Photo: Clare Grogan
West End superstar Helen Sheals will be making her third appearance at my cabaret show Gayeance this Halloween. I chatted to her ahead of what will be a camp-as-tits seance to end all seances at The Glory on Wednesday 31st October.
It’s so exciting to have a West End star join us at The Glory! Could you tell us about how you first got started in the industry?
I had quite a peripatetic route into ‘showbiz’ – I didn’t train and started out as a contemporary dancer, got my Equity card and toured Australia for 4 months. I wasn’t a very good dancer actually, so I started to focus on acting and booked few musicals before getting my first ‘legit’ theatre job with Sir Anthony Quayle’s Compass Theatre. I’d been acting for years before I got my first TV job.
You’re known for your stellar portrayal of Judy Garland in Ray Rackham’s hit JUDY! Why do you think Judy Garland remains such a popular icon?
I think Judy remains such a popular icon simply because she was such a great artist who also had the common touch. She seemed real and approachable whilst having this amazing talent. She had that child/woman thing going on which is very appealing and her vulnerability and warmth shone through her whole being. She’s timeless.
Impersonating someone is a lot harder than it looks! What were the biggest challenges when it came to approaching your version of Judy and how did you make her your own?
I think the biggest challenge in portraying Judy was getting the speaking voice right. I was very familiar with her singing voice having been a life long fan but her the way she spoke was quite particular and peculiar – it was very mannered and had shades of an English accent. I watched a LOT of YouTube clips of her being interviewed.
Gayeance is all about summoning dead divas, other than Judy what other dead divas do you wish you could bring back from the grave?
Dead divas I would like to bring back would be, Marilyn Monroe, Edith Piaf and Anna Pavlova.
And finally, what’s the spookiest thing that’s ever happened to you?
The spookiest thing that has ever happened to me was when I was sharing a flat with a friend and I was going through an episode of having very bad dreams. Anyway, I’d woken up from a nightmare and was really scared when I heard my flatmate come home with his boyfriend. They put on some music and chatted quietly and I felt so relieved that eventually I went back to sleep. He left for work before I got up. When he got back I told him about the nightmare and how relieved I was that he’d come home. He said ‘I didn’t come home last night, I stayed at Ray’s’. Gulp … I was wide awake, it wasn’t a dream … I heard the music and their voices.
Join Helen Sheals, Mzz Kimberley, Sister Fibrosis and myself at The Glory on Wednesday 31st October.