BroadwayWorld catches up with Ian Stroughair to chat about bringing his alter-ego to the Christmas In Leicester Square programme with Velma Celli's West End Christmas.

What can audiences expect from Velma Celli's West End Christmas?

Well I would say most of the Christmas classics that you would expect to hear around Christmas- but done in a different way! So we've got my two special guests which are Rachel Tucker and Liam Tamne and I've also got a jazz duo called Jackson and George. They've done various incarnations of my show both the Velma Celli Show and they were in Iconic at the Southbank and St James in London. So I'm doing some gorgeous arrangements with three-part harmonies with them.

So there will be a lot of festive fun and of course there will be some impressions in there as well which I'm working on!

It will also be the first time my Christmas single will be performed live.

NB: Velma disclosed to BWW what the Christmas single will be, but swore us to secrecy.

How did you come to have Rachel Tucker and Liam Tamne as your special guests?

All through Louise Dearman basically. Louise is one of my best friends and obviously she played Glinda opposite Rachel. Also back in the day, I produced Louise's one-woman show called Deary Me and Liam was her backing singer then and I've just followed his career since.

We're all kind of the same age and have the same group of friends, dogs and kids!

I've been fans of their work forever, Rachel is an absolute powerhouse and Liam's brilliant, very different to the norm for a leading man which I love.

So are there duets planned?

Yes, with both of them.

How long does it take to get Velma ready for a show?

It used to take about a week. Now I'd say it takes about an hour from start to finish including outfit. Although its a bit like saying "how long is a piece of tinsel?" because it could go on forever. If I've got four hours I'll take four hours because I tend to overindulge. Nowadays I tend to get ready before soundcheck so that I literally just have to walk back on again.

And Velma Celli's releasing an album! That was a nice surprise.

Yeah it was! Out on December 1st. So basically Joe (Louis Robinson) and I have worked together since Jesus was a boy and everybody kept asking why we hadn't done one yet. I say "we" because we're so in tune. It's like we finish each other's sentences but with music.

What we did was we asked the hardcore Velma fans what they'd like and really just let them decide. It's the sort of thing that we did at Divallusion (2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe show) where we take the likes of Jessie J's "Nobody's Perfect" and strip it back. So its songs that people know me for.

There's some stuff from RENT [Ian discloses yet another spoiler that we can't print and it is VERY exciting] and all the old Velma classics. It's gotten to the point now where I do a lot of shows and I try not to repeat too much but obviously people go "oh but you didn't do this". In a way, its a little bit like getting them on an album and people can listen to them whenever they want and I can sing some other stuff!

What have you got in store for 2018?

I'm doing an international tour with Iconic and then back to London with it, on to Edinburgh and then..beyond! I'll be recording the new album in spring which is going to be all duets with people that have been in Velma's show. Which is basically anyone who has ever played Elphaba. If you're friends with me you'll probably be asked to play Elphaba at some point.

Also my residency at Cafe De Paris carries on next year. I also have a new residency at the Ivy Club which starts in February as well.

Velma Celli's debut album is out on iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify on December 1st.

Ticket information for Velma Celli's West End Christmas is available on the Christmas in Leicester Square website.

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From This Author Natalie O'Donoghue

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