio until the last possible moment, but then as soon as I go out on stage I feel very comfortable.”
Despite her prodigious ability, hard work rather than luck will take her far, Chantelle believes. The first time she applied to drama schools at the age of 16 she was accepted by three but turned down by ArtsEd, a blow which hit her hard.
Having completed the BTEC Level 6 Diploma in Musical Theatre she decided to stay on to study for the extended qualification.
She adds: “Not only did it improve my theatrical side, I have improved as a person. It taught me to harden up and made me realise that in this business I’ll be going to hundreds of auditions and the majority are going to knock me back but I can cope with that now.
“In every show I have done I’ve had a lead role which I am so grateful for. I believe that that you make your own luck in life, as the saying goes, “The harder you work, the luckier you get”.”