Actor and singer Rachel Lumberg: ‘I left drama school to do a show with Colin Firth and Minnie Driver’

Rachel Lumberg Rachel Lumberg
by -

After working with writer Tim Firth on several shows, including Calendar Girls, Rachel Lumberg is now playing the lead part in Take That musical The Band. She talks to Tim Bano about talent shows…

How did you get into performing?

At school I had the most phenomenal drama teacher and we did professional shows at Theatr Clwyd – the first one I did was Fiddler on the Roof. I also went into the Clwyd Youth Theatre where Rhys Ifans was among the members. Then I went to Guildhall, where, in my third year, we performed a showcase for agents. There I met the Almeida’s casting director, who said: “There’s a show I think you’d be ideal for. You should come and meet the artistic directors, Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid.” I auditioned for Chatsky, Anthony Burgess’ last show. It was the most phenomenal baptism with an unbelievable cast including Colin Firth and Minnie Driver. That’s how you learn: you watch those skills in a room. I hadn’t even turned 21, but left Guildhall early to do the show.

You’ve done a mix of stage, TV and film work. Which do you prefer?

My heart will always lie in theatre. I love the rehearsal process – being in an environment where you create with others. TV isn’t the same. You used to be called a few weeks before to do camera rehearsals, but you don’t have that luxury any more. In theatre that process lets you forge the relationships you play on stage, so the audience totally believes in you. I have mainly done comedy, so I know there’s nothing like getting that feedback of knowing you’ve hit a laugh line.

How did you get involved with The Band?

Just over a year ago, David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers called me about an idea they’d been discussing with Take That and Tim Firth. This is my fourth show with Tim, after Calendar Girls on stage and workshopping This Is My Family and The Girls. The finished script is very different from the original. Tim is in the room every day, so it’s constantly changing. Of the three days of workshops, the last was just for Take That – so no pressure whatsoever. We didn’t have the five boys because we knew they’d be cast via the TV show, so the guys were final-year musical theatre students.

Were you worried that the reality show format wouldn’t give you the right people?

None of us had a clue who we would be working with in the boyband, but the public made the right decision. They work their butts off – they are phenomenal. Their voices are very individual, but they blend beautifully. Years ago I’d have said: “I’ve trained for how many years, and you get someone off the telly?” But when you look at how these guys work, it’s clear this is something they desperately want. We’ve all thought it’s really unfair when people from reality TV go into panto or something, but the proof is in the pudding, and it’s a really good pudding. It’s a damn good crumble.

CV: Rachel Lumberg

Training: Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1993)
First professional role: Chatsky, Almeida Theatre (1993)
Agent: Sally Hope Associates

Previews of The Band began at Manchester Opera House on September 8