X Factor sensation Sinitta set to return to her musical theatre roots at Edinburgh Playhouse
Sinitta never intended to be a pop star. So Macho and Toy Boy changed all that. Next week, however, at the Edinburgh Playhouse, the singer returns to her musical theatre roots as Mama Morton, in Chicago.
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Kander and Ebb’s smash hit musical opened in Glasgow earlier this month, where Sinitta was enjoying a rare day off when we caught up.
"It's so lovely to be back in Scotland, I used to come up a lot," she says, before recalling that it was in musical theatre her career began.
"I actually started in musicals like Cats, Little Shop of Horrors, Hair and, of course, Mutiny, which was my breakout role, my first leading lady, but it’s been such a long time, I was surprised how nervous I was when we opened. It took a few days for me to start enjoying it again and be able to perform without the jitters."
Sinitta was starring opposite David Essex in the London West End production of Mutiny when pop stardom beckoned.
She remembers, "Macho charted and became a big hit while I was doing Mutiny, I even had to miss performances to do Top of the Pops. By the time Mutiny finished we had Toy Boy coming out and it all just took off. Suddenly I was a pop star.
"In fact, I did that for so many years, a lot of people were surprised to find that I did act and dance and do other things, they just remembered me for the music. More recently, people have even forgotten me for the music and just know me from X Factor. So it's nice to be doing Chicago as those who have never seen me perform before, get to see me in action."
Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today's tabloids
Sinitta plays Mama Morton, matron of the women's ward in the Cook County Jail.
“She is such a great character. I've never played a role like this before; I'm the keeper of the keys, the mistress of ceremonies and I'm the only one with clothes on as well, which is a first," she laughs, adding, "I've never played someone who is a little bit of a villain before, but she is a villain with a good heart."
The daughter of singer and actor Miquel Brown, it should come as little surprise that Sinitta has a palpable love of musical theatre, she spent much of her childhood backstage or in audiences.
"This is what I grew up watching my mother do," the performer, who also spent a spell as a host on ITV’s Loose Women, says adding, “She did shows like Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Bubbling Brown Sugar, and still performs. So I grew up in dressing rooms trying on make-up and costumes and sitting in audiences watching her, longing to be doing what she was doing.
"I'd tell her I was going to do Hair and sing the songs she sang when I was older and she would say, 'Oh, darling, when you grow up, Hair won't be around'. But I did get to do it, at the Young Vic. I got to sing Aquarius and everything.”
Sinitta continues, “She came up to see Chicago, and might be coming to see it again in Edinburgh, and said, 'I'd quite like to play Mama Morton'. So now she wants to play the roles that I'm playing and, because I'm only playing Mama Morton for a limited time, there are chances that she might actually take over the role when I leave. Then, I'll be coming to see her again."
Tours of radio stations to promote singles like G.T.O and Cross My Broken Heart regularly brought Sinitta to the Capital back in the day, as did a couple of musicals.
"I've been to Edinburgh a few times, I did Smokey Joe's Cafe and What A Feeling there."
During her visit in 1997, a cast recording was made of What A Feeling, which comes as a surprise to the star.
"Gosh, I remember coming to Edinburgh to do the show - my accommodation was close to the theatre so I walked through the city, it was beautiful, like being on a film set - but I don't remember doing a cast recording, I must try to get a copy, I'd love to find that."
And should you see her making her way to the Playhouse when Chicago comes to town, be sure to say hello not just to Sinitta, but to Scarlett O'Hara, her "red toy poodle".
"It's nice to be stopped and spoken to and people talk to my puppy. She is just the sweetest, sweetest thing, like a little teddy bear and everyone, from the very old to the very young, is just enchanted by her."
As they will be by the show, she insists, "Faye Brooks is incredible as Roxy and then you've got Djalenga Scott, a mother of a three-year-old who has the body and stamina of a teenager, she plays Velma. Darren Day is absolutely smashing it as Billy Flynn, Joel Montague is going to break everyone's heart as Amos Hart and Divina De Campo, from Ru Paul's Drag Race, has an amazing voice, you will think you are listening to a seasoned, female soprano opera singer.
"The whole ensemble have roles to play as well as singing and dancing and have the best bodies and style... I’m absolutely chuffed and honoured to be amongst such an amazing cast.
"It's like starting again but with a following who remember, or have grown up with me. It's very rejuvenating."
Chicago opens at The Playhouse Monday, September 27 and runs until Saturday, October 2, tickets from £13 available from https://www.atgtickets.com/