Interview with Tupele Dorgu | Chicago at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre
Bringing all its brass and big-band stylings to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from August 21st, the Tony, Olivier, BAFTA, Grammy and Oscar award-winning Chicago is razzle-dazzle personified. Set in the roaring 1920's, and featuring a nightclub singer, a double-murderess, a smooth-talking lawyer and a cell block of sin, it's shaping up to be the smash production of the autumn. And with a stellar cast of West-End and international talent, including boybander turned musical star Duncan James, we're very excited. We had a chat with Tupele Dorgu, who plays the enchanting nightclub singer turned cell block starlet Velma Kelly, about what we can we expect from the show when it comes to our shores.
How does it feel to be a part of such a celebrated and successful show?
When I watched Chicago for the first time I was 18 and I remember just thinking, “wow, this is totally different to any show I’ve ever seen”. From the very beginning I was hooked. I absolutely loved Velma’s entrance – it’s such an amazing role. I loved that there are two really strong female leads in the show too. So it’s just a dream to be a part of all that. To be honest I never even thought it could be an possibility for me to star in the show, but it’s eventually happened. It’s a dream come true. You know how sometimes when you really, really want something, and then get it, it’s not always what you expected? But this isn’t like that. Actually, it’s been even better than I could have imagined. I feel as though I’m part of the family that makes up the show now – the Chicago history! Rehearsals were wonderful – learning all about the show, its history, and what each of the movements in the choreography meant… I just feel so privileged! So few people have an opportunity like this, and there’s a pride I think all the members of the cast and crew of Chicago carry with them. A certainly feel that. Just so, so fortunate.
Do you have a specific moment or number in the show that still gives you a rush after all the performances you’ve done?
I’m really lucky to have one of those roles where I’m not just sitting on stage for half a number, “reacting” to what’s going on. When Velma comes on stage, she only has a couple of words and then she bursts into a number. She always has something to focus on. So I’m thrilled all the time I guess! I do love her entrance. It’s really glamorous. I’m so fortunate to have an entrance like that… And the last couple of numbers with Roxy are lovely too. When I perform those I feel as though Velma’s come full circle in the story.
What do you have in store for the Dublin audiences? Any surprises for the tour?
Well, I think the unique thing about Chicago is that, over all the years it’s been playing in Broadway and on the West End, it has stayed quite the same – the costumes, the set, the dialogue. There have been slight changes in the choreography, but overall it’s always kept to the same quality and standard. I think what people will be really surprised at will be the quality of the acting. Ali (Bastian) is such a great singer. She doesn’t have a musical theatre background, but her voice is fantastic. And of course Bernie (Nolan) is an absolute legend! And all of the musicians are amazing. They don’t just play in the pit as in other musicals – they’re up on the stage, interacting with the performers, performing themselves. They get quite involved! I think that’ll be a treat for audiences not familiar with the production.
If you could play any role in the musical, what would it be and why?
I’d like to have a go at playing Roxy! She has some lovely tender moments, as well as some feisty moments, and some fantastic numbers. I’ve played opposite her for so long it would be interesting to see what that’s like. And I think when I’m older maybe I’d like to play “Mama” Morton – Bernie Nolan’s done such a great job playing her that it’s really inspirational. It’s always a challenge to take on a new role, and I’d look forward to taking that on!
How have audiences been reacting to the show so far on the tour?
You know, the reaction has been superb – really fantastic. I’ve known the show for years, but sometimes I forget some people haven’t. When I talk to members of the audience after they’ve seen the show for the first time they’re really surprised at how funny it is, and how much sarcasm is in it. And then of course there are the hard-core fans who come back to see it time and time again, and who always give us such positive comments. They’re always so great to hear.
Did you have any reservations/nerves about performing such an iconic role?
Not really, no. I really wanted to play the part of Velma, so I couldn’t wait to get into the rehearsal room. When that happened, it was like a door was opened and I was suddenly in the world of Chicago – I didn’t get a chance to have any reservations! It’s been a really wonderful experience to be part of. As an actor, I try to be as positive as I can be, and to put insecurities aside.
Are you looking forward to acting with Duncan James? Have you seen on the West End previously?
We’re all really looking forward to sharing the stage with Duncan when the show comes to Dublin. I know he’s played the role of Billy Flynn before on the West End – I didn’t see him in that show, but he has such a great voice, and a brilliant reputation. He’ll definitely be on form.
The stage version of Chicago is so different from the film version, yet both have seen massive success. What is it about the musical that has kept audiences thrilled for so long?
I think the music – the way it’s written. The brass section is so sexy, and there’s a great drum section too. Of course you can’t ignore the choreography. It’s just iconic. Every movement is integral to the show, and the choreography is totally in sync with the music.
I also think that the comedy in the show carries it through the years. As I said there’s a lot of sarcasm, and jokes throughout. We’re always breaking the forth wall with the audience, which isn’t done very often in stage musicals, and it keeps things interesting I think. The script is written so cleverly, so there’s no boring scene. Every piece of dialogue is necessary to drive the story. It runs at such a pace that you really have to listen to keep up, and you’re whisked through the story.
What’s next for you? More TV or theatre?
It’s difficult to say at this point, because I’m going to be acting on stage for at least the next 6 months, so I haven’t had a chance to think far beyond that yet! I’m playing Velma until the end of the tour, and then I go straight into playing The Wicked Queen in Panto for Christmas! That will be two shows a day all through December and January, so I’ll be kept busy. I’m lucky to have had such an action-packed year. It would be great to do more TV. I’d really enjoy that. But at this point, I’m looking for a specific type of role, not just a part on any show. I’m chasing a role that will really challenge me… Watch this space!
Chicago is at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from Tuesday 21st August – Saturday 2nd September. Tickets priced from €20.00 on sale now through Ticketmaster.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Friday 10th August 2012 | Theatre
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