Chanice Alexander-Burnett stars as Fantine in the West End while 12-year-old Chanai Owusu-Ansah plays Young Nala up the road. The pair talk nerves, show tunes and homework
Is talent inherited or something that has to be learned? Twelve-year-old Chanai Owusu-Ansah, currently playing Young Nala in the West End production of The Lion King, thinks it is a bit of both. “I’ve been singing and dancing with my mum for as long as I can remember,” she says. “My whole life revolves around listening to music and performing.” Just down the road at the Sondheim theatre, her mum, Chanice Alexander-Burnett, has the role of Fantine in Les Misérables, which means mother and daughter are starring in two of the biggest shows in the West End simultaneously. “People always predicted she’d follow in my footsteps. But it has some logistical challenges,” Alexander-Burnett laughs.
We meet in one of the backrooms of the Lyceum theatre. On the evenings when her daughter is playing Nala, Alexander-Burnett has the operational task of dropping her off while also having to prepare for her own show. “Chanai comes home from school, gets changed, does any homework that she can, and then we both have to run to our theatres to get Covid tested for 5.30pm,” she explains. “It can be very hectic.”