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Interview with Debbie Kurup

Debbie KurupAt the time of this interview, Debbie Kurup was about to reprise her role of Velma Kelly in the West End production of Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre.

Chicago brief synopsis:
In the late 1920s in Chicago, Illinois, Velma Kelly murdered both her husband and her sister when she found them in bed together. She welcomes the audience to tonight’s show (“All That Jazz”). Meanwhile, we hear of chorus girl Roxie Hart’s murder of her lover, nightclub regular Fred Casely, and so begins Chicago, one of the most phenomenal musicals of our time.

Debbie last played Velma 5 years ago when she had only just given birth to her daughter 3 months before. As Debbie says “So as you can imagine 8 shows a week with a newborn … it was exhausting! “ On her return to the show she says; “I am thrilled to be returning to Chicago. It is such a classy show. Of all the roles I have played she is probably the most enigmatic. There is almost a stoicism to her and as a murderess that makes her pretty intimidating! I love Velma’s first entrance. It’s very grand”

Debbie was born in Sunderland on 3rd July 1979, and went to Edmonton County School, in the London Borough of Enfield. Her favourite subjects were music and business studies.

Of her family Debbie says; “I have an older brother and sister and a younger sister too. My parents have always been totally supportive and love my involvement in this industry. My younger sister Helen is also an actress. “

Debbie’s career to date includes:

Theatre credits:

  • Nancy in Oliver (Larnaca International Festival)
  • KT & Deloris in Sister Act (London Palladium)
  • Velma Kelly in Chicago (Adelphi)
  • Chess in Concert (Royal Albert Hall)
  • Sylv in Steven Berkoff’s play East (Leicester Haymarket)
  • Anita in West Side Story Larnaca International Festival
  • Diana in I Love You Because (Landor Theatre)
  • Pepper in I Sing (Union Theatre)
  • Rachel in The Dying Game (workshop) Greenwich Theatre
  • Notes from New York (Donmar/Trafalgar Studios)
  • Dee Dee in Ben Elton’s Tonight’s the Night (Victoria Palace)
  • Bad Girls- The Musical as Denny Blood (New Players);
  • Mimi in Rent (Prince of Wales Theatre);
  • Carmen in Fame (UK tour);
  • Julie in Hot Stuff (Leicester Haymarket);
  • Guys and Dolls (Sheffield Crucible Theatre);
  • Diane in Pal Joey (Chichester Festival Theatre);
  • She created the role of Rosalyn in Stand by Me (UK tour);
  • Poison (Tricycle Theatre);
  • Consuela/Anita in West Side Story (Prince of Wales);
  • Boogie Nights (Savoy Theatre/UK tour)

Film/Television appearances include:

Hollow (Futuretime Pictures)
Beauty (WiseEyes Motion Pictures – shot in L.A) ; Lethality (shot in L.A) ; 2009 Royal Variety Performance; Paul O’Grady Show; Poison Arrow (Pro Active Pictures); Children in Need (BBC); Dream Team (Hewland International); He’s Having A Baby (Hat Trick) and various commercials.


Tonight’s the Night, OCR, Sister Act, OLC and Chess in Concert 2008


I recently asked Debbie some questions:

At what age did you realise that you wanted to be an actress?
I guess I was about 17 when I decided I wanted to be an actress.

Did anyone in particular inspire you to want to be on the stage?
Michael Jackson was my first inspiration, without a shadow of a doubt. I must have been about 5 and I was allowed to watch the “Thriller” video. I just remember being mesmerised by his moves and the passion in his performance. Then I saw “Billy Jean” and that was it. That’s when I knew I wanted to perform. Probably not a typical musical theatre answer but then again I’ve never really followed suit.

Do you have anyone as a role model that you aspire to be like?
I look up to actresses like Cate Blanchett, Dame Judi Dench, Allison Janey, Meryl Streep, Thandie Newton and Kate Winslet. Right now I am loving Benedict Cumberbatch’s work.

Are there any long-term ambitions that you have either on the stage or off it?
I think I’d love to take a year out to see the world.

If you won a million pounds what would you spend the money on?
I’d set up my own charity to help under privileged children. I’d invest some (for a rainy day…I’m the daughter of an accountant after all!) and blow whatever is left travelling and exploring the world.

Do you have a favourite part of London that you like going to?
I love Covent Garden.

Do you have a favourite colour?
It used to be red. Now I love pink.

What would be your favourite meal if taken out to dinner?
Greek meze

What is your favourite musical & favourite film?
West Side Story is my favourite musical. It’s hard to choose a favourite film, there are so many! “American Beauty” “Million Dollar Baby” “La Vie En Rose” “The Pursuit of Happyness” Memoirs of a Geisha” the list is endless.

What was your very first acting job?
I had just turned 18 when I got my first job. It was a musical called Boogie Nights and I was in the original cast. I played opposite Shane Richie on many occasions. I learnt a lot.

Any parts of the world that you like to go to in particular or have been to?
I love to ski (I try to go every year) and I visit family in Malaysia whenever I can.

Thanks Debbie for taking time out to answer a few questions that I am sure your fans will be pleased to hear about. Good luck with your role as Velma Kelly in Chicago, where I am sure you will be a great success!

Follow Debbie on Twitter

27th April 2011


  • 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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