My Top 5 Showtunes: Josefina Gabrielle
The actress tells us the musical numbers she couldn't live without
Josefina Gabrielle is a three-time Olivier Award-nominated actress, recognised for her roles in Oklahoma!, Sweet Charity and Merrily We Roll Along. Other theatre credits include Singin' in the Rain at Sadler's Wells, Hello, Dolly! at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Since 2000, Josefina has played the role of Roxie Hart in various productions of Chicago in the West End and on tour. She is starring in the current West End production of the musical as Velma Kelly.
We caught up with Josefina and asked her: "If you were stranded on a desert island which five showtunes could you not live without?"
1. "My Best Girl (Beau)" from Mame
When I was a child I saw a production of Mame, performed by the musical theatre students at my school (Arts Educational). They could only have been about 19, but to a ten year-old they seemed so grown-up. I adored the show and bought the songbook not long after. I would plink out the right hand on the piano and sing along as best I could. I loved all the songs, but this one in particular touched my heart and still does.
2. "Sunday" from Sunday In the Park With George
I was lucky enough to play Dot/Marie in Paul Kerrison's production of Sunday In the Park With George in Leicester, and then saw the Menier Chocolate Factory's very clever version, starring the dazzling Anna-Jane Casey and Daniel Evans. Again, I love the whole score, but the magic of seeing Seurat's painting come together at the end of Act One and the swelling of the harmonious voices is overwhelmingly beautiful.
3. "Send In the Clowns" from A Little Night Music
Last summer I had the privilege of playing Desiree Armfeldt, with the most beautiful group of people, at the Watermill Theatre, in Paul Foster's production of A Little Night Music. It was an actor/musician production, which was something I'd never done before. And what a revelation. When you play for each other it feels like you're being held by each other. To have sung "Send In The Clowns" in such an intimate environment, supported by my fellow actors, was the most magical experience. Sondheim's songs need no help. They lead you. You are the lucky participant being taken on their subtle, poetic, incredibly moving journey. I feel very privileged to have been part of this sublime show.
4. "Our Time" from Merrily We Roll Along
Many years ago, I saw a production of Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar Warehouse, again with Daniel Evans, my beautiful friend Sam Spiro and Julian Ovenden. Years later, I was lucky enough to play Gussie Carnegie in another production, which started life at the Menier Chocolate Factory, directed by the very clever Maria Friedman. From the wings, I would watch Jenna Russell, Mark Umbers and Damian Humbley, sing "Our Time", with the wide-eyed innocence of youth, basking in the potential of a whole world of endless opportunities ahead of them. It is such a beautiful and inspiring song. Every version of it gets to me. And again, I love the whole score.
5. "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago
I started out as a ballet dancer and whilst I was immersed in the world of Petipa, Bournonville and Balanchine, someone gave me a cassette of Chicago. I didn't know anything about Bob Fosse, then, but absolutely loved this album, in particular "The Cell Block Tango". Chita Rivera and those Merry Murderesses made me howl with laughter. Years later, when Chicago came to town, I couldn't wait to see it and to watch all those numbers come to life. The show didn't fail to deliver. It then went on to give me many opportunities to be part of it, as Roxie Hart and now, thanks to its welcome return to the West End, as Velma Kelly. I even get to be one of those fabulous Cell Block ladies this time. My ballerina self never saw that coming.