An Interview with Sarah Harding
As Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding prepares to make her stage debut in ‘Ghost The Musical’, she tells us about adapting to the stage, meeting her ambitions and missing her bandmates…
How exciting is it to be making your stage debut in Ghost – The Musical?
It’s a bit of everything. Excitement, nervousness, fear, elation, everything really. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do a musical because when you’re doing film or TV you can always do retakes. But you can’t do that with a musical. But the one thing you do get is lots of rehearsal time. Just like you would have if you were doing a concert tour. It’s like a Girls Aloud tour, except instead of dancing I’m learning lines. I’m learning new songs but I don’t have to learn 20 new dance routines. It’s 20 pages – well, triple that – of dialogue. But your muscle memory takes over and it becomes second nature. Just like it did when we were rehearsing our tours back in the day. There’s a bit more to think about, with the staging and the drama and the emotion, and it’s a very heart-felt and touching story.
What was it about this particular show that made you say yes?
I took it on because I really connected with the story. I think everyone can relate on some scale to losing somebody they’ve loved. It really isn’t hard for me to turn on the waterworks. (Laughs)
“I’m like the new girl in school”
Has musical theatre always been an ambition?
I did a bit of training in acting when I was younger. But singing was always my forte. I’ve done a few bits and bobs acting wise, like St Trinian’s, but this is my first proper lead. There were a few female leads in St Trinian’s but this is the only female lead, apart from Oda Mae Brown [Jacqui Dubois]. It was the same with Girls Aloud. There was me and four other girls. Now when I’m singing my solo it’s all eyes on me and it’s me on my own. I don’t have my dancers like I would if I was doing a solo gig. It’s just me, I’m being Molly. I’m singing a heart-felt ballad and I’m acting at the same time. So it’s a completely different kettle of fish. The singing is completely different too. It’s not like you’re belting out big hits and stuff. It has to come from inside. You have to internalise all that emotion and not be over-the-top with it. I have a whole new appreciation for musical theatre. I’m like the new girl in school.
What’s your take on Molly?
She’s a strong lady but she’s vulnerable. She’s lost the man she thought she was about to marry. She was deeply, devastatingly in love with Sam [Andy Moss] and he was taken from her so suddenly. They never had chance to say goodbye. There was no closure.
“I’ve been heartbroken and it’s really tough”
Is she someone you can relate to?
Yes, I can. I’ve been heartbroken and it’s really tough. And from Sam’s point of view he probably feels the same because he doesn’t feel it was his time to go. Things have to be resolved before he can finally say goodbye. The final scenes are so touching and I can’t watch the film without crying. Anything with Patrick Swayze in, I love it. He was one of my heartthrobs growing up – him and the John Hughes films.
How is it working with Andy Moss, who plays Sam?
I love Andy so much. He’s like my teddy bear. I’m like ‘Andy, you’re the actor, you’re the professional one, how would you do it?’ We’re doing our duets, there are a few times when it’s us and Sam Ferriday [Carl], then there’s the whole ensemble. We’re becoming like a family. The first week of rehearsals was the toughest for me because most of the cast have done this before. They’ve trained or they’ve acted before full-time. They’ve had that experience I’ve never had before. I’ve been on stage and I’ve been a singer, but I’ve been a pop singer, not a musical theatre singer. But they have taken me under their wing. They’ll go ‘Try it like this’ and if I’ve over-sung something, like I would in the band maybe, they’ll be ‘Hold back and save your voice for this part’. It’s a different mic set-up as well. I’m not holding a mic, I’m acting.
“People are finally going to see that there’s a softer side to me”
Why do you think this particular story means so much to so many people?
Everybody on their journey in life experiences loss in some way or another. We’re all born, we’re all here, we all love, we all lose and we all have to pass on at some point. It’s a fact of life and it’s telling that story in a tragic but very loving and heart-felt way. It’s about saying goodbye and mourning that loss. It is just so touching and I’m so honored to be playing this part because the film was one of the most iconic films for me growing up.
What are you most looking forward to about the tour?
Oh man, I’ve missed touring. Except I won’t be able to go out on stage and go ‘Hey, Glasgow!’ [Laughs] That won’t be happening. It will be difficult not being able to interact with the audience because I’m so used to getting a crowd going. When it came to going out on stage I’d step up and get into my caricature mode of the leery Sarah everyone thought I was. People are finally going to see that there’s a softer side to me they haven’t seen before. Normally that side is reserved for behind closed doors, for my friends and my family. I don’t like to show weakness. People don’t, do they? People are going to see a whole different side of me and I’m hoping they’ll empathise a little and [laughs] go ‘You know what, maybe she’s not that bad a person after all’. My whole mission is to get the audience crying. I’m going to get this play sponsored by Kleenex! (Laughs)
How will you be spending your downtime? Are you someone who enjoys exploring different towns and cities?
I just like being on the road. I’m quite a free spirit and, like I say, I’m not always 100 mph like everyone thinks I am. I live in the country so it’s very chilled. When I’m on tour I love to take in new cities and I love to travel. When I toured with the girls I used to go out and explore places with some of the dancers, go for lunch, whatever. I like being on the move. I get bored doing the same thing. When I finished education I really struggled with a structured job. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done it and I have a huge respect for people who do those jobs because a lot of them are very important. But I’m not that sort of person. [Laughs] Don’t put Baby in a corner! Wrong film, I know, but I feel I’m a cross between Molly from Ghost and Baby from Dirty Dancing.
“This is going to add another string to my bow”
Will it be strange being on the road without your Girls Aloud bandmates?
It is strange, I’m not gonna lie. But Jacqui who plays Oda Mae has really taken me under her wing. She’s had 30 years’ experience doing this so if there’s anyone who’s going to help me with ‘How would you do that? How would you react? How do you internalise? And how do you externalise?’ it’s Jacqui. I’m learning all these new different terms like ‘downstage centre’ and ‘midstage centre’. I’m like ‘What? We didn’t have that in the band!’ It was just ‘Get here, get there, here’s your dance partner, get the audience going, belt one out’. I’m hoping this is going to add another string to my bow and it’s going to show people I’m capable of more than just being on stage going ‘Come on everybody!’ It’s a massive learning curve for me. It’s almost like I’m at summer stage camp. One thing I always wanted to do as a child was go to full-time drama college but my parents couldn’t afford it. So this has been like boot camp and I’m loving it.
Editor’s update: It was announced on September 5th 2021 that Sarah Harding had passed away from breast cancer, aged 39