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Actor CJ Johnson on her first audition: ‘Next thing, I’m belting out I Dreamed a Dream for Coldplay’s Chris Martin’

CJ Johnson. Photo: Mug Photography CJ Johnson. Photo: Mug Photography
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My first professional audition was as a ‘wild card’ for Fantine in Les Miserables. I was still in training and they contacted the Royal Academy of Music to say they wanted to try me. It was because James Powell (associate director) had judged a singing competition at our college.

The audition was on the Palace Theatre stage. It was impossible to escape the all-consuming enormity of feeling in the lead-up and on the day. I remember going to our course director Mary Hammond’s house for a lesson on that morning. Towards the end, the doorbell went for her next student. Mary said: “It might do you some good to practise in front of someone else.” Next thing, Chris Martin (yes, from Coldplay) is sitting on her sofa and I’m belting out I Dreamed a Dream, with nervous energy dialled up to 10 and diction on point – so a lot of saliva, at his face. Poor Chris.

I always find auditions on stage the most distressing. It’s a dry environment acoustically when you’re not miked. And hostile when you’re in the middle with the work lights on. It’s a bit like singing in a field of straw, on a hot day with somebody holding the end of your tongue, cotton wall balls in your cheeks and tampons up your nostrils and in your ears.

Looking back, I would have done nothing differently because you need to experience life’s texture. I imagine I went in thinking I knew what they were looking for and trying to be it.

Find ‘you’ in the role you are auditioning for

In my older age, I fight hard to be my own version of me. Find ‘you’ in the role you are auditioning for. Go with your instincts. Whether you get the job or not, your version is your best chance. You are unique and beautiful in your Technicolored humanity and something will come along that’s right. Look for varied work that fuels your creativity and if it doesn’t turn up, write something starring you.

CV: CJ Johnson

Age: 40
Training: BA (hons) Drama, Theatre and Television, Winchester University; PGDip Musical Theatre, Royal Academy of Music
Theatre includes: 42nd Street, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London; Little Shop of Horrors, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester; The Light Princess, National Theatre, London; Oliver!, UK tour; Piaf, Donmar Warehouse, London; The Three Musketeers, Rose Theatre, Kingston
Other credits: Voice-over and recording artist for BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky

TV includes: Galavant (ABC Disney); Mousie (Kewhaven Pictures)
Agent: Jeffrey and White Management

CJ Johnson was talking to John Byrne. She is in 42nd Street until August 23

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