Simon Webbe On ... Swinging into Sister Act
Since leaving Blue, Webbe has released two solo albums and is currently working on a third. He has also appeared on numerous television shows, including a run on series eight of I’m A Celebrity... on ITV1, while film credits include The Truth About Love and Rolling With The Nines. His role in Sister Act marks his West End debut.
Simon Webbe: When I was first asked to do Sister Act, my answer was the same as I first gave to I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here. I said no because of the fear factor, because I’d be vulnerable. I haven’t done stage work since I was 15 in school and that’s when I was fearless; now I’m an adult it’s a whole new ball game and I’m a celebrity which means I’m under the microscope even more.
So my initial reaction was no but they said “go and see the show and see if you like it then think about it.” So I went along and it completely blew me away and I thought 'I have to get involved in this'.
Being in Blue has definitely helped prepare me for the rigours of doing eight shows a week. That said, the Blue tours we only lasted about a month - 30 shows in 30 days. So being part of a long run is quite a challenge to keep yourself sharp and motivated. But I like a challenge and that’s why I wanted to do it.
It's a big sing as well. “When I Find My Baby” is an especially hard song. When I first heard it I was like, “what? You’re joking right? Can we take it down a key?”, and they were like “nope”. But I’m handling it now I’ve had some training. I think I underestimated myself because I was never a trained singer.
I also had to learn to control my body language. I'm used to making lots of big hand gestures from my Blue days, but Sister Act is set in the 70s and they didn't act like that back then. I've got into bad habits which I've had to get rid of. But it's been inspiring working with Sheila Hancock and Patina Miller. Oh man, that girl is no joke, she's unbelievable! And her acting skills are amazing - she's just an incredible all-rounder.
I always thought Duncan was the theatre boy; when we first got to know each other ten or 12 years ago we would all talk to each other about our ambitions and Duncan always said “I see myself in the West End”. I never thought I would do it, but then I'm not the sort of person who thinks 'oh, I'll give that a try' – it had never really occurred to me until the Sister Act producers asked me to do it.
I saw Duncan in Chicago and saw him again in Legally Blonde - he’s ten times better now, he's shining. He’s the person he wants to be, he’s on that stage and demanding people's attention. Duncan's my idol when it comes to theatre. And Sheridan Smith as well, her talent is unbelievable.
I’ve been out of the public eye for three years now but I'm coming back. I’m ready and I feel better. Looking ahead after Sister Act, I'll be focussing more on my music, hopefully releasing an album by the end of the year. And Blue will definitely be doing another album together - it's not if, it's when.
Simon Webbe continues as Shank until 28 August 2010. Sister Act continues at the London Palladium until 30 October 2011.