West End star Tiffany Graves sat down with me for a little chat and a cup of tea to talk about the exciting things she has coming up including The Producers UK tour and her upcoming cabaret show ‘The Desperate Divas’.
Can you tell me about some of your career highlights for anyone who may not be familiar with you work?
Playing both Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart in Chicago at The Adelphi, being the alternate lead in Sweet Charity at The Haymarket, Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, Marlene Dietrich in Piaf, and taking part in the 50 Year celebration at the National Theatre… as well as Cats, Follies, Sunset Boulevard and Wonderful Town!
You are going to be playing Ulla in the upcoming tour of The Producers with Jason Manford, Cory English, Ross Noble, Phil Jupitus, David Bedella and Louis Spence. For anyone who may not be familiar, what is the show about and what attracted you to the part?
It’s a part I have wanted to play forever and I’m thrilled that this opportunity has arisen. It’s about two producers who discover that they could make more from a Broadway flop than a hit and set about finding the worst show ever to put on. The script (written by Mel Brooks) is hilarious and the characters are all larger than life. Ulla is a Swedish secretary who speaks little English. The show boasts sex-craved Grannies, tap-dancing hot-panted Stormtroopers and pigeons.
The Producers UK tour starts at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley on 7 March 2015. Click here for tour dates and tickets.
One of my favourite musicals is Chicago (which I’m excited to be seeing on Broadway in a few weeks) and you have starred in the show several times playing both Velma and Roxie. So who’s your favourite? (I’m Velma all the way!)
It’s gotta be Velma! Hands down. Her mesmerizing trapdoor entrance alone is one of the best in musical theatre. Saying that, I love both roles – but Velma suited my ‘work personality’ better. Whereas Roxie almost never leaves the stage and could be classed as a ‘marathon runner’, Velma dashes on and off stage in short ‘sprinter’ type bursts of energy. That’s more me. Plus, I love that Rachel Tucker sent me a photo taken from her apartment window on Broadway (she was there doing Sting’s The Last Ship) that showed a huge billboard at the Ambassador Theatre with my face on it as Velma promoting Chicago over there… make sure you look out for it when you go, Wilma!
You are soon to be performing a cabaret show called “The Desperate Divas” at St. James Studio in London Victoria on Sunday February 22nd at 7pm with Chicago alumni Anita Louise Combe (soon to be Tessie Tura at The Savoy in Gypsy with Imelda Staunton). What can people expect if they come to see the show?
Anita and I both dabbled with Internet dating a few years back and ended up dating the same guy. I mean, what were the odds? Surely there are thousands out there in the Internet pool? But no – not for us! So, we thought we’d do a show about all the trials and tribulations of modern dating in an era of rapidly changing technology – it’ll be a song-filled survival guide for singletons! We’ve found lots of fabulous little known gems that fit the theme perfectly, and there’ll also of course be some wonderful well-known classics that we’ve changed the lyrics to. The St James Studio is a great venue for cabaret and I’m sure the champagne will be flowing on the tables as well as up on stage. Anita and I have been trying to put this on for almost two years, but we’ve never found ourselves free and available at the same time. So at last we are – but sadly for one night only, so do come down and see us!
Desperate Divas (Sunday 22nd Feb)
St James Theatre box office: 0844 264 2140
Have you ever had any funny/disastrous on-stage experiences?
Ha – yes of course! Far too many to list them all here – but a couple still stick out in the memory…
I was playing Charity (in Sweet Charity) and there’s a scene where she is stuck sitting in a wardrobe. My cover became ill mid-show and we no longer had enough people to finish the show. Everyone was told and the show was stopped. I, however, hadn’t a clue what was going on and was left in the wardrobe for ages until stage management eventually found me patiently waiting inside wondering why the scene was so long!
For the NT50 extravaganza I was strutting around in a tarty tiny miniskirt in Jerry Springer The Opera whilst everyone sang “all women are whores and sluts and prostitutes” and my trailer-trash hubbie was slapping my derriere, only for my skirt to ride right up, leaving very little to the imagination. Nothing too funny there you might think, but for the fact that the BBC chose that particular moment to broadcast a close-up live around the world – a fact I only discovered when the curtain came down and found all my friends teasing me mercilessly on Twitter!
If you were going to name a pet after a musical theatre character, what would you choose?
Strangely enough, when I was little I had two terrapins called Bialystock and Bloom. Weird, huh? I’d love to name a Cat after one of the ones I played – Cassandra, Jellylorum or Bombalurina. But I’m more of a dog person really, so maybe Willie Wonka – then I could have great fun out in the park shouting “I’ve lost my Willie! Has anyone seen my little Willie?!”
If you could only ever listen to one more musical theatre song, what would you choose?
It would have to be Hymne a l’amour from Piaf. I adored listening to Frances Ruffelle singing it in the production I was part of at Curve Leicester. The way the music swells at the end of the song always brought a tear to my eye as we sang our harmony lines in the wings and its simplicity is so moving. I could never get bored of listening to it. And Springtime for Hitler from The Producers is pretty catchy too!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma