Kiss Me, Kate, one of Cole Porter's masterpieces, has enjoyed a very successful run at the Victoria Palace Theatre, where Rachel York has now joined the cast, playing (until August 24) Lilli Vanessi/Katherine in this backstage story about a production of The Taming of the Shrew.
Theatrenow went to the Victoria Palace to see how she was settling in.
Is this your London debut? "Yes, and I'm very excited about it!"
You've been in Kiss Me, Kate before? "Yes, in the States, playing Kate." What's the main difference between the American production and the London one? "They're both similar, but obviously they have some differences — so much of a performance depends on the performers — change the actors and the production itself will be a different one, even if everyone tries to act the same as before".
"Hopefully we'll end up with a combination of the best of what's gone before at the Victoria Palace and the best of what I was able to bring to the production in the States. It's a great role to play, and I'm a very strong Kate — she needs to be strong!"
You had an early start to your career — as a singer? "Singing is how I started, I guess. As a child, I used to sing with my mother at home. She had a wonderful voice — in fact, when I first heard Ella Fitzgerald singing on the radio, I thought it was my mother!
"When I was at school, I was very shy, but when I was in the choir I realized that I had a good voice, a talent, and that gave me a lot of confidence. I enjoy singing, and loved playing Fantine in Les Misérables, which is possibly my favorite ever show, though in terms of favorite roles, I loved playing Eva Peron in a production of Evita."
Do you see yourself principally as a music theatre performer now? "No! I love musicals, and music in general — one of my projects is recording some songs — but I enjoy straight plays and films and television. I'm a chameleon actor; I like trying different roles in different areas."
Is that a positive thing in terms of a career? "If you're a Johnny One-Note, then it's easier to cast you, people will automatically think of you for certain roles, but it's more challenging, and fulfilling, to try a variety of work, not to be typecast by people."
Speaking of different people, you've got quite a reputation as a mimic. . . "Well, I have an act I do, where the deal is that I'm Barbra Streisand interviewing a range of celebrities — like Cher and Julie Andrews — for a charity concert. That gives me an opportunity to show what I can do!"
And how are you fitting in with your colleagues in Kiss Me, Kate at the Victoria Palace? "Very well! They've all been very supportive. I've worked with Brent Barrett before — we sang in an AIDS charity concert in New York some years ago — and he and Michael Berresse in particular are great to work with.
"In the past I've sometimes found that musical theatre actors aren't as good to work with as 'straight' actors. The singing is more important for them than the acting, which is a mistake. But in this production there's a real sense of the actors inhabiting their roles — they bring a truthfulness and a presence to their parts, which is very effective and makes the whole thing work so much better. It's a pleasure to work with them, and a great way to work in London for the first time."
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow