Gemma Sutton has just finished playing Roxie Hart in Chicago the Musical at Leicester Curve. I caught up with her for a cup of tea and a chat about her next show Drunk! How could I resist!
Can you tell me about yourself and your career highlights to date?
I’m from Macclesfield in Cheshire, grew up on a farm, became obsessed with Amateur Dramatics and the Hey Mr Producer video from the 1990s, and managed to get into ArtsEd, London at 18 on the Musical Theatre course. I’ve had a lovely ten years in the industry, in a variety of shows from Shakespeare at Regents Park, Laurey in the Oklahoma! Tour in 2010, a few new shows in the West End – both Gone With the Wind and Imagine This at the New London theatre, Legally Blonde at the Savoy understudying Elle, to most recently playing Roxie in Chicago at the Leicester Curve. I’ve had a good time on all of them, be it in the ensemble, understudying or getting the opportunity to play leading roles. Highlights are probably Chicago and playing Amber in the 2013 tour of Hairspray, I love that show!
Tell me about the show DRUNK and the character you play.
Drunk is a really interesting new piece directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie (Chicago) with music and lyrics by Grant Olding (One Man, Two Guvnors). It’s set in a bar, and is musical theatre meets pure dance with a great contemporary musical theatre/jazz score and a live band on stage. Throughout the evening different ‘Drinks’ enter the bar – from ‘Vodka’, the faded Russian actress who drinks Vodka because it keeps her slim and can’t be smelt on her breath, to ‘Pimms’, a group of Oxbridge students obsessed with rugby and rowing. My character is called ‘Ice’, she’s a bit different from the others – a girl waiting at the bar for her date to arrive, uncomfortable amongst the crowd and throughout the evening reflects on past relationships and muses on these characters who enter the bar and the social interactions which take place. It’s a great piece as there is so much in it that the audience will be able to relate to, not least because we all have a relationship with alcohol, whether we drink or we don’t.
If we asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they be?
Gosh. Probably Northern. Short. A Perfectionist. I would add a procrastinator and chocoholic.
If you weren’t having Tea With Wilma right now and were in the pub, what would be your drink of choice?
A lovely glass of Malbec. I don’t have a matinee tomorrow so a large please.
Do you have a particular favourite moment, song or line from the show?
There’s a lovely number called Rum that melts my heart a bit. The lyrics are based on a Letter of Note from 1943, and watching the dance duet the other day made me shed a tear (I blamed it on tiredness of course). I also love the lyric my character sings in ‘Fosters’: ‘You could leave me fifty ways, with a handsome turn of phrase, but if you’ve nothing much to say then I am out’ – I’m a Paul Simon fan and Grant has cleverly played on one of his songs there.
Do you have a favourite Musical Theatre show or song that means a lot to you?
I have always loved Crazy For You. It was a tape I played over and over when I was younger and then I got to play Polly twice in my AmDram days, I’d love to do it professionally! The song ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ will always stand out as I love Gershwin’s writing and it’s my Mum’s favourite song. I love that era of writing, the gorgeous jazz melodies and romantic lyrics of Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Jerome Kern – ‘Bill’ written by Kern is another of my favourites.
What drink do you think best represents your personality?
Haha! That’s a hard question. Maybe a glass of port. Probably because it made up 80% of my body weight in 2010 as it’s all I drank whilst on tour, but also because I go very well with cheese. It brings out the best in me.
Thank you for having Tea with Wilma
DRUNK premieres at London’s Bridewell Theatre from 5 February – 1 March 2014. For tickets and info visit www.themconiecompany.com. For more backstage insight follow the company on Twitter @McOnieCompany