On Saturday 1 October 2016 you are presenting your brand new one-man show Mountains – A Musical Journey at the St James Studio. What is the concept of the show and what can people except if they come along on the night?
I have not performed a one man show for over a year in London. I am thrilled to have been asked to perform at St James Studio- it’s such a classy intimate space. I turned 40 at the beginning of 2015, it sort of made me look back and reflect on my life. Then sadly in the past 18 months I lost both my stepfather and more recently my mum. To be honest it has been an incredibly tough time. I have found myself questioning all aspects of my life – what am I doing? Who am I? What do I want to do? Where do I want to be? In life we are thrown certain problems, situations, conflicts, decisions (Mountains) we have to climb, that challenge us, how we deal with them and what obstacles we have to overpower them. I feel that this show is the journey of who I am today, from losing my dad when I was 9, to moving to London, theatre, relationships, my special bond with NYC and of course my love of theatre. I sadly have lost all the strong parental influences and support from my life and I think that is the biggest Mountain we all have to climb at some point. So the evening is my journey of life told through a collection of musical theatre songs and anecdotes. I am so lucky to have Aaron Clingham as Musical Director and we have a 4 piece band. I rather feel this show will have a very grown up feel about it as I am now 41! But do we ever really want to grow Up?
Every month you host a cabaret show at the Cockpit Theatre as your alter-ego, singing nun, Sister Mary McArthur. You have some very exciting performers joining you over the next few months, who are you most looking forward to seeing perform and for those not familiar with the shows what is it all about?
Oh yes – the nun- Sister Mary McArthur – the one who smells of pair drops! Sister Mary is rumored to be the secret love child of Elaine Paige, she loves musicals and showbiz. Sister Mary’s Monday Night show is a good old fashioned traditional Variety night, a really different sort of acts from sword playing, to magicians, to clowns, to singers. The show is a mash up of several of Sister Mary shows she has been performing over the last 10 years. The next one is on Monday 3rd October and features the hilarious Sheila Simmonds and Dave The Cat from the musical Cats! Hilarious
You’re directing A Wonderful Town at Ye Olde Rose and Crown in October and then a show called Prince Bendover in Boots at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in November. What is it about these particular shows that got you excited about the prospect of directing them?
This will be my 6th show for the All Star Productions, Wonderful Town is a joyous musical comedy that I first saw performed in 1986 at the Queens Theatre which starred Maureen Lipman- it’s a good tradition feel good Broadway show with great tunes and strong characters. It also has not been performed very often in the UK – this I believe it’s the 2nd production in 30 years. Every year for the past 4 years I have directed the RVT annual Christmas adult Panto. I love panto having performed myself for the past 6 years as Dame – but an adult panto you can be even more saucier and a little but cheeky and maybe slightly risky. The crowd’s love it and I think the adults revert more to being kids again as they can be naughty.
On November 4 2016 you will be hosting the third annual West End Wilma Awards at the Hippodrome Casino. What do you think of this years nominations and is there anyone you are particularly hoping walks away with an award on the day?
This year’s nominations I have to say I think are all marvelous and extremely talented bunch. It’s such an honor to be asked back for the third year as host for your awards Wilma- I will make sure I pay you more next year – lol.. you keep hiring me!! But my personal favs are Four Femmes on The Thames – truly original comedic and strong girls and another strong lovely girl is Katie Brennan.
This Christmas the adult panto DICK, which you directed last year at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, is being staged at The Cockpit Theatre. For people who didn’t see it last year, what is the show about and how will it be different from last year?
Last year’s run at the RVT of Dick was the most successful panto the RVT have ever staged. I think one of the reasons it was so successful because it was essentially a love story. It was charming, witty, silly, and the cast were superb. This year we have a new cast at the Cockpit, luckily all people I have worked with before in other shows. I shall be giving my Twankey and Ali Fredericks will be giving us all his Dick. Book now is gonna be a lot of fun,.
What West End show would you like to see make a comeback and why?
That is a tough question actually – I think maybe the first ever West end Musical I ever saw was Barnum – that show made me fall in love with musicals – I saw I a the London Pallidium with Michael Crawford in 1981 and a clown give me a balloon in the shape of a giraffe. Oh and also On Your Toes has a beautiful score and has never been done since the Palace Production.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
That is a difficult question, I think probably when I did South Pacific in 1995- I played one of the butch – yes butch dear sailors in tight jean shorts and a little stringlet and a white sailors hat. During the “Bloody Mary number- I was lifted in the air by a fellow sailor and flung around his head, I had to drape my legs round his head – however at the particular performance my fellow sailor dropped me and as I slid down his body the only place he could think of to try and stop me from falling was….. yes in between the legs, let’s just say it helped my vocal range and good job I didn’t want kids.
If you could only ever listen to one more musical theatre song, what would you choose?
Probably Move On by Stephen Sondheim – has it all – life , not being scared!
Apart from acting, what is your biggest vice?
Well I actually when I am not acting – like to go away to France or the South of Spain and lay on the beach and do nothing, I love the warmth and the sun and sadly we don’t really experience as much as we should in England. I think maybe in a few years we may relocate to southern parts for the winter months in England. Just warmer, healthier way of living.
We are living in a time where films are often being turned into stage plays and musicals. If you had to choose one, what film would you like to see adapted to the stage?
I am a huge fan of the Slipper and the Rose – it was written by the Sherman Brothers and was released in 1975 it had a stellar cast, Michael Horden, Gemma Craven, Richard Chamberlain and a young Sherrie Hewson. It has a fantastic score and is based on Cinderella – really great traditional musical.
There are lots of exciting shows coming to London in 2016. What are you most looking forward to seeing?
It hasn’t been announced yet, but I recently went to NYC to do some special interviews for my radio show The Curtain Up Show on Resonance 104.4 fm. We saw 10 broadway shows and my favorite was Waitress – I love the score, great book it has all the ingredients and it should do very well over here.
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what theatre role would you love to have a go at playing?
I have a secret desire to play Madam Morrible.. think it’s the wigs and the long sleeves..
If you won the lottery and could stage one theatre show of your choice, what would you choose and who would be your dream cast?
Difficult question, over the years I have been very lucky to direct quite a lot of my favorite shows. But I have to say that two years ago I directed Into The Woods and I would love to recreate that production on a bigger scale and for a longer run.. I wish!!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma