Sinitta, who has been performing since she was 12 years old and whose musical credits include ‘Who's Gonna Catch You‘ and ‘Shame Shame Shame’, still feels stage fright. Image Credit: Supplied

Think of her as a firecracker on stage - you won’t be able to look away. It’s true, pop star and theatre veteran Sinitta admits in an interview with Gulf News, that the role of Mama Morton in the musical ‘Chicago‘ has traditionally been played by a statuesque, strong, woman with a booming voice, and her demeanor is far removed from that expectation. “Me playing mama Morten, this is a real departure from traditional casting, because I'm a petite woman with a pop, and quite sort of soft voice taking on a role that's been traditionally played by, you know, quite a statuesque, strong, woman. So you know, I've had to interpret the character to suit me,” she explains.

The 58-year-old American-born Briton, who will be seen in the epic role when the play opens at the Dubai Opera this Wednesday, says the role required a shift in perspective. “I spent a lot of the rehearsals doing the wrong things, you know. I tried stomping around, I tried acting like I was a bigger person and trying to move my body [and went] to finally just kind of embracing myself and thinking, ‘well, no, I'm not going to try to do a version of what somebody else has done. I'm going to have to completely redo this as myself.’ And thankfully, it's been really well received here.”

Pop star and theatre veteran Sinitta plays Mama Morton in 'Chicago'.

The play, originally published in 1975, is based on a 1926 play that animated a crime reporter’s journal. It’s the longest-running American play in Broadway history. The show, set in the 1920s, kicks off when singer Roxie Hart kills her lover and is taken to prison. Once there, she and double-murderess Velma Kelly plot to keep off death row with the help of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn. Sinitta plays the warden of the prison where they are incarcerated – and epitomizes the ‘reciprocal’ style of a working jail in that time period.

We caught up with Sinitta ahead of her performance on Wednesday night about stage fright, ageism in the entertainment industry and more. Here are the excerpts from the conversation. This is Sinitta on…

Stage fright…

Sinitta, who has been performing since she was 12 years old and whose musical credits include ‘Who's Gonna Catch You‘ and ‘Shame Shame Shame’, still feels stage fright. “Yes, I do. One thing is that I haven't been in a theatrical production for more than 20 years before I did this. But the other thing is, I think it's about caring. It's not wanting to disappoint, not wanting to let the team down, not wanting to let the audience down. And wanting to do a good job. I don't think you ever lose those that feeling.”

What the audience can look forward to…

“The audience can expect phenomenal live jazz music, performed by some of the best musicians in the UK, an incredible cast, brilliant dancing and choreography, and a really funny and interesting plot. You know, it's quite unusual. It's very edgy. I think people will really enjoy it,” she says, adding, “The cast is more diverse.”

Her comeback…

She says: “What brought me back [to the stage after 20 years]? A mix of things, partly, I think being unable to perform for a long time because of the pandemic. And also the resident director, contacting me and asking me if I would like to be in the show. And I was like, gosh, I hadn't thought about being in a musical for a long time, because I had adopted young children. And of course, you don't want to miss bedtimes and bath time and dinner and things like that. But my children started boarding at school … I realized that actually, I am available. Maybe this would be good for me. And, gosh, it's quite scary. But it would be good for me to get out of my comfort zone, got to get out of the house, I've got to start mixing with people again. And it'd be a nice way to work with a team and get the discipline back. And, you know, it was a great way to transition back into working again, and, you know, get to play such an iconic role. I mean, I couldn't believe it.”

The mix-up…

When Sinitta got a call about playing a role, she laughs, she thought she’d be playing Roxy. “When she [the production director] first called, I thought she was calling me about Roxy. And I did also say, you know, it's a lot to learn. And there's a lot of dancing. And she says, ‘Anita, I'm calling you about Mama Morton’. And I kind of paused. I don't know whether to be insulted. But then I was like, ‘Yes’.

Staying fit…

“I exercise. I do reformer Pilates. Every other day, every other morning. I eat extremely healthily. I don't smoke. I drink little and in moderation. Yeah, I follow a very healthy lifestyle. You know, I'm vegetarian. And I have been for most of my life. So I you know, I make an effort. It's not, it's not all genetics, but I will give my mother's my parents some other credit,” she says.


“You know what? Things are changing now. Actively, especially in this day and age, I think diversity is such a big thing now, and reflected in this production as well. And in television and all across the board of entertainment, where people are really working hard to make sure that those inclusion of different nationalities and races and, and ages, thankfully for me, so I feel like I can have a whole other career now as a mature woman.”

Kids getting into showbiz...

She says, ”Oh my gosh, I would love it. I would absolutely love. My daughter actually likes to sing and dance and act and I could imagine her going into the industry. Not sure that I really welcome you know, because that's a tough industry. If they had other skills and decided to follow another path that I would be probably happier.”

Dubai actor returns with ‘Chicago’
Actor Harrison Wilde, who graduated from Dubai’s Diverse Performing Arts School, is returning to the stage on January 5, at the Dubai Opera. He has nabbed a part in ‘Chicago’ as ensemble 1st cover Amos.

Don’t miss it!

Tickets to see ‘Chicago’, which runs at the Dubai Opera from January 5 to 15, start at Dh350

History of 'Chicago'
Are you ready for the ‘Razzle Dazzle’ of ‘Chicago’? The show, which opens on January 5 at the Dubai Opera has played in 36 countries worldwide – and in a number of languages including English, German, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French, Japanese and Korean. While theatre-lovers have adored the story that’s based on a real-life crime and set to music, many were introduced to it in 2002, when a movie featuring actors Catherine Zeta-Jones (Velma), Renée Zellweger (Roxie), Richard Gere (Billy Flynn) and Queen Latifa (Mama Morton) released. The fast-paced storyline along with foot-thumping numbers such as ‘Cell Block Tango’ and ‘All That Jazz’ immediately won fans and plaudits. Of course nothing compares to live action singing and dancing. And this drama, which has been on stage for over 20 years and won six Tonys, two Oliviers, one Grammy, two Baftas and six Academy Awards has drawn its fair share of stars – actors on its credit rolls include Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, Wayne Brady, Christie Brinkley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Holliday, Brooke Shields, Ashlee Simpson, Aida Turturro, Wendy Williams, Rumer Willis and Chandra Wilson. Tap, tap, tap goes the foot as the story unfolds … it’s time for the show to commence!