Marta Ribera (Girona, 1971) has been performing on stage for almost three decades and is a popular name in the field of musicals. Antonio Banderas asked her to join him in Company, a work by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, that the Malaga-born actor has adapted and produced, and directs and stars in, at the Teatro del Soho in Malaga. What’s more, it’s the first time that the show has been performed in Spanish. It’s another success for the actress, singer and dancer who began at the Mercedes Ribera Classical Dance School and has not stopped since. Among her most memorable roles is as Sally Bowles in the highly acclaimed adaptation of Cabaret, for which she received the 2008 Gran Vía Award for Best Actress. Some years later, she won the 2015 Gran Vía Award and the 2016 Broadway World Award as Best Supporting Actress for the role of Frau Schneider. On TV, she has been in series such as Fuera de control, Mis adorables vecinos, and Un paso adelante. Yet despite all the experience and accolades, Marta Ribera has had to continually reinvent herself to stay ahead. If she had been born in the US, she would surely be considered a big star. But she doesn’t mind: she just keeps on working.
You never stop, what’s your latest project?
Right now I’m working in Malaga every day of the week, probably until after Easter. I come to Girona when I can.
You are a nomad.
Totally. I’m here in Girona for just two days. The first day I stayed over at my parents’ house, and on the second, when I went through the front door of my house, I had to wonder if this was home or not. It’s a strange thing. I’ve got used to living like this – I have no choice – but it gets harder and harder. When you’re young, you enjoy it, or you don’t even think about it. Now I wish I could stay here longer, in a fixed place. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve moved house in my life, and they say moving house is one of the most stressful things there is. But professionally it’s hard for me to live all the time in Girona, or even Barcelona.
In Malaga you’re working on a new project with Antonio Banderas no less, in the musical, Company.
Doing a Sondheim musical, and with Antonio Banderas, doesn’t happen every day. It’s a great opportunity. I’ve toured all over Spain but Malaga is one of the places where I’ve felt most welcome and at home. I don’t know if it’s because of the sea, or because I can walk to the theatre.
What is it like working with an international superstar such as Antonio Banderas?
Just like when I worked with figures such as Rafael or the television star Jorge Javier Vázquez: they are the hardest-working, most humble and grateful people who you could work with. More so than many other professionals who are not so well known.
He has a reputation for being very friendly.
He is very sociable, he makes sure everyone is okay, and he’s a very hardworking person, which is something that unites us. If he didn’t have such discipline and willpower, he wouldn’t have been able to do everything he’s done. He produces, directs and stars in the show. If you review his career, apart from making movies in Hollywood, he’s also worked on Broadway, where he was nominated for Tony awards for his debut in Nine. And he did Evita with Madonna. He is a multidisciplinary artist. In interviews I have always cited him as an example for other musical theatre actors to follow.
Why is musical theatre considered the little brother of the stage?
Of the stage, but also of film and the music industry! Yet actors are often most prepared to do musicals, as they include acting, music, singing and dancing, all fields that most actors train in. Musicals require a lot of preparation, both emotionally and physically. If you don’t take care of your voice, you can’t sing; if you don’t look after your body, you will suffer the consequences. I’m 50 years old now and I’ve been dancing since I was four, which means I’ve been asking a lot from my body for 45 years, like a sportswoman. But I’m still dancing in high heels. The physical sacrifice is something that is not valued highly enough.
How did you become part of Company?
A year ago I got a call from the head of production, Marc Montserrat-Drukker, with whom I had coincided on Spamalot. He said that Antonio wanted to see me audition for a Sondheim musical. On December 14 I went to Malaga and I did the best acting I’ve ever done; they made me feel so comfortable and treated me with such respect.
Tell me about your character, Joanne.
In real life I would define myself as a fairly solitary person, and as I get older, more and more so. She is also someone with a lot of character – no doubt more than me – who knows how to look at things from a different perspective. She’s not the character who makes you laugh, but she awakens the protagonist to reality. They give me characters like that quite often; I’m often the bad one.
What is the situation in the sector?
It’s been bad, but it seems to be coming back to life. Especially in Madrid. In Barcelona, musicals are coming back.
Fortunately, thanks to people like Antonio Banderas, who are leading new and ambitious projects?
The Soho Theatre is his. People come from Madrid and say how they wish they could take this project there. But he wants the focus to be on Malaga. And he is succeeding at that. The Goya gala was held there, he has a TV channel, and shows like Company make a lot of people come to Malaga, and while they are there they also visit the city.
Can you pick out any special moments in your career?
Every musical has its great moments. It felt great playing the character of Froilan Schneider in Cabaret, Anita in West Side Story, Lucy in Jekyll & Hyde, Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers... There are so many! And now, Joanne in Company. They are all characters that allow me to express myself in a way I would never dare to in my personal life.
Any dreams to fulfill?
Lots [she laughs]! In the professional field there’s still a lot left to do. As long as you can be happy while you are doing your job.
interview musical theatre