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Sugababes’ Amelle Berrabah on her musical theatre debut: ’I had no idea how to get all of that book into my head’

Amelle Berrabah in Club Tropicana Amelle Berrabah in Club Tropicana

Amelle Berrabah joined the Sugababes in 2005 following the departure of founder member Mutya Buena. As well as chart success with the pop group, whose last album Sweet 7 was released in 2010, Berrabah featured on Tinchy Stryder’s number one single Never Leave You. She has now switched to musical theatre and is on tour in jukebox musical Club Tropicana. She talks to Ollie Cole about nerves over kissing on stage, how a reality gymnastics TV show helps her prepare before each performances, and whether Sugababes will reunite…

What has your first experience of musical theatre been like?

It was quite daunting at the start, because it was a completely new world for me. A real step change from just performing your own music. I remember receiving the script and thinking: “Oh, my.” It was so thick for a start and I had a lot of lines and no idea how I was going to get all of that book into my head. But as time went on I read it over and over and somehow got it locked into my brain.

During rehearsals, I realised I have to do a kiss in the show. I’m married and haven’t had to kiss another person on stage before. I was so nervous about it that I was shaking just thinking about it. They waited until the last minute for us to rehearse it and I remember one of the directors, Nick Winston, saying: “We’re gonna do the kiss today.” It’s just a kiss, it’s not a huge thing, but I was worried, thinking: “Oh my god, my lips haven’t touched anyone but my husband and my daughter.” But the other actors and Neil [McDermott] put me at ease and helped me to get on with it. Now, we just do it without thinking.

I’m so lucky that the cast, and every single person involved in this musical, is absolutely amazing and has been so supportive and helpful. I was told recently that this isn’t always the case.

What drew you to Club Tropicana?

I love the way that the stories are connected and woven into each other. It’s beautifully written and it’s just laugh, after laugh, after laugh. I play a character called Serena, who’s moved out to Spain with a close friend she’s been secretly in love with for many years. She’s very kind-hearted, good at her job, and really wants to do well out there. As her story progresses, we get other stories and people coming in too, and it is so cleverly done.

In 2014, you appeared in celebrity gymnastics show Tumble. Do any of those skills come in handy for performing on stage?

It’s helped me in the warm-up and workout ahead of the performances, and the flexibility and the core strength stuff has definitely helped me. Obviously, after having a daughter just nine months ago, it took a while to get that core strength back, but it’s definitely helped me get fit again.

I’ve worked really hard to get back into shape and feel good and get the energy levels up, so I can take on the singing, acting and movement all at the same time and push myself through this physically demanding job. I’m quite proud of myself for being able to do that.

With a new family, how have you found the performance schedule?

You have to be very organised as a mum between working, seeing your partner and making sure you have time for people, so I’ve planned every day until the end of the tour. My family are with me, and if there’s a day that they can’t be, I’ll meet them somewhere to make sure we’re seeing each other. My daughter Amirah has been in to see me and met the cast a few times – not that she’s old enough to know quite what’s happening.

Has the tour made you want to keep doing theatre work?

Yes, it’s something that I’ve always thought about and people have said over the years: “You need to do theatre.” Now I’m doing it, I definitely want to do more and everyone’s been so supportive in making this happen. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know this little family we’ve created in Club Tropicana. It’s so much fun and I love the travelling, and the pure joy in people’s faces, so yeah, I’d definitely like to do more.

Will we ever see the Sugababes together again?

It’s something that comes up and I believe it will happen. Obviously, me and Heidi have got married and had kids and we kind of wanted a bit of a break because that’s quite full on. But it would be nice, because we did just kind of go: “See ya”, with no prior warning. I think from the discussions we have had, they’re wanting a last tour or reunion from us, so I think that’s something on the table. It’s just a matter of when.

Club Tropicana is currently touring the UK. For more details go to clubtropicanamusical.com

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