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Is there a doctor in the house? Talking to Dr Ranj Singh

From practicing medicine to practicing rehearsals, we chat to Dr Ranj Singh about his musical theatre debut in the smash hit musical & Juliet!

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We sat down with Dr Ranj Singh to talk about his musical theatre debut in the smash hit musical & Juliet, which is stopping off at Norwich Theatre Royal, the arts and mental health and what it is really like to dance with Janette Manrara.   

For people who think they know Romeo and Juliet, how does the show shake things up? 

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most well-known love stories ever, and people will have a good idea of what happens in the end. The twist in & Juliet is that it asks: What would have happened if Juliet didn’t die? What if she got to rewrite the story? It’s such a clever way of framing the story and also, I think, a modern way of doing it in a female-empowering, diverse way. It’s really good fun, it’s a riot, and it’s fantastic. 

Who is Lance, and what is his role in the story? 

Lance is Francois’ dad and he is an ex-French army man who wants his son to follow in his footsteps by doing the right thing and the expected thing. But Francois has other ideas and he wants to experience the world in different ways, so they’re kind of negotiating their relationship. Lance is fun. He’s slightly cheeky and he has his own little love story in the show, where he rekindles an old romance. 

This is your musical theatre debut. Are you nervous? 

Absolutely, and if I wasn’t, I’d be worried because it is a big deal for me. It’s something that I’ve wanted for a very long time and something that I’ve been working so hard behind the scenes to make happen. This has been on my wishlist for so long. It’s a big change from my usual kind of work, and because I don’t necessarily come from a theatre background, I have a lot to prove. I have to show people that I can do this. So yes, I am feeling the pressure, but I love a challenge. I’m nervously excited or excitedly nervous.  

We know from Strictly, All Star Musicals, and your West End show Scrubs & Sparkles that you can dance and sing. How are you preparing for the acting aspect? 

I’ve done a little bit of theatre here and there, and I’ve also done some panto over the years, but I’m taking this role very seriously. I’ve done quite a bit of singing and dancing before but I want to make sure my acting is as good as it can be and does the role justice. I’ve been taking extra classes with an acting coach and it’s been a long rehearsal process for a reason. I’m soaking up as much direction and instruction, as well as learning from my amazing co-stars. 

It’s a very inclusive musical. Was that part of the attraction for you as an LGBTQ advocate? 

Absolutely. One hundred and ten per cent. I am a massive believer that inclusion and diversity is a strength and things only get better when you try to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. This show is all of that. It has such abeautifully diverse cast and it’s such an inclusive show. Hopefully audiences who come to see the show will see themselves in it. It’s important for families, young people and kids who come and watch it to be able to see a bit of themselves up there on stage and go: ‘I can do that. There’s somebody like me up there, and I feel like I’m in a safe and celebrated space.’ I want everyone to feel that joy.  

What do you you love about musical theatre as a genre? 

For me, musical theatre is magic made manifest and it’s the personification of joy. People go to see musical theatre because they want to feel happy and they want to feel joyful, and & Juliet has all that in abundance. Everyone will leave the show with a massive smile on their face. Musical theatre has always been a dream since the first time I saw it as a kid, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that magical world. And now that I get to do it I’m very excited.   

What role do you think entertainment plays in mental health? 

With the pandemic I made no secret of the fact that I felt that science may have helped us to survive it but it was the arts that got us through. When we were at home, we were watching things online, watching Netflix films, listening to music. It’s the arts that carried us through and kept us going. The arts and theatre especially are so vitally important for wellbeing – not just for livelihoods but actually for our lives.  

You trained as a clinician. Did you also dream of getting into showbusiness or was it a happy accident? 

It has been a happy accident and a very welcome one. I never expected when I left university that I was going to go into media or things like theatre. I’m so lucky and privileged to be in this position now and also extremely grateful. But what people don’t realise is that as a kid I was a creative before I became an academic. I used to love art and music, and I came second in a music festival in Kent when I was six. I loved singing and all of that stuff, but unfortunately when I was growing up it didn’t feel like a realistic career prospect for me. I also had a very academic, scientific side, so I went down that road. Now that I feel like I’ve achieved what I wanted to in that space, I feel like I’ve earned the chance to indulge the other side of me, which is this creative side that I haven’t necessarily had a chance to do quite so much of. I want to show people that you don’t have to fit into one box. You can do it all. You can do all the things that you love. Doctors aren’t just one thing. We’re not always one trick ponies. I like to think that I can show people that you can be a rocket scientist and an artist. You can be a politician and a dancer. You can be a doctor and a musical theatre performer. 

Looking back on your time on Strictly, what’s your takeaway? 

One of the key things that my dancing partner Janette Manrara taught me was: ‘Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness. Give whatever you do everything you’ve got, give it 110 percent and then you can always dial it back.’ I’ve kind of run with that motto, especially in creative spaces where you’ve just got to give everything. Strictly was a very intense time in my life because I was working in hospital at the same time and it taught me that I could do more than I thought I could. Even in the greatest of anxiety-inducing times if I put my mind to it, knuckle down and work hard, I can do it. It also resulted in me discovering that music and movement to music is my therapy, so it was great for my mental health as well. I’ve kept that going because I find movement to music to be so therapeutic. If ever I’m feeling anxious or anything like that, that’s my go-to thing.  

The tour calls at Norwich Theatre Royal. Does it have any significance for you?  

I’ve not been to Norwich before, so I’m looking forward to spending time there. I love exploring new places and I’m a foodie, so I love finding out where the good restaurants are. I also love meeting people at the stage door afterwards and getting to hear what they thought and hopefully how much they loved it. There’s no greater feeling than seeing people in the audience enjoying themselves and then getting a chance to say hi afterwards. 

Dr Ranj Singh is playing Lance Du Bois in & Juliet at Norwich Theatre Royal between 30 Jul – 3 Aug. For more information or to book visit norwichtheatre.org or call 01603 630 000.