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01st Oct 2021

Stephanie McKeon: “Walking through the West End, there’s life again”

Ellen Fitzpatrick

“This is just the biggest highlight so far.”

As theatre and live entertainment is making its much-anticipated return to Irish stages, there’s nobody more excited to get back to it than those immersed in the industry.

Dublin’s very own Stephanie McKeon is currently playing Anna on the West End’s Frozen debut, and while she may have experienced the magic that came alongside the doors to each theatre reopening, there’s something special about it all happening again at home.

Known mostly for her roles on stage, Stephanie began her career during her school years with a small recurring role as Aisling on Fair City. After studying at Trinity, it wasn’t long before her name really starting getting out there.

Over the years, Steph has plated Natalie in The Commitments, Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on London’s West End, not to mention also appearing in the Menier and West End productions of Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined.

With the lights back on, the smell of popcorn as you walk in, and the curtains finally being pulled, live shows are back in Dublin and Stephanie tells us just how unbelievable the return really is.

“I’m so excited that things are starting to open up again in Dublin and across Ireland, even just walking through the West End, there’s life again,” she told Her.

“People are back out. We all endured such a sad time with so much doom and gloom and terrible things happening to everyone we know. I’m excited for that resurgence of life to happen again in Dublin and for people to be able to go out and enjoy themselves and have some fun and heal from such a terrible time.”

“There’s no better feeling than hearing an audience’s reaction to what you’re doing. I missed the ritual as well, just going into work and everyone in the building becomes your family and you’re all in it together. I missed the community of it, I suppose. I missed the community feeling of people coming together to create something and create something special.

“It was just so sad to think that they were all just black for all those months and they’re there to be filled with people and for people to enjoy a live experience and entertainment. There’s just something very, very sad about that.”

Taking on one of the most loved Disney princesses, Stephanie is playing Anna in the musical adaptation of the hit 2013 film – and after a year and a half waiting to get on stage to show everyone what she’s made of, the return is very much welcomed.

Both nervous and excited to return to the stage, Stephanie explains how the hectic last few months only proved how much theatre-goers and those working in the industry have yearned to go back.

“Nobody in the arts had any idea at all when it was going to come back. We had false starts and it was all so disappointing. We were all locked away for the guts of a year, but of course naturally the idea of going back into any work environment was daunting, especially being around lots of people,” Stephanie said.

“It’s a whole mix of emotions, really. I was nervous. I was so excited, excited about the role and just to be back in the world, but also nervous about the pandemic, but also taking on such a huge role because it’s quite a big role. People know and love Frozen, you do want to give audiences what they want and you want to make sure you’re really staying true to the character.

“As soon as we got into it, that sort of dissipated, I wasn’t really that worried about the pressure of the role because you just build your stamina.”

Theatres reopened to 60% capacity back in September, with everyone needing to be fully vaccinated, but are set to open as normal on October 22nd, along with everything else across the country.

While the UK has already seen their country open up, Stephanie says that normality returning fully is a relief.

“There’s no better feeling than that first time we had an audience and just being on stage and seeing a full house on their feet. It was so cathartic for us as well as it was for them. I think we were all breathing a sigh of relief that the world was coming back and we were celebrating a live event again,” she said.

While she is killing it in London on the stage, Stephanie does someday hope to return to Dublin and continue part of her career from home. And when it comes to her dream role, she feels she very well could be already doing it.

“I’d love to do some Irish film or something like that. I love Irish cinema and I love Irish TV, so I’m always drawn to coming back to that and being in Dublin again, I miss it so much,” the former Fair City actress said.

“I love the idea of originating more roles and starting something at the bottom and organically building a story together. Anna felt honestly like very much a dream role. I think I really just identify with her. So I think I’m probably already doing my dream role.

“This is just the biggest highlight so far.”