BWW Interviews: SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE's Kym Mazelle
Hi Kym! I hear you've been getting here early to check your emails...
Yes, check my emails, talk to my mum in America, figuring out how to do lots of complicated computer things!
So you're here until Sunday?
Yes, I have prior commitments State-side. I've been over here touring and doing quite a few things, I'm with a new management company here in the UK. I'm doing Celebrity Masterchef. It airs Sunday, so maybe I'll get to see it before I go. I also live part-time in Spain. I'm doing a bit more TV and theatre, which is interesting because theatre's not in my comfort zone.
I was going to say - I was reading through your CV and looking for musical theatre credits, and couldn't really find very much...
No, not really, no! This was great. It's been challenging for me trying to get my head around that I'm not me on stage, and I'm not playing Young Hearts Run Free. "Where's the music? Where's Young Hearts Run Free?" Working with different people and different scenes, and intentions - I'm learning. It's a very young cast, I'm the oldest person in the cast, but it's been brilliant, I've learnt so much from the company and the production team. Everyone's been rooting for me and pushing me along. It's been great. It's been lovely.
Did they approach you and you thought, "Yeah, why not?"
I didn't think, "Yeah, why not?" right away. I thought, "Are you joking?" But they sought me out for this. I thought, "Hmm, no no no no no." Then I found out the songs and the writers involved, and I had the opportunity to work with Leiber and Stoller once before in about 1995. Then at an ASCAP music conference - I'm an ASCAP writer as well - they had this huge thing for them, and we did the whole photo opp, and they gave me a song - and to this day I've never recorded that song. I'm thinking maybe God's trying to tell me something! Perhaps it's time to record that Leiber and Stoller song. The only thing is that my voice was about an octave and a half higher then, so it could have some variation. But we could rearrange it! Just bump it down a bit! So yeah, that just grabbed me, so I thought, "Yeah!" Once I got involved and got past the things I'm not used to, the all-day every-day rehearsal schedules - "What? We've got to do it again? Aren't we done?!" (laughs)
Have you been using your voice differently with that kind of intense rehearsal schedule?
I have. Anton [Anton Stephans] is our vocal coach, and he said that to me last night, "I know you didn't know I'd have you using your voice in another way." And I said, "I haven't!" I didn't know that. He's been very clever sneaking it on me, but I have. You have to. Even just speaking, you have to avoid speaking during the day, it's quite full-on. It has to be there in the show - in rock'n'roll and live music and the club stuff, it's all cigarettes and tobacco, if it gravels then great. In this - no. There's a lot of disciplines I had used earlier on that are all coming back to me. I trained as an opera singer ages ago at university, but it was a bit restricting. I think I would have done all right if I'd had more motivation to stick with it. So here I am in 2010 at the Landor Theatre.
It's a lovely venue, but very small - again very different to what you're used to.
Very different. Early on this year I did a concert at Wembley Arena, which was about 9,000 people. About a month ago I was at the O2 - we did the Indigo, which is about 2,000 seats. This one is really like a workshop. If you have any kind of stagefright, you will get over it here! Many audiences feel like they've stepped into Smokey Joe's Cafe because of the space. It's good that we're delivering that. Everybody's part of it. People love the songs. We've got lots of audience interaction. They love it.
Tell me about your character in the show - you've developed roles around the songs.
She's a momma or big sister figure, who's kind of over the top. In one scene I'm a born-again Christian trying to save my alcoholic ex; it's a big number and goes over really well. We've larger-than-lifed it, bigger even than Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act. Then there's a conflict again in the reunion; I meet my ex again and we argue again because he's trying to tell me what to do again, after we've made up. That old personality creeps back up again, he's all, "Woman, you need to treat me nice!" and I'm like, "For what?" I just call him an old hound-dog like what he really is. They break up to make up, and make up to break up. Towards the end, the finale is about how everybody gets back together in the neighbourhood and how we've stood by each other through all these years. It's a nice evening out and great songs.
Can we expect to see you back in the West End in the future, then?
Wild horses couldn't stop me!
Kym Mazelle stars in Smokey Joe's Cafe at the Landor Theatre until Sunday; the show runs until Sunday August 15th.