Over the years, Broadway and West End have inspired budding actors and actresses to perform their hearts on stage. One of these rising talents is Claire Marie Hall, whose passion and love for thespianism started at a young age. Her mother encouraged the young Claire to join talent shows after singing ‘ Part Of Your World’ from The Little Mermaid. ‘I was wearing this mermaid costume that my mother made at home, and at the end of that contest, I won unexpectedly, and my mother discovered that I could sing, which we used to our advantage.’ Claire later got a scholarship to enrol in Drama School, and since then, the acting bug has never left her.
Claire’s first job after graduation was the coveted role of ‘Cosette’ in Les Miserables, one of the most esteemed musicals ever. It also marked a significant stage in her life, a pivotal change from being the understudy to an actress challenged with playing one of the most iconic characters ever. ‘ It was a surreal experience. I would have never thought I would be part of this big musical — the kind many people in my drama school would aspire to be in. It also steered me towards the direction of what would now be my chosen career. I ended up thinking, this is it. I can make a living out of this.’
To this day, Claire still thinks that Les Miserables was one of the most complex yet most fulfilling roles she took on. Despite not being trained as a classical singer, she relished the challenge. As time passed, she improved by being more comfortable in the role. Looking back, the actress shared her realization by saying, ‘Getting the role was achievement number 1, but number 2 was getting through that year, and I just had to give myself a pat on the back for that.’
If you ask her about who she feels inspired by the most in her industry, she would answer Lea Salonga. Being half Filipina, Claire looked up to the Tony Award-winning actress and singer for her resilience and prowess as a performer.
Since then, Claire’s career has reached an all-time high, nabbing role after role. Nowadays, you can see her as Jean Leslie in the West End production of Operation Mincemeat, a comedy musical about one of the most daring strategies executed during World War II. ( The year is 1943, and we’re losing the war. Luckily, we’re about to gamble all our futures on a stolen corpse.)
The musical is described as a fun medley with rampant wit that is fast-paced and downright hilarious. In explaining her role and what the musical is like, Claire points out that the cast of five plays many characters. ‘ So we play the core team involved in the operation,at the same time, we also play other characters. The writers chose this story to re-invent into a comedy musical because it was insane.’
Historically, Operation Mincemeat was a daring manoeuvre used by British Intelligence to fool Nazi Germany into thinking that the Allies were planning to invade Greece rather than their intended target, Sicily. ‘They disguised a corpse as a fictional Royal Marines Officer carrying secret documents into the Spanish coastline, hoping that the Spaniards would give it to the Germans and it would climb up the ranks to Hitler.’ Excitedly, Claire further explains, ‘ Unbelievably, it worked. It’s an ingenious feat with a lot of risk, which is why it’s an interesting story to tell. Aside from that, these larger-than-life characters bought plenty of character and different ranges of emotion.’
Transforming it into a comedy musical, however, is extraordinary, specifically since this real-life story took place 80 years ago. The actors/ writers took plenty of inspiration from Montague’s memoirs, creating a plot that encapsulated the story into a musical format. Still, despite its comedic theme, Claire recognizes the fact that this was a tale that needed to be told well. ‘ We had this heartfelt moment about what we were doing since this was a World War 2 operation where peoples’ lives depended on the success of this operation amid a trepidatious and stressful time in history.’
In the musical, Claire mainly plays Jean Leslie, the woman whose photograph was used to portray her as Major William Martin’s (the corpse) fake fiancé. Since little is known about the real-life woman, in the musical, she is portrayed as a hard-working, enthusiastic woman who takes advantage of opportunities to climb the ranks and have a career. In describing her character, Claire tells her as a ‘ scrappy, can’t keep still little terrier dog who is on her way to the top.’
Over the numerous times that Claire has portrayed the character, she manages to see the evolution of Jean throughout the years. ‘She’s slowly evolved from the first time I portrayed her to how she is now.’. Aside from that, Claire’s tenacity as an actress has been continuously challenged with how the musical has been made but in an entertaining way, since she also plays multiple characters within the entire show.’ The big challenge is trying to make them all completely different so that the audience will immediately understand that they’re a completely different character who you’re playing.’
However, her undeniable charm and personality seep through each character she plays. Being in the industry armed her with years of experience, especially since this industry primarily operates on chance. Claire’s pearls of wisdom for younger actors speak from the hear. Unfortunately, it’s an industry based on luck, but it’s about being ready for opportunities when they come knocking at your door. You have to put the work in because you can tick off those many career aspirations and also never be complacent. ‘
With Operation Mincemeat extending until February 2024 due to rave reviews, we won’t see the last of Claire and the phenomenal cast.