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Erin Caldwell: the journey to theatre’s most prestigious stages

on 18 April 2024 0

Gaining renown for her role as Jane Seymour in the hit musical Six, Paisley’s Erin Caldwell talks us through her journey to theatre’s most prestigious stages

There’s a lot to be said for never relinquishing your dreams even when external forces threaten to derail it and the current career trajectory of Erin Caldwell epitomises that. After numerous setbacks along the way, Erin is now garnering rave reviews for her turn in one of the biggest musicals on the circuit today. Like many stories of this nature to occur in Paisley, it all starts with a little youth theatre you might’ve heard of. 

“I started PACE when I was about eight and I was there till I was about 15. It was a big part of my life and I don’t think any of the success and career I’ve had now would’ve been possible without the foundations of PACE. I’m very passionate about raising awareness of it as there’s been some incredible alumni. Look at someone like James McCardle [Star of the Paramount+ reboot of Sexy Beast], he’s absolutely smashing it on stage and screen. It’s been a pathway for so much Scottish talent. 

“It’s all the more special as a Paisley gal,” Erin continued. “I went back and supported the panto this year and it was just fantastic.”

For this budding actor and singer, PACE would be the springboard to explore the specific sector of show business that she’s making her name in today.

“I was around 13 when I became interested in musical theatre specifically,” Erin continued. “I remember downloading the Wicked soundtrack on Limewire and infecting my dad’s computer with all sorts of viruses (laughs), which I don’t think I’ve actually ever told him.

“Musical theatre was always something I was aware of through my gran, but that was when I decided to take it seriously. I auditioned for The Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood when I was 15 and studied there for four years. It taught me so much about the discipline of the industry too.” 

Moving on to the Guilford School of Acting, Erin recalled with a smile how that was the first time she’d left home and was independent. “Looking back now, I was excited, but I was terrified about how I was going to cook. You’re in such a bubble up here, but it really taught me how cutthroat the industry is.” 

Erin Caldwell

“You can be from a small town and still have the same sized dreams as anyone else”

After graduating, Erin Caldwell earned her stripes with any role she could get. But, just as she began to ascend, the pandemic curtailed her momentum. Suddenly, she went from vying for starring roles to working in a petrol station for 15 months as she waited for the theatres to reopen. Along the way, she’d get a helping hand from the very institution where she first honed her skills. 

“Just before Covid, I was in the finals for three massive West End shows,” she revealed. “At that point, I really felt like this was my chance. But in an instant, all of those opportunities vanished. That was really hard to come to terms with. This industry can be tough on your self-esteem when there are so many no’s, so to get so close, I reached a point back in Paisley where I was like ‘should I go back? Should I keep going’?” She disclosed.

“Through all that, my mum, dad and brother were so supportive and at one point, I had a self-tape for Pretty Woman to do. Once again, I relied on PACE to get it done. I spoke to Jenni [Mason, PACE Artistic Director] and asked if I could come in and record in Spires and she said yes, absolutely. 

“That next week, I moved back to London as life was starting back up again and I got the call to say that I’d got it. Since then, it’s just snowballed into this wonderful thing and it’s kind of just solidified to me that every single one of those no’s, no matter how awful, were worth it just to get that yes. 

“I waited six years for my first job out of drama school while I saw other people jump straight to the West End or into films,” Erin declared. “But, I never diminished their successes, I always championed them while patiently waiting. So, If I can do it, anyone else can. You can be from a small town and still have the same sized dreams as anyone else. You just need to believe in yourself more than anyone else.”

Following successful turns in Pretty Woman and Heathers, Erin’s biggest role to date has come as Jane Seymour in Six, a musical which explores the lives of Henry VIII’s wives from their too often overlooked perspectives. 

Since its launch, Six has recieved acclaim from both avid musical theatre fans and those who are generally much less enamoured with it. To Erin, this is no surprise. 

“It’s clever and there’s something for all ages and gender. I remember when I first took the role, I was really nervous and didn’t think my dad would love this one, but he was instantly like ‘I loved it and I can’t wait to go back’. It’s joyous to be part of a show that is so women-led and it’s a British show telling the story of real British women from their point of view.

“Everyone knows who Henry VIII was, but not everyone knows who these women were and it’s a much more interesting story to hear what they gave her as opposed to him. There’s a lot of misconceptions about the women, particularly Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, so the show really depicts how traumatic some of these lives are. But, the music is all bops as well (laughs). You can’t go and see it and leave without the tunes stuck in your head.” 

One song that resides at the centre of the show is the ballad known as “Heart of Stone” which Erin herself takes on. For her, the song is among her favourites in the whole canon of musical theatre long before she took on the role. 

“It’s a song that I have always wanted to sing since the first time I heard it. I was the singing teacher at Stagecoach for a couple of years and I remember when it came out, I taught it to all my students just so I could sing it with them,” she conceded. “It’s been my absolute bucket list dream to perform it as it’s a beautiful song that requires just as much acting as it does singing. So, to sing it in a Scottish accent eight times a week is something I’m very proud of.” 

Preparing to embark on a seven week tour in March including dates in Europe, this structure may be gruelling, but it’s something Erin loves because it ensures people outside of London have theatre democratised to them. As for what’s next, Erin is focused on the present as opposed to peering too far into the future. 

“I’ve never been one to have too many dreams,” she concluded. “I never expected this part of my career to happen, so I just expect the unexpected and go along for the ride. I just know there will be good things.”

Q&A with Erin Caldwell

Dream collaborator? Jodie Comer 

Dream song to perform? I’d like to give Defying Gravity a go 

Favourite place in Paisley? Allan’s, the only place in the world to have chips

Keep up with Erin Caldwell on Instagram

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