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BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Amra-Faye Wright

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Nicholas Adler chats with a Broadway institution.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Amra-Faye Wright

Is there a more grand vixen stage entrance then that of Velma Kelly in the revival of CHICAGO on Broadway? The band on stage blares its brass announcing something exciting is about to happen. The dancers position themselves on the stair unit leaving the center stage position open. The lights dim, the music vamps and then up from the floor rises the character of Velma with her short black sparkly dress, black tights and black high heel shoes, her right arm straight in the air as the spotlight hits her as if to notify the audience that she has arrived. The woman who has been making that marvelous entrance for the greater part of 15 years both on London's West End and on Broadway is the uber-talented Amra-Faye Wright.

It definitely seems that Amra-Faye was born to play Velma Kelly. The Fosse style choreography seems to be in her blood. She actually first trained to be a ballet dancer, but it was the role of Sheila in A CHORUS LINE in Johannesburg Civic Theatre's production that brought her to the world of musical theater. Prior to making her debut in CHICAGO, Amra-Faye starred three award winning one-woman shows, ROUGE PULP, DRINKS ON ME and IT'S NOT WHERE I START.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Amra-Faye Wright
Amra-Faye and cast in CHICAGO on Broadway

I have seen Amra-Faye both on stage at the Ambassador Theatre as well on the Rose Theater stage as part of the Mabel Mercer Foundation's annual Cabaret Convention. She is always stunning on stage and a wonderful talent who is as kind and generous out of the spotlight as she is in it, and we are all hoping that she'll be in it again soon!

NA: Who is your mentor and what would you like to say to your mentor?

AFW: Gary Chryst, who had an illustrious career as a dancer and as supervisor/choreographer for Chicago, put me into Chicago in 2001 in the UK, and has remained in my life as a friend and mentor. He has been a force in my theatre career and there is no one I rely on more to be honest about my performance and to call me out when I'm slipping. I regularly have sessions with him to maintain my dance performance.

NA: What has this business given you and what has it taken away?

AFW: There's give and take in every job, but in theater the cons would be the working hours - evenings and weekends. I've missed my children's' events, Christmases, birthdays, you name it. And my circle, as a result, is mainly theater folk. But if the pros didn't outweigh the cons, I wouldn't have done it. Theater has given me the opportunity to live in America, to travel extensively and to

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Amra-Faye Wright
Amra-Faye with Christie Brinkley

make a living out of what I love the most.

NA: What is the hour like before you go on stage?

AFW: I have quite a strict prep regime, which is timed to the minute, and I get very put-out if it is interrupted. I get a coffee and have a chat in wardrobe for 10 minutes, then take a hot shower, and do a ballet barre warmup for 20 minutes. Vocal warmup for 15 minutes while I do my make-up, and at 5 minute call I get dressed. At the "call to begin", I take a nice stroll down to stage level and get loaded into the elevator.

NA: If you could experience one performance over again, which one would it be and why?

AFW: That would be the 10th Anniversary of Chicago. That night was a moment in theater history never to be repeated with every star of Chicago in the building. It was a momentous occasion and filled with love and respect for each other and for the vehicle of Chicago which made a family of us.

NA: What are you most proud of?

AFW: I am particularly proud of being able to maintain a career in show business for as long as I have. There have been ups and downs and setbacks etc. but I learned how to manage it all and maintain my body and mind to perform at my maximum every night.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Amra-Faye Wright

NA: What was a defining moment from your Broadway opening night of CHICAGO?

AFW: I think everyone goes through the same "pinch me" moment when they make their Broadway debut. It was particularly astonishing for me because I came for a small town in South Africa and had a very unconventional trajectory to showbusiness. Broadway was an unattainable and impossible dream. Waiting in the elevator under the stage for the moment when the first bars of All That Jazz played on my opening night were the most exhilarating of my life. Also, the most terrifying.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Amra-Faye Wright
Amra-Faye singing in
Rose Theater
Photo by Stephen Sorokoff

NA: You have had a long a remarkable career. What has kept you excited about dancing and singing?

AFW: I have been exceptionally fortunate to have been a working actress for so long, but I have worked very hard to maintain it. That said, I think it would be difficult to be excited about singing and dancing if the material was not stimulating. Chicago has a magnificent score and I love performing it. But also, singing and dancing is what I have dedicated my life to. I am compelled to perform.

NA: There are a lot of guest performers who come in and out of CHICAGO. Has anything unexpected happened with any of the guests?

AFW: LOL! Of course. And if I ever revealed anything, I would have to leave showbusiness. I will put it all in my memoirs!! (kidding) The truth is, I have wonderful friendships as a result, and it's been exciting and fun and has broken the monotony of a long running show.

NA: What do you enjoy about performing your one woman shows?

AFW: I have written and performed many one woman shows (and I have a few lined up and ready to go post Covid). These are always autobiographical, and I choose material that thrills me and that informs my story. The possibilities are endless. I find the whole process immensely rewarding.

BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with Amra-Faye Wright
Amra-Faye with Lynda Carter

NA: What is a theatre role on your bucket list?

AFW: Any Sondheim women...particularly roles like The Witch in INTO THE WOODS, and Joanne in COMPANY, or Phyllis in FOLLIES . I also think I would do a smashing job of roles like Mame and Dolly.

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From This Author Nicholas Adler