It’s kind of a non-musical Mamma Mia!, in a way, isn’t it? [Laughs.] Hah, yes, and that was also written and directed by women. There’s certainly something about seeing a show built around women by women, which really is a rarity. Tamzin Outhwaite, your third cast member, hasn’t played Mary. Do you think she feels left out? [Laughs.] I’m not sure how much Sondheim she’s done, so perhaps we should give her a push! But what’s great about the three of us in this play is that having experienced quite a bit of life, Jenna, Tamzin, and I feel as if we can get that much more out of the material—at least we hope we can. Tell me about going from Merrily We Roll Along, about a three-way friendship, to another piece about a three-way friendship. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? There were moments where we did actually break into song, especially because Jenna has of course also played Mary [in Merrily] herself. When I played Mary [in 2000], I was so young and I’m not sure the material resonated for me the way it does now; it’s wonderful having three women in their forties getting to tell this kind of story. It feels as if we are going on a complete journey every night. Why was that? Because if singing was really my thing, I might have lost my nerve, especially since when I did Merrily, the fact that I was doing a musical felt like a one-off. But I quickly decided to approach [Fanny Brice] so that it was about playing the part and it ended up being one of the great jobs I’ve done, partly because I couldn’t imagine having ever gotten to that point! The characters are an interesting mix: sporty lesbian Di, free-spirited Rose, and reined-in Viv. How does their dynamic feel to you? I think Amelia [Bullmore, playwright] has captured something brilliantly in this play, which is that the characters may not seem that well-suited to one another, but there’s something about the three of them as young human beings that needs one another and Rose [Russell’s character] is actually the one that brings them together so it all starts to work. View Comments Samantha Spiro has two Olivier Awards to her name, first for playing Mary in the Michael Grandage-directed Donmar production of Merrily We Roll Along and then for her irrepressible Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! in 2009 at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. But the gifted actress is no stranger to non-musicals as can be seen from her sterling work at the Vaudeville Theatre in Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose, playing the starchy English careerist, Viv, who forges a new and happier life for herself in New York. The delightful Spiro took time one recent afternoon to reflect on her own career, which on this occasion includes co-starring with another onetime Mary from Merrily, Jenna Russell. You’ve played two roles associated with Barbra Streisand—Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at Chichester, and of course, Dolly Levi. Both of those situations completely bowled me over at the thought of doing them! I was absolutely scared shitless about doing Funny Girl: it felt such a humongous arc at times, and I had just given birth to my second child and hadn’t done a musical for years so to take on such an iconic role, I was scared but then thought I had absolutely nothing to lose. Is there any more Sondheim in your future? I certainly hope so! I remember when he arrived at rehearsals for Merrily and walked into the room and then said, “God has arrived,” and of course it felt as if God really had arrived; meeting him was overwhelming. I suppose Mrs. Lovett has got to be fairly high up my list, though it can’t be for quite a few years now after that brilliant production with Imelda [Staunton]. But one lives in hope! And Dolly? Oh, that was just an absolute joy, though in a way I was ridiculously young to be playing it. But the thing about Dolly is that she’s someone you can carry on playing through life as we know from the wonderful Carol Channing, who is probably still playing Dolly somewhere right now [laughs]. There are times, though, when you think the friendship is on the verge of breaking down. Yes, and the thing about playing someone like Viv, as I am, is that she’s not incredibly tactile or generous. She listens to people but she isn’t always very positive about them. Her work is probably the most important thing to her and it’s not until the end, and once she experiences loss, that she realizes friendship is something she cannot afford to lose. Of the three characters, do you see yourself as most naturally a Viv? Anna [Mackmin, director] very much wanted me to play Viv. I read it and thought they had mentioned the wrong character. I felt maybe I was more naturally a Rose but the thing about Viv is that there’s this incredible payoff in the second half that brings with it an energy and freedom. So the more I spoke to Anna, the more I felt this would be a great challenge.