Mamma Mia!: Dagenham actor and former Romford pupil's journey to the West End
PUBLISHED: 15:00 23 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:35 24 July 2019
A former pupil at a Romford theatre school from Dagenham has made her West End debut in London's feel-good musical Mamma Mia!
Rochelle Sherona knew she wanted to be an actor from the age of two.
Now she's performing in Novello Theatre's musical Mamma Mia!
Rochelle told the Recorder: "It's been amazing. Mamma Mia is such a fun musical to be part of.
"I love Abba so it's a bonus that I get to sing the band's songs all day.
"The cast is lovely and everyone in the creative team is also great.
"It can be stressful but it's always worth it in the end."
Since premiering in London in 1999, the feel-good musical has captured the hearts of millions around the globe.
The sunny story of a mother, her daughter Sophie and three possible dads on a Greek island idyll, all unfolding to the magic of Abba's timeless pop masterpieces, has now been seen live on stage by 65million people across the world.
The musical has also been turned into two record-breaking films - Mamma Mia! The Movie and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Rochelle began rehearsing in May and made her West End debut in June.
She performs in the ensemble and is the under-study for Ali, the energetic and kooky best friend of Sophie.
She made her debut as Ali last week.
"Everyone was very supportive and patient with me," said Rochelle.
"I didn't know until the day of the performance that I would be taking on the role.
"I enjoyed being able to do something different. It was really refreshing."
The actor said that the head of wardrobe, Ruth McCorkindale, works hard to match each item to the actor's personality.
She said: "Ruth knew what clothes suited my skin colour.
"She makes sure that you feel comfortable."
Rochelle's favourite Abba songs include The Name of the Game, Knowing Me Knowing You and One of Us.
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"I just love the backing vocals in One Of Us," said Rochelle.
"It's a gorgeous song."
Rochelle previously attended Monteagle Primary School in Burnham Road, Dagenham and then Colins Performing Arts (CPA) Studios in North Street, Romford, which has since closed.
Speaking about her time at CPA, Rochelle said: "I still remember many moments at the school.
"It was my starting point. The school helped me figure out what I wanted to specialise in.
"I did everything there - acting, singing and dancing.
"[The school] provided me with useful skills for auditioning for certain roles."
The young actor hasn't stopped for a break. After finishing school she trained at the Urdang Academy in Islington.
Founded as a ballet school by Leonie Urdang in 1970, the academy now provides specialist vocational training in dance and musical theatre.
Rochelle left the academy early when she was cast in The Starlight Express in Bochum, Germany.
With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and choreography by Arlene Philips, the musical about a child's train set that magically comes to life has been seen by more than 20million people.
"I've been dancing and singing since I was two and I haven't stopped since," said the 22-year-old.
"It's all I've ever known. It's a big part of who I am.
"I've been so blessed to have all the right people support me and I'm so grateful for every single opportunity I've had.
"As an actor, it's so difficult in this industry to find good opportunities."
Rochelle's advice to budding young actors is to never give up.
She said: "If you want it enough and work hard enough it will happen.
"It's difficult because you will get knocked down.
"There's a lot of pressure in this industry for perfectionism and it can be difficult for your self-esteem.
"I know it's cheesy, but it really is just a case of having that belief in yourself."
Mamma Mia! is showing at Novello Theatre in Aldwych, Covent Garden.
Visit mamma-mia.com for tickets.