Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star coming to Aylesbury in show with Jason Donovan

Bucks Free Press: Emma Williams as Annie Emma Williams as Annie

AT the age of 17 Emma Williams starred in her first film alongside Steve Coogan. Following filming she returned to school to complete her A-Levels. Now 14 years later she has cemented her career as an actress and is currently starring opposite Jason Donovan and Norman Pace in Annie Get Your Gun, which is coming to Aylesbury next week.

Irving Berlin's classic musical, Annie Get Your Gun, has some great songs including There's No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better, led by a live grand orchestra.

It follows the story of Annie Oakley, played by Emma, when Buffalo Bill's Wild West show comes to town, along with star marksman, Frank Butler. Both have met their match, and they both vie for the best shot.

Emma is clearly loving every minute of being in the show and said she couldn't be happier to play the feisty lead.

The 31-year-old said: "It is quite strange. So often a lot of the leading females in musicals- they tend to be kind of girl that needs rescuing- that makes the love story...

"It is really nice to have a character who is strong and independent and based on reality.

"She is based on a real person- that is quite a privilege in that respect."

She said it is daunting to know so many great actresses have taken the role before her, including Ethel Merman.

Emma said: "Annie is generally played by someone a little older- a lot of that has to do with she is a big role and such a big thing demands a lot of work.

"I have given my life over to that show. My day revolves around this woman. I will do everything I have to do to make it the best show I can.

"I have got a throat steamer in front of me. I will be teetotal throughout the tour. There will be no late nights and not too much talking."

The show is incredibly energetic and she is almost always on stage. During the interval she undergoes an intensive costume change which takes up 17 of the 20 minutes. The very physical performance is meaning Emma is toning up and has had to have her costume readjusted a number of times.

She said: "Since January to now, I didn't get the job until February, I have lost seven inches from around my waist. From starting rehearsals I have lost about four inches.

"It is a real physical show."

Jason Donovan is playing Frank Butler, who Annie falls head over heels in love with, and Norman Pace is playing Buffalo Bill.

Emma said: "They are an absolute delight. They are just so naughty and so funny- that just makes it so enjoyable.

"I love them both to pieces. Jason is just so hard working- he is one of the hardest working guys in showbiz.

"I have never seen someone work as hard as him. He is a joy to be around. He is absolutely adorable...

"Norman is a lot of fun. Everyone gets on really well together."

It is Emma's first tour and she is thoroughly enjoying it, as growing up in Halifax, West Yorkshire, she said this was the kind of theatre she knew.

She said: "I hadn't seen a West End show until I was 16 and two and a bit years later I was doing my first West End show."

And that first show was as the leading lady of multi-million pound musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, playing opposite household favourite, Michael Ball at The London Palladium.

Emma said: "I think it helped I was quite young and naive. I didn't know about the industry, except I enjoyed it. I was not necessarily aware of how big a deal it was until afterwards."

She enjoyed acting but did not think she would be able to do it as a career.

She said: "I always wanted to be a ballerina when I was a little girl and I went to a local dance school.

"I failed my Royal Ballet audition twice and it became quite clear, while I could dance I could not be a ballerina.

"I still went to a local amateur group."

Emma started out in TV in shows like Where The Heart Is and Heartbeat.

But bigger things came knocking in 2001 when she was 17 and cast in The Parole Officer. She filmed in Manchester and lived in a hotel for the three months of filming living off cheese and crackers, she joked. Emma said: "It was an amazing experience, working with Steve Coogan, Omar Sharif, Ben Miller.

"They were amazing. They really looked after me. They needed someone over 16- so they didn't need a chaperone.

"But they were all very aware I was quite young and had never lived away from home before. They all took me under their wing."

After she finished filming she went back to school to finish her five A-Levels, but she became ill in the February/March.

At first people thought she had tuberculosis, but it turned out to be a severe lung infection. She went back to school a week before starting her exams but still got five A-levels.

And keen to have a degree to her name, she studied English Literature part time and graduated last year. She had planned to do a linguistic degree before she landed the part in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

She said: "I am very much a realist at heart. I understood it is very hard to get into this industry with no connections. My mum is a teacher and my dad an engineer.

"I thought I would get a proper job and then see what happens. Many things fell into place.

"Sometimes you have to take risks in life."

Annie Get Your Gun is at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre in Exchange Street, Aylesbury from July 22 to 26 at 7.30pm with Wed, Thu and Sat matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets range from £20 to £46.40 from 0844 8717607 or go to www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury.

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