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by Carrie Dunn
Hi, Leigh, and welcome back to London - we think of you as one of our own here, so it's great to have you in the West End again.
Thank you - this is my second home! Taking this role means uprooting my whole family - my daughter is 12 and my husband is in the business - so we're all embracing it.
But it must be quite strange to come back to a West End without Chicago in it...
It's so sad! It's been so much a part of my life since 1995, and was absolute magic, going from the original cast to playing Velma practically everywhere. I'm so sorry to see it gone.
So you're returning to us to play the inimitable Sheila in A Chorus Line...
She's a fantastic character. She has so much colour and there's a challenge to bring something new to it. It's a great challenge at this point in my career.
I have to ask - have you ever had any awful directors similar to Zach?
<laughs uproariously> No! I've had a few tough ones, who have taught me so much, but they've been great directors, people like Jerry Zaks in New York, who put me through my paces with Nathan Lane. But no, I really haven't! I did have a horrible director in my ballet days who used to put me on the scales every morning with all my gear on...
But you must be able to use your experience of auditions to put together your characterisation of Sheila.
Absolutely. I find now there are things that I don't have to audition for, and then there are people who do want me to audition. When you audition, you have to understand it, you have to go through it. And we have all been through it, hundreds of times, in gruelling circumstances. But it's our passion. We're passionate about it. We have to be, else we wouldn't do it.
In masterclasses, I talk about how to treat an audition. In A Chorus Line, the people desperately need this job. You need to reclaim that power. Directors are looking for people who are solid and reliable.
Sheila's obviously rather jaded with the business - but you don't seem to be!
<laughs again> Oh, there are things I can access for this character! Actually, I think Sheila sounds jaded, she has a hard veneer, but she's a vulnerable person. Michelle Pfeiffer once told me that the key is to make every character you play likeable in some way, no matter how awful they are. Most people like Sheila, I think, are protecting themselves, and when they lose that hard veneer and let people see who they really are, they are sometimes seeing for themselves for the first time who they really are.
Leigh Zimmerman stars as Sheila in A Chorus Line at the London Palladium from next month.