Sunderland actor Katie Brace to make professional debut starring in Hairspray at the Empire
A Sunderland actor whose love of theatre was sparked by the Empire says she can’t wait to make her professional debut on her home city stage.
As a schoolgirl, Katie Brace from Grangetown, would often sit in the stalls at the Empire Theatre and, as she honed her acting skills in drama school, often appeared on the stage herself in child roles and school shows.
Now she’ll be stepping into the Empire spotlight as the leading lady in a major UK tour when Hairspray opens at the High Street West theatre on Monday, January 10.
Appearing as Tracy Turnblad is Katie’s first major professional role since graduating from London School of Musical Theatre and she say’s it’s a special date on the national tour for her.
"Performing has always been something I’ve wanted to do, so to be able to come back to my home city and actually perform on the stage in a lead role is an incredible experience,” she said.
"I was very lucky to be able to come to the theatre as a child and that it was accessible to me, which in turn made me love theatre even more and is probably why I’m doing it today.”
Katie’s love for the stage began early and she started attending Stacey Penman School of Dance at the age of four, and also attended classes at Stagecoach.
She first performed on the Sunderland Empire’s stage when she was just seven when she performed in Whistle Down The Wind in 2003.
While attending St Mary’s primary school in Barnes and then St Robert’s of Newminster in Washington, she also threw herself into as many extracurricular classes as possible, attending Sunderland Empire’s summer school programmes and joining Gala Theatre Stage School in Durham at 13, which she attended until she was almost 21 before moving on to drama school.
And there’ll be many proud faces in the audience when Hairspray opens.
Katie said: “I think my friends and family have booked all of row L for the Saturday night performance, I think everyone from the window cleaner to the milkman is coming. 160 kids are coming from Stacey Penman too, which will be fantastic.”
Whilst in the area, Katie will be delivering workshops with local kids to help inspire them to pursue a career on the stage.
She stars alongside Alex Bourne as Edna Turnblad, Norman Pace as Wilbur Turnblad and Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle in the musical about Tracy Turnblad’s big dreams as she dances her way onto national TV and uses her newfound fame to fight for liberation, tolerance, and interracial unity in Baltimore.
Speaking about what people can expect from the show, Katie said: “There’s a lot of cheese and it’s very fun and very upbeat. But, most importantly, it’s educational. It teaches really important topics that are still relevant today.
“It teaches really strong messages about body positivity, there’s also all the education about segregation. It touches on a lot of really intense subjects, but in a really light-hearted way, that teaches children, and adults, but you leave happy.”
:: Hairspray is at Sunderland Empire from January 10-15. Tickets from https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/hairspray-the-musical/sunderland-empire/