Superstar Update Mel C, on Playing a Modern Day Mary
At a time that is not only packed out with rehearsals for the up-coming arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash hit rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, but also sees the launch of her brand new showtunes album, Stages, Mel C has still managed to take a break to answer a few questions about how things are going for her right now.
The former Spice Girls star will play Mary Magdalene in the production which opens at London's O2 arena on September 21 and she is doing all she can to stay healthy for the gruelling run. When she was asked:
Are preparations for the show tough?
I think my friends think that I am a bit boring right now, because I have to take care of myself so much. I really need to be eating properly, getting plenty of sleep, not drinking too much alcohol, not talking too much. It's tiring for the vocal cords.
You need to warm up properly. It's all textbook stuff. You have to be a bit boring, especially in productions as big as this, when people are paying good money to see you. You have to be at your best. You can't take it for granted but, rehearsals have been going brilliantly and I feel so lucky to be a part of this incredible production.
What’s so fun for me at the moment is that, when I was a kid, I loved musical theatre and I actually studied performing arts when I was 16. But then the Spice Girls happened and I took this "little" diversion, and I've had such a fantastic career working in music, but it's really nice to go back to musical theatre.
I think what I am finding quite challenging is that there is no dialogue so you are, absolutely, having to tell the story through song. And you can't just make things sound pretty, they have to make sense. So it's a whole new skill for me, learning to act through singing.
She also talked about the immense secrecy that surrounds the show.
My part in the show all kind of happened during the first part of filming for the Superstar show. Andrew asked me if I would like to play Mary Magdalene, which was such a great honour. I knew for a while before it was announced that I had the role and it was killing me – I was dying to tell everyone. It was like when you are pregnant for the first 12 weeks and you try to keep it a secret – it was horrible.
The singer, who has previously starred in the West End production of Blood Brothers as Mrs Johnstone, said that, as a teenager she watched the film version of the Jesus Christ Superstar many times and she found it quite easy to identify with the character of Mary Magdalene, who is captivated by Jesus. She said: “I think it is something we have all had to deal with in our adult lives, the confusion of your feelings for somebody and just trying to figure out what is going on.”
Of course, as with any “top secret” theatrical project, every now and again the press and public are drip-fed little snippets of information, or the occasional production image and this production is no different.
Firstly it was confirmed that the production would be set in modern times, then we learned that there will be free-runners and riot police as characters in the piece. Next, images of Ben Forster as Jesus and Tim Minchin as Judas were published, together with the information that there will not be an orchestra for this show but instead, as was originally intended by composers Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice, there will be a rock band to blast out those all-too-familiar numbers. The latest image to be released (pictured) is of Mel herself, complete with leather jacket and dreadlocks.
Mel’s album Stages, recorded with long time collaborator Peter-John Vettese, features a collection of songs from the theatre that have been important to Mel at various stages of her life and, as well as featuring “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, it also features many other showtunes.
Talking about the album she said:
There's a mixture of songs from lots of different shows, some that people will know and some they may not. There's one that I really think people will know and I hope that they are as excited as I am about it and that's “I Know Him So Well” from Chess which I duet on with Emma Bunton.
There's also “Both Sides Now”, which is actually a fantastic Joni Mitchell song that was used in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. We've also got “Tell Me It's Not True” from Blood Brothers, which I was lucky enough to do on stage. There are a lot of songs on the album where you know them, but you forget, or you don't know how you know them.
Her final thoughts on the show were:
It is such a great show, Mary is such a great part and to do arenas again is just going to be incredible. Andrew has such great plans for this show. It is brilliant.
Mel can be seen in Jesus Christ Superstar at The O2 Arena, London (21-23 Sept), Glasgow SECC (25-26 Sept), Newcastle Metro Radio Arena (28 Sept), Manchester Arena (30 Sept + 7 Oct), Cardiff Motorpoint (2-3 Oct), Birmingham NIA (4-5 Oct), Belfast Odyssey (9 Oct), Dublin O2 (12-13 Oct), Liverpool Echo Arena (16 Oct), Wembley Arena (17 Oct), Nottingham Capital FM Arena (19-20 Oct) and Sheffield Motorpoint (21 Oct)