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Interview with Amra-Faye Wright: Velma Kelly in Chicago The Musical

Amra Faye-WrightAt the time of the interview Amra-Faye was about to reprise her role of Velma Kelly in the musical Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre London. Joining her will be Christie Brinkley who will be performing as Roxie Hart. Both have just completed a highly successful run on Broadway in the same roles.

Amra-Faye has achieved international success as an actress and cabaret artist since first starring at Sun City’s Extravaganza Theatre in South Africa. As well as her native country she has also performed in the US, Europe and the Far East, with her role as Velma in the original UK and European tour of Chicago in her comprehensive list of credits.

Arguably, one of her most notable achievements is that she has performed the role of Velma Kelly in Japanese!

Amra-Faye made her West End debut in 2001 as Velma Kelly in Chicago when the show was at the Adelphi Theatre, and her Broadway debut at the Ambassador Theatre in 2006. She also appeared in the 10th anniversary performance of Chicago at The Royal Albert Hall in 2006.

With a busy schedule ahead of her imminent return to the London stage on 11th July, Amra-Faye kindly agreed to answer some questions that I recently asked her.

You have been performing as Velma Kelly for 10 years (since the Adelphi Theatre 2001), what is it about the character that you like?
The character is big, brassy and bold and makes no apologies. I like that. The role has a great entrance, iconic song and dance numbers, and 1 costume change. I like that too.

Has your portrayal of Velma developed over-time?
I have changed over the last 10 years, and my life continues to surprise me. These changes bring a new appreciation for the role and a deeper understanding of details I missed in the early years.

Has your own personality been influenced by portraying Velma and vice-versa?
Only vice versa.

What is it like performing Chicago in different languages (6), and do you think in the language you are performing in?
I can only really think in 2 languages, that’s English and Afrikaans. The others I really have to concentrate. Japanese was completely phonetic. I could have been singing God Save The Queen, for all I knew.

You have performed in many countries around the world, how do the audiences differ in their expectations and appreciation?
Audiences differ in sensibility and humour world-wide. From my experience, European audiences really enjoy the physical comedy parts, and perhaps that’s because there’s a language barrier? Japanese audiences are terribly polite, and American audiences are the best…loudly appreciative!

Have you ever performed as Roxie Hart and if not would you like to?
No, and no. It would just be like Velma playing at being Roxie.

What is your favourite Chicago song?
Mr Cellophane.

What goes through your mind when you are in the ‘Bitches Box’ at the start of the show?
Wow! How do you know about the box? I thought that was an inside joke!?! What goes through my mind? That depends on which country I’m in. On Broadway I can stand in the box, so I just stretch a little and breathe and focus. In other countries the set is slightly different and you have to crouch in the box. That’s when I just hope I don’t cramp a muscle.

What is it like performing alongside Christie Brinkley?
Christie is the sweetest, most humble and lovely person you can meet. She turns up every day with such enthusiasm and vigour, and I love her to bits. She’s very funny and does these impressions backstage which have us in stitches.

What have you got lined up to do after this West End run?
I have a vacation planned, and then I need to start working on my Japanese again for a rerun in Japan, and after that Sweet Charity in South Africa.

Sometime in the future, would you like to return as Velma?
Sure. I love this role.

You have performed in many countries of the world, where is home?
At the moment it’s New York. That may or may not change. For now it’s great.

If you could choose a role to play in any musical or film (past or present), which one(s) would it be?
Desire in A Little Night Music, or Phyllis in Follies

You have achieved success as an international star, do you still have ambitions and what are they?
I still have many ambitions. At the moment I am rekindling my love of the art form of cabaret in New York, and taking my show on tour later in the year.

If you could go back and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I have 2 terrific daughters, and they’re terrific in spite of me. I’d try to be a better mother.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about Amra-Faye Wright and will take this great opportunity to go and see her on stage at the Cambridge Theatre alongside Christie Brinkley in Chicago The Musical for a limited 4 week season from 11th July, 2011.

Interview questions by Neil Cheesman
Follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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