Not seen in the UK since 1992, Moby Dick! The Musical is back for a one month run at the New Union Theatre in London’s SE1. Leading the cast of this saucy cult hit is X Factor finalist and seasoned West End performer Brenda Edwards who rocked Chicago fans with her performance at the Cambridge Theatre as well as putting her delectable mark on Hairspray, the UK Tour and, We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. No stranger to the stage, we caught up with Brenda to get the low down on this new production.
Tell us about the character Esta that you’re playing in Moby Dick! The Musical?
I actually play Mrs. Mona Lott, she is a performing arts teacher, who just missed out on her claim to fame on stage and is always trying to find a way to get back on stage! The character Mrs. Mona Lott plays is Esta, who is the obsessive lusty frustrated wife of Ahab.
How did the part come about?
I got a call from my agent to come in for an audition earlier in the year. I was very excited at the prospect about performing in this new venue. The New Union Theatre is a very nice intimate space, so I was really looking forward to performing up close and personal to the audience!
You’ll be playing alongside fellow X Factor Finalist Anton Stephens, who plays the role of Headmistress / Ahab – a man playing a woman who plays a man. Does the live nature of the X Factor shows give performers good grounding for West End theatre?
I don’t think it gives any more grounding, apart from there being a stage it’s a totally different feeling. In my personal opinion, this production is very intimate and you see everyone face to face.
Your dream was always to become a recording artist did you have an inkling, coming from the UK that West End musical theatre would be part of your journey?
I had always wanted to be a performer whether that be in musicals or as a recording artist. I used to get some students together when I was at high school and put on productions of my own, so I’m glad I’m getting to do the same as my line of work now.
You were called to play Mama Morton in Chicago, not just once, or twice, but for a third time into early 2009 – a huge accolade – how did this make you feel?
I loved playing Mama Morton, it was my first professional role and the cast and creatives made me feel so welcome it was a wonderful experience.
In 2012 you appeared as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in a workshop of a musical about her life, tell us about the research for this role?
We were given a deep insight by our director and writer and I also watched Queen Latifah in the film version of Bessie.
How do you feel West End theatre is doing in terms of making sure there are equal roles for women of ethnicity?
Looking at the successful shows such as Bodyguard, Motown, Memphis and Dreamgirls which is about to open soon, I don’t think they are doing badly at all.
Are there hurdles that actress and singers from black and and other non-white backgrouds face?
In the music industry unfortunately yes I feel there are hurdles for black female singers. I always challenge someone to come up with three current UK black female soloists in the charts. I don’t know why black females are not more represented in the music industry it’s a shame as there is great talent out there
If there’s one musical that we should see before the year is out which one should we see?
Moby Dick it’s fun every step of the way… I also really want to see Motown
Which artists are you listening to at the moment? New or old…
Beyoncé’s Lemonade album
We’ve had the honour of seeing you support greats; Smokey Robinson and Alexander O’Neil, who were your influences when you were growing up singing with the church?
I loved Whitney Houston she was my main idol but Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Queen, Bjork – my list is a big one I tried and still do try to listen to a bit of everything.
You and Anton Stephens will both be leading a 10-strong team for Moby Dick! The Musical. Have you worked with any of the cast before?
I worked with Glen Facey on Hairspray but the whole cast are so young and talented such a great energy to be around.
What are your forthcoming plans for next year?
[I’ll be getting to …] work on some more material for a new album and another couple of musicals (gotta keep those a secret I’m afraid) watch this space!
Moby Dick! The Musical runs until November 12th. Go to The Union Theatre website for further information and to book tickets.