In Cabaret - coming to Theatre Royal Brighton
, in December - she plays Sally Bowles, as Weimar Berlin of 1931 is turned into a sassy, sizzling haven of decadence
, and at its dark heart is the legendary and notorious Emcee, who performs nightly at the infamous Kit Kat Klub.
Since its Broadway premiere in 1966 and the famous movie version with Liza Minnelli and Oscar winner Joel Grey, Cabaret has won a staggering number of stage and screen awards.
The Brighton Magazine (TBM): What is it about Cabaret and the character of Sally Bowles that you think make them so iconic?
Louise Redknapp (LR): There are so many things. There's the set-up of the show in the 1930s and the historical, political element behind it, which gives it a lot of depth. And what makes Sally herself so interesting is that she's extremely vulnerable, she's extremely fragile, yet on the outside she's this very ballsy woman who wants to be a star and does all she can to survive. The combination of those factors makes her for me a really loveable character but one who is also very oblivious to what's going on in the world.
TBM: Liza Minnelli won an Oscar for the film version. Have you deliberately avoided re-watching it so you can make the character your own?
LR: The film's very different because Sally is an American in it and of course she's played brilliantly by Liza Minnelli. But the show is based on the original book where she's very British, very well-spoken, and she's gone over to Berlin to be a cabaret star. It turns out to be much more sordid than she thought it would be and it's dog-eat-dog. She has to survive and she does what she has to make money and keep going, and she loves singing in the Kit Kat Klub. I've watched the film many times and I've loved it since I was a young girl, but I've tried not to watch it now I'm doing the show because the stage musical has a very different take on Sally Bowles to the film.
TBM: Can you relate to Sally in any way?
LR: Absolutely there are parts of her I can relate to. I think lots of women will relate to how she puts on a brave face and always soldiers on even when she's terribly wounded and terribly hurt and insecure and unsure. I think many women can relate to elements of that, though maybe they don't go as far as Sally does. She does everything to extremes. But there are definitely parts of her I can relate to, just as a woman and how we try to survive and do the best we can with what we're given.
TBM: What are you most relishing about playing her?
LR: She's such a different character to the person I am. She's very ballsy and sexy, very over-the-top and eccentric. That's one of the reasons the role was so appealing, but also she gets to sing some of the most incredible songs. And because of the political and historical setting the show has such a lot of grit to it as well as the jazz hands, the big notes and the sexy outfits. It's got a really strong story that gives it such a lot of depth.
TBM: What are the big challenges for you as a performer?
LR: [Laughs] Losing all my inhibitions. Coming into it I thought it would be the big note at the end of Mein Herr or remembering all the lines, but actually the challenge is to not be inhibited. Sally is a big character and she's very flamboyant. For me, to play that takes a lot of work because I'm not naturally the person who pushes herself to the front of a line. I'll always hover back and take my time, but she fully believes in herself and goes completely over-the-top – or rather she does sometimes and sometimes we see her vulnerable side – so for me it's about losing all my inhibitions and giving it everything I've got.
TBM: This is your first big stage musical. Any nerves?
LR: I'm so nervous. It's a massive role with massive songs, a huge storyline and a huge script, with dancing thrown in. I don't want to let myself down and I don't want to let down the people around me. I want to do everyone proud and I want to do Sally Bowles proud. But I think nerves show you care and that it means a lot to you. I don't take this role lightly and I don't take being in the theatre lightly. I know it's hard work and you have to give it everything you've got. People are spending their money to come watch you and you don't want to disappoint them. You want them leaving the theatre really satisfied.
TBM: Has doing Strictly Come Dancing given you the confidence to take on such a demanding musical?
LR: Strictly helped me hugely and it reminded me more than anything how much I love to perform. When you have a family you don't do it for a long time. It's very easy to fall into a comfort zone, thinking 'I used to do that'. Strictly reminded me how much I love playing characters. For all of my dances I was always a character, with a bit of a storyline to invest in being someone else for three-and-a-half minutes. I realised again how much I love singing, dancing and performing. The thought of not having the opportunity to carry on doing it was kind of devastating for me, but luckily this opportunity came along and I thought 'Right, I need to give this a go'.
TBM: How is it working with your friend Will Young, who plays the Emcee?
LR: Not only is Will a great mate, he's done the show a couple of times before and he's brilliant at it. Every day I learn something new from watching him because he's so uninhibited in how he throws himself into the role. It makes the rest of the cast really throw themselves into it as well. There's no judging going on, there's no-one laughing. The more you go for it the easier is it to nail it and Will shows us that. For me it's great having a mate there because we can go and have breakfast and lunch together, talk about the kids and hang out, but he's also a great performer and a pleasure to work with and watch.
TBM: The show has so many classic musical numbers. Do you have a favourite to perform?
LR: Mein Herr is great because it's my first number and there's so much going on. It's sexy and really empowering. But I most love singing Maybe This Time because it's such a beautiful song and you can put such a lot of feeling into it. I kind of get transported into this other little world for a few moments and it's lovely. For a singer to be given a song like that is great.
TBM: Given the adult nature of the show will your children be coming to see it?
LR: [Laughs] The older one will maybe come along but I don't know about my nine-year-old. Until I get up there and see how it all works together I won't know how suitable it is for them, but I think I'd like them to come see it because I try to be as open as possible with the boys and I so want them to be involved in my career and what I do. That's really important to me and I really want them to be proud as well as for them to know that when Mum's not at home this is what she's doing – that it's great to do something you love and they should invest in doing that when they're older. So yes, I want them to come see it, but [laughs] because of some of the content I might have to have them ushered out at certain moments.
TBM: Can you recall when you first encountered Cabaret?
LR: I think the first thing I would have seen is that really iconic image of Liza Minnelli with the bowler hat and the chair. I went to stage school and I had the Cabaret songbook and I saw the film. Being at stage school, everybody sang Life Is A Cabaret at some point during their five years there, [laughs] although maybe they didn't know what they were singing about. Then I read the book [I Am A Camera by Christopher Isherwood] and it's interesting how it goes a lot deeper into it all.
TBM: Do you have any pre or post-show rituals?
LR: For me it's just about being with the people I'm on stage with. The bonds and the friendships are really important because when you're out there you're so reliant on each other. You all work together; there's not a leading role, there's not a star. When I was on tour with the band we all needed each other to make the show work and I look on this the same way. My ritual will be investing time with the people I'm working with and getting to know them to create a good, solid atmosphere. In terms of pre-show rituals, the first time I have a really great show whatever I did that night is what I'll do for the rest of the tour, whatever it may be. [Laughs] I'll let you know once it's happened.
TBM: The tour calls at Theatre Royal Brighton. Does it have a special significance for you?
LR: Brighton's near home and by that stage it'll be nice for me to have the kids there. Brighton's a really nice place and it'll be lovely having the boys there, even if it's just a case of hanging out in the dressing room and coming to spend the day with me.
Cabaret at Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday 5th – Saturday 9th December 2017. For more info CLICK HERE.