Cats star Alison Jiear

We meet Australian performer about famous show coming to Dubai

Interview

How do you go about playing a cat?
It’s a show I’ve never performed before. I’ll have to be very slinky and very feline – which doesn’t come easily to me as I’m a voluptuous woman, but I’ll do my best.

Tell us about your character.
I play Grizabella; imagine an old version of Shirley Bassey, or Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. She was a very glamorous cat, but now she’s old and she’s not glamorous anymore. She went away and when she came back she was shunned, and now she’s quite vulnerable.

And she sings ‘Memories’.
That’s what Grizabella is there to sing. I have to sing it twice and the hardest thing is not to give the game away in the first half, to save the big diva moment for the second half and make the audience wait. It’s such an iconic song and you can put yourself under a lot of pressure performing it, but you just have to approach that song as any other really.

Why has Cats touched so many people over the last 30 years?
It’s just so different – you can’t compare it to anything because they’re all cats, people dressed up as cats, moving like cars, that’s what makes it unique.

How was your last visit to Dubai, to perform Let it Snow in Christmas 2010?
I came over with my jazz quartet and that was fantastic. I didn’t see much of the city – I just went between my hotel, Ductac and Jumeirah Beach. I’m a bit of a sun bunny.

What was it like working on the West End production of Jerry Springer: The Opera in 2004?
It was extraordinary, I don’t think it’s a show you would ever see in Dubai. I played an exotic dancer. When I first read the script I thought it was rubbish and I didn’t want anything to do with it, but I ended up with an Olivier Award nomination, and the song I performed [‘I Just Wanna Dance’] became a cult dance track which I’ve spent the last seven years touring the world singing. It was a real privilege.

You’re a classically trained singer – how do you cope singing in nightclubs?
My personality is more in the nightclubs. Classical training has put me in a good situation where now I’ll be doing backing vocals for Susan Boyle one night, singing at a nightclub at 1am the next, then I’ll be singing in the Royal Albert Hall the night after that.

So what was your best gig?
I used to say singing the Australian national anthem at Wembley but really it’s whenever I sing in the Albert Hall. It’s such a piece of history and tradition and standing on that stage is second to none, you can’t beat it, there’s no feeling like it.
Cats runs at the Centrepoint Theatre, Mall of the Emirates, until Saturday July 14, 8pm daily. Dhs150. www.timeouttickets.com.

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