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Brief Encounter with... Chicago's Verity Rushworth and Gemma Sutton

Chicago makes its way to Leicester's Curve this Christmas with Verity Rushworth and Gemma Sutton

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This Christmas, the Leicester Curve theatre stages a brand new version of the Broadway classic Chicago. Kieran Johnson talks to the two leading ladies: Verity Rushworth, who will be playing Velma Kelly, and Gemma Sutton as Roxie Hart.

Verity Rushworth (Velma) and Gemma Sutton (Roxie)
Pamela Raith Photography

Velma and Roxie are such iconic characters - they must be a dream come true to play?

Verity: I feel extremely lucky to be playing Velma. She's a crazy lady with sass, a dry sense of humour and a drink problem! So I'm having lots of fun in rehearsals.

Gemma: It really is a dream come true. It is such a well known and successful show and it is a part that has been played by so many actresses that I admire. It's a role that requires many different elements of performance, from getting the right jazz sound vocally, lots of stylised choreography in the musical numbers, the vaudevillian aspect to the show and the way she manoeuvres and manipulates the other characters and audience to get her way ... I have quite the task ahead of me!

How is this character different from your other roles?

Gemma: I have been very lucky to play a variety of roles, and I've enjoyed them all for different reasons. I'm often cast as the youthful, ingénue type characters, whereas with Roxie she's been around a bit and seen and experienced the grittier side of life. In the version of the show that we are working from (using the original 1975 script) there is much more of a Vaudevillian feel to it, so it has been great to research that and I hope to bring in some elements from what I have learned doing cabarets and gigs to make the audience feel they are being taken back to that era of jazz, liquor and the mad dark whirl of 1920s prohibition ... it's less Great Gatsby, more Boardwalk Empire.

Verity: Well, after recently playing a novice nun who becomes a governess for seven von Trapp children, it couldn't more contrasting to the gin drinking bitter double murderess I'm playing now. That's what makes this job so much fun.

Which musical numbers are you most looking forward to performing?

Verity: I'm really excited to perform the "Cell Block Tango". Me and five others girls expressing our inner torment! I can't wait!

Gemma: For me, all of them! We are very lucky to have such a great production team in Paul Kerryson (Director), Ben Atkinson (MD) and Drew McOnie (Choreographer), all with a great vision for the show. Drew's choreography is going to knock everyone's socks off, each number is epic and so specific in style and I can't believe I get to dance with some of the most talented ensemble dancers in the industry. They are so inspiring to watch and work with.

How do you think this production of Chicago will differ from other recent UK productions?

Verity: Curve's Chicago will be entirely different to other productions because it's going to have original choreography, original costumes, original set, and original direction. The only similarities will be the music and the 20's Vaudeville feel.

Gemma: There are no fishnets, no string vests, no black chairs. We have full costumes and COLOUR! The version of Chicago people know best is the Broadway production from the mid 1990s, which was a actually a concert version of the show and so very minimalist. This version has a much fuller book with great scenes, so hopefully the audience will get much more understanding of what the musical is about: the corruption of the press and judicial system and obsession with celebrity ... as relevant for today's world as it ever was.

Why should people come and see Chicago this Christmas at Leicester's Curve theatre?

Verity: Chicago is a hugely successful musical and to see this fantastic show after such an amazing creative team have put their spin on it will be a show not to be missed. It's extremely entertaining, fun, sassy and bold. A perfect glitzy night out for your Christmas treat this year!

Gemma: To see Chicago as you've never seen it before: with new direction, new choreography, fuller musical numbers. Curve theatre itself is worth a visit if you've never been - it is unique building in a curve shape (who'd have thought it) with very much a community feel, the audience really get a window into how all aspects of the theatre work - from seeing glimpses of backstage, wardrobe, dressing room corridors, it's all there if you look up! There's a real buzz about the building, and only an hour and a bit from London.

Verity Rushworth and Gemma Sutton will be appearing in Chicago at Leicester's Curve theatre from 29 Nov – 18 Jan 2014. For more information visit www.curveonline.co.uk