Nina Kristofferson has Tea With Wilma about the UK tour of the Billie Holiday Story
For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you tell me about yourself and some of your career highlights?
I’m an actress, singer, dancer and I trained at GSA, Conservatoire. After graduating I did lots of musicals, straight acting and loads of touring and when I finished playing the lead role in Medea for Northern Broadsides, which was definitely one of my career highlights. I decided to finally write the Billie Holiday Story, which I’d be thinking about for a few years. I wanted something really challenging and it wasn’t on the table. So I just put pen to paper and started my first draft.
You are about to embark on a UK tour of your show The Billie Holiday Story after a successful run at London’s Charing Cross Theatre. For those who may not be familiar with the show, can you tell me what it is about and what people can expect if they come to see it?
It’s a pretty potent story, it’s exciting and I would say exotic at the same time. The show’s packed with 18 songs, which draws you into the drama and the comedy in her life. There’s an amazing 5 piece band, lead by the brilliant Allan Rogers on Piano, from Strictly Come Dancing, Arena Tours and other ‘Cats’ like Martin Shaw on Trumpet and Albert Garza on Tenor Sax and Clarinet. It’s a super fly team and I get to sing some of the best songs like A Fine Romance, Strange Fruit, Don’t Explain and Them There Eyes… It’s a show for all groups and ages, and a trip for any jazzers out there!
If I asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they be?
I guess, I’d say crazy, fun and focused.
What is the one thing you think made Billie Holiday such a well loved performer?
I think for me I would say her voice. I love listening to her sing. Her tone, her undeniable style, her phrasing and skills as a jazz musician and her sense of fight for life and her career. Her take on love, life and being a women, all through music… She knew how to connect with you, to move you and tell a story through her songs. At times you felt like she was singing to you and only you… She knew how to take your breath away by giving you everything she had through her music.
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what musical theatre role would you like to have a go at playing?
Oh that’s so difficult. There’s so many… Just thinking of the songs alone… Perhaps Valjean from Les Miserables.
Do you have a favourite Musical Theatre show or song that means a lot to you?
For fun fun fun!! I love the ‘Rhythm of Life’ from Sweet Charity. I can hear Sammy Davis Jr every time.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Ha haaa… Oh that reminds me of a gig I did in Helsinki… It all went wrong from the minute I came off the plane. My suitcase was missing and I couldn’t wait for them to find it because I had to be on stage in a couple of hours and the venue was miles away. The gentleman who was waiting for me said there wasn’t time, so I was whizzed off to the venue… I’m sat in the car with no costume, no shoes or make-up. Just my little handbag. I was in such a mess. By the time I arrived I had 15mins to eat, learn some harmonies for a song I’d never heard before and try to look dazzling before curtain. Ha!! I made it!! Whoo hoo, with a min to spare! I hadn’t walked the stage before hand and in the rush no one told me of any hazzards. It was about a 2000 seater venue… So I’m all proud of myself and feeling pretty pumped… There were wires everywhere on the floor and it was pretty dark back stage. So I walked up the stairs to get to the raised stage and when I got to the top of the stairs, I tripped on one of the wires that hadn’t been taped down and I went flying forward towards the audience, like I was on ice. ‘Woooooaaaah’. I heard the audience draw breath together and gasp in one voice ‘Aaaaahhh’! As I lay there I thought – Shame, shame, shame – what the hell am I doing on the floor. I jumped back on my feet in seconds, padded myself down as the audience and everyone in the band watched in silence and once everyone realized I was ok I got a round of applause. I replayed the event over in my head ‘Wooooaaahh’… and the audience gasp ‘Aaaaahh’, whilst I did the long walk to the other side of the stage to take my position to start! I looked out to the audience… and thought OMG!! How embarrassing! Needless to say I sang my arse off they loved it… I know how to take their breath away!! Haa haa…
Which of the stops on your UK tour are you most looking forward to? Does anywhere hold a special meaning to you?
I’m looking forward to all the stops and meeting the audience as each venue has its own unique vibe. Have to say, I studied in Guildford, which is close to Woking – so that’s pretty cool and I’m from Birmingham. That’s our last stop! So I’m super excited about that too!