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“Elf is totally camper than Girls Aloud!” — Kimberley Walsh on life as a leading lady

© Alastair Muir

“SANTAAAAAA!”

Currently spreading a little Christmas cheer around the West End, we joined Girls Aloud member Kimberley Walsh backstage for a cheeky chat.

About to delight audiences alongside Ben Forster in Elf – The Musical, we talk life as a musical theatre leading lady, moving from pop to theatre, and why Elf is totally camper than Girls Aloud. Yes, she went there!

This is GT and Kimberley Walsh…

© Alastair Muir

© Alastair Muir

Kimberley! Elf – The Musical. Are you having fun? YES! I’m really enjoying it. It’s so hard actually to not enjoy it when you’re doing a show that’s full of huge Christmas numbers. It’s lovely and everyone in the cast is great. We’re having such a laugh.

Were you a fan of the film before you joined the show? Yeah! I mean, I watched the film years ago like most people did. I’m not one of those people that watches the film every year, thought. I did watch it again recently and it’s actually REALLY good! [Laughs] I think the musical is a really good adaptation.

Why? Because the story is very close to it, but you have to change things for it to work on stage. And here, the songs really lift it and bring it to life. The music makes the show actually stand alone, regardless of the film.

There’s also other characters that you see more of in the musical. I mean, the character of Buddy for example has to be so different in the show. You can play the whole character down in the film because you can get that on close cameras, but facial expressions have to be larger than life for it to come across for us. It’s certainly a full on production.

How’s it going from singing pop in concerts to musical theatre 8-times a week? It’s totally different for me, but I do feel comfortable doing it. I did a lot as a child, and I played Princess Fiona in Shrek – The Musical, too.

© Alastair Muir

© Alastair Muir

Are you quite theatrical in life, then? I just LOOOOVE musicals! [Laughs] I always have done, even when I was in the group. I managed to squeeze a few musical numbers into the tours. It’s just so fun. It’s really escapism and the chance to really go for it and become a character.

You had Cheryl and Nicola from Girls Aloud supporting you on opening night. How did they find it? Yeah, they LOVED IT!

Were they the ones cheering and screaming? [Laughs] Yes! All the cast kept commenting on how popular I was that night. I think it was those two making all the noise, actually. [Laughs] They’re so supportive. It’s so nice to have that. I didn’t know if they’d love it as it could be one step too far on the musical scale as it’s so full on. But they totally embraced it and said they were even nearly crying at points.

There’s a message for both children and adults in this show. Have you found a lot of people commenting on this after seeing the show? I think so. When I first had my meeting about doing the show, that’s one of the things the producer and director were trying to tell me. Although it’s tap dancing and is all a big theatrical production, there’s a truth and heart at the story that runs through all different types of relationships. That’s what gives you the warmth at the end.

Aaaaand we’ve also got Santa and snow which is always a winner.

Not camp at all then? The show on the whole is just definitely the campest production I’ve ever done, and that’s really saying something after our tours with the girls. Elf is totally camper than Girls Aloud! [Laughs] Is that even possible?

You tell us… Is that possible? I think it might be. [Laughs]

How do you prepare yourself physically and mentally for leading a production like Elf? Touring for so long, it’s such good grounding for your stamina for anything else that you do. Nothing is ever going to be as intense as that. Y’know, I’m with the girls for the full show time. But thankfully, there’s time where I can have a pause or moment away from the stage. It’s a big undertaking to play to a few thousand people every night and ensure I deliver. People have paid to come watch the show, so every night has got to be the best I can do. That’s the challenge and I love it.

Do you ever have days where you’re a little stuck for energy? Yeah, sometimes. I haven’t found it too bad so far as there’s always been the adrenaline of starting the show. But I’m sure there will be days where I have a slight dip. But as soon as you hear the overture and I’m dressed as an Elf about to start tap dancing, you’re into it.

And just in case you weren’t stuffed full of Christmas cheer – you get to wear an elf outfit, too… [Laughs] It’s quite a cute outfit and I have a bell on my hat. It’s SO camp! [Laughs] I seem to be drawn to green costumes…

© Alastair Muir

© Alastair Muir

Once this closes, have you thought of anywhere else you could move to. Maybe, somewhere else that’s green? OH, GOSH! Now, that is a huge undertaking. I’m good friends with Kerry Ellis and we were talking about what an amazing part Elphaba is. I’d LOVE to do the role as it’s the most incredible show. I love the songs, but you’d had to make sure you’re in a place where you could commit your life to it.

So you’d go green rather than be Glinda? I’d love to do Glinda, actually. It’s more comedic and fun, and you don’t have to go green every night. [Laughs] It might be a bit high for me Glinda as I’m more of a big belting singer. Shall I just rehearse both and see where I’m at in a year? [Laughs]

How have your fans reacted to your move from pop to theatre? Do they stay with you throughout your career changes? They all stay. They’re incredible fans, actually! We have incredible fans from the group and so far they’ve stuck with me which I’m really grateful for.

With your time in Girls Aloud and now musical theatre – have you picked up maybe one or two gay fans along the way? Just a couple? [Laughs hysterically] Well, I couldn’t possibly say! Maybe just a couple. My gay fans are totally with my musical theatre choices. I can’t imagine why that is. I did a few live performances at live venues at they were all over me singing Defying Gravity.

© Alastair Muir

© Alastair Muir

A Girls Aloud member, singing a musical theatre song like Defying Gravity, in a gay venue, wearing glitter. Do you have a secret to tell us? [Howls with laughter] Y’know, It was actually amazing. The crowd were really quiet when I was singing and then wild at the right moments after. They were both appreciative and respectful to the songs. I was very impressed!

How’s it working with Ben Forster as Buddy? He’s so easy to work with! He’s got such a huge role as Buddy so I’m always trying to help him. He’s lovely and we’re always trying to help as a cast where we can.

And finally, for anyone thinking of coming to see the show – how would you describe what they can expect? It’s everything that we love about Christmas. Regardless of the narrative of the show, there’s so many moments within the show of what Christmas is all about.

And I don’t know about you, but for me it takes me back to my childhood and the warm feelings that come back. The pure excitement of seeing Santa and all these little things come up throughout the show. I don’t know how you could come see the show, walk out of the theatre and not be feeling festive and wanting to embrace Christmas fully.

Read our full review of Elf – The Musical here.


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