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Interview with Gemma Sutton – Blues in the Night at the Kiln Theatre

Gemma Sutton (The Girl). by Matt Humphrey
Gemma Sutton (The Girl). by Matt Humphrey

The Olivier and Tony Award-nominated musical Blues in the Night is a scorching compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues numbers that frame the lives and loves of four residents of a downtown hotel. Featuring soul-filled songs by blues and jazz icons Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and many more, this will be a sizzling night to remember.

A man is a two-face, a worrisome thing
Who’ll leave you to sing, the blues in the night.

Chicago 1939. One man, three women, their lives, memories and the sweet music that gets them through the night.

Susie McKenna directs Sharon D Clarke (The Lady), Debbie Kurup (The Woman), Clive Rowe (The Man) and Gemma Sutton (The Girl) in the first major London revival in 30 years. The production opens on 24th July, with previews from 18th July, and runs until 7th September 2019.

GEMMA SUTTON on Blues In The Night
Q: What were your first thoughts about being in Blues In The Night?
Gemma: ‘Please, please I hope I get it!’ The songs of the twenties and thirties era that we know so well from artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Harold Arlen are classics for a reason. The melody, harmony and rhythm of Blues and Jazz speak to the soul in a special way so to get the opportunity to interpret them was something I didn’t want to miss out on. Also getting to sing with Sharon D Clarke, Clive Rowe and Debbie Kurup – who wouldn’t want to be part of that gang?!

Q: Can you tell us about your character ‘The Girl’ – and her story?
Gemma: ‘The Girl’ arrives at the run-down Chicago Hotel to get ready for a date which she’s been hanging all her hopes and dreams on. Having run away from her unhappy family home in Ohio she needs a new start and with very limited opportunities in the late 1930s which is still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, finding a man seems her only hope. Things don’t go to plan but she finds solace and wisdom from meeting the other people at the hotel – particularly the two older women who teach her a lot and inspire her with their strength of spirit.

Q: There are ’26 hot and torchy blues numbers’ in the show – do you have any favourites?
Gemma: Gosh, it changes every day. I have a particular love for ‘Nobody Knows You’ made famous by Bessie Smith. The three women sing it in harmony (with beautiful arrangements by Mark Dickman) and there are not many greater feelings in life than singing from your soul with Sharon D Clarke and Debbie Kurup! I also love the title song – Blues in the Night. Harold Arlen is one of my favourite composers and the song encapsulates what the four main characters are going through – we are all in our separate rooms with our own pain, yearning, hopes and dreams but there is a deep connection there – a good reminder of what it is to be human.

Q: Any blues and jazz icons that have inspired you in your career?
Gemma: I was obsessed with Ella Fitzgerald growing up – I played a compilation tape I had of her music on repeat. She had a combination of tone and musical phrasing that was hard to beat, and I love the quote attributed to her ‘I stole everything I ever heard, but mostly I stole from the horns’ – she was so modest of her talent. My cat is called Louis Armstrong and I’ve nicknamed my car Miles Davis so you get the idea of my love for the genre!

Q: What is Blues In The Night about?
Gemma: Blues in the Night is about four people in different stages of their lives trying to survive. They have all been hit by the effects of the Great Depression and Blues and Jazz music gets them through. Throughout the evening we meet them and they share their stories and learn from each other. Hopefully, the audience can relate and learn from them too, as a lot of the themes they sing about are timeless to human nature.

Q: Why should everyone get along to see the show?
Gemma: Everyone should see the show as it is a feast for the eyes and ears. Along with beautiful music and the live five-piece band, there is great choreography by Frank Thompson, lighting, costumes and set that will make the audience feel like they’ve stepped into the 1930s and they can share with us on stage just how glorious, moving and rip-roaring these brilliant Jazz and Blues songs are.

KILN THEATRE PRESENTS
BLUES IN THE NIGHT
Conceived and Originally Directed by Sheldon Epps
Performed by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Limited
18 July – 7 September 2019
Press night: 24 July at 7pm
https://kilntheatre.com/

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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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