With her sassy attitude and big voice, Mica Paris is a natural fit to play Mama Morton.
The gospel singer herself says stepping into the shoes of Chicago’s corrupt matron came easily.
She’ll be bringing Mama’s sass to the Sunderland stage later this month when the hit musical razzle dazzles on the Empire stage.
“I went to see the show about ten years ago and it was brilliant. I never thought I’d be asked to do it so it came as a bit of a shock, but it actually makes sense,” she explained.
“She’s a sassy girl which works for me, as people assume I’m like that. To play a role like Mama Morton you have to have that in you, she’s edgy and isn’t afraid to confront people.
“Shrinking Violets need not apply.”
She added: “All the characters I play seem to be from that era. On top of that, the script is always really important to me and Chicago has a great storyline. It never comes off tour and that’s because it’s such a great story.”
Mica is starring in the tour alongside former EastEnders actor John Partridge as Billy Flynn, Coronation Street’s Hayley Tamaddon as Roxie Hart, Sophie Carmen-Jones as Velma Kelly, Neil Ditt as Amos Hart and AD Richardson as Mary Sunshine.
They’ll be breathing new life into the true life story set in the roaring 1920s when nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover.
Along with cell block rival, double-murderess Velma Kelly, they fight to keep from death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer, Billy Flynn.
Overseeing the jailbirds is Mama Morton, the matron of the Cook County Jail, who believes that all favours she gives should be reciprocated.
It’s a singing role that’s perfect for Mica who made her name with her powerful range as a solo singer after emerging onto the UK music scene in 1988 when she released her debut, platinum-selling album, So Good.
Since then, she’s enjoyed more hit albums and singles including Black Angel, Stay and Carefree.
She’s also collaborated with, and been a special guest for, many artists including Prince, Michael Bolton, Dionne Warwick, Paul Rodgers, David Gilmour and Jools Holland.
In recent years, she’s turned her talents to the stage, appearing in the West End productions of Mama I Want To Sing, The Vagina Monologues and Sweet Lorraine, as well as a sell-out residency at Ronnie Scott’s Club.
Mica was most recently seen at the Sunderland Empire in the UK and Ireland tour of Love Me Tender.
Speaking about how she prepared for the role of Mama Morton, she said: “I’m friends with people like Jill Scott (RnB songstress) so I channelled them as they’re from the South and have that accent. I also loved the film version and I’m good friends with Queen Latifah (who played Mama in the 2002 movie), she’s a good girl. You’ve got to be sassy to play a role like this.”
A highlight of the show for Mica is belting out anthem When You’re Good to Mama, in a score which includes classic tracks such as All That Jazz and Razzle Dazzle.
Singing, of course, comes as naturally to Mica as the stage and she enjoys being able to juggle different aspects of show business.
“I’m very ubiquitous,” she said. “The stage thing is what I’m doing at the moment, but the great thing about being an artist is that you can slip from one thing to another.
“I’m starting my Radio 2 show again after Christmas, which I can’t wait for. I’m also recording a new album, my first in ten years, which I’m so excited about.
“I love all the things I do, but my first love will always be making records.
“I can’t say too much about it yet, but it will be released in the summer. The thing about taking a break from something is, that when you go back to it, you love it all the more. It’s like doing it for the first time fresh.”
l Chicago is at Sunderland Empire from November 28 to December 3. Tickets are available at the Box Office on High Street West, from 0844 871 3022* or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland*
*Calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your standard network charge. Booking fees may apply.