Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Big Interview: Chlöe Hart

Chlöe Hart is currently playing Pat in the original West End cast of Kinky Boots whilst also running Voicebox Productions with her partner, engineer/producer Simon Small.

Chlöe’s theatre credits include: Dorcas in A Damsel in Distress (Chichester), Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray (Shaftesbury), Wicked (Apollo Victoria) and Les Misérables (Queens). 

Chlöe and Simon founded Voicebox Productions to provide unique recording and music education services to the musical theatre industry. Their recording studio is based in Hackney where they work on vocal showreels as well as larger projects such as the recent Cool Rider cast album. 

As Voicebox soars from strength to strength, Chlöe and Simon have decided to launch an online ‘Live From The Studio’ series. The first video, which has been exclusively released through West End Frame, sees Chlöe perform ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from Sara Bareilles’ debut musical Waitress which recently began performances on Broadway.

I recently sat down with Chlöe to discuss how Voicebox began, balancing the company with performing eight shows a week and her cover of ‘She Used To Be Mine’. We also spoke about how much fun she’s having in Kinky Boots, memories from Hairspray, Wicked & Les Mis plus why she wants Lin-Manuel Miranda to teach her to rap...

When was Voicebox born? How did it all begin?
I set it up with my partner Simon who I met when I was asked to sing on the album, A Very West End Christmas. He recorded a lot of the vocals for that; we were in the studio, hit it off and got talking. As we were chatting we decided to do some music together – he’s a guitarist too. We started doing a few acoustic gigs as a duo and then did some recording in the studio together. I was like, ‘this is cool’!

Had you done much recording work before?
No, not at all! It wasn’t just the singing side of it that I enjoyed though, I was really interested in the actual recording – it’s so much more interesting than I ever thought it would be! I spoke to Simon a lot about the business side of things and realised that A Very West End Christmas was a bit of an anomaly for him, he was doing a lot more band-y, rocky stuff. I told him he was missing a huge market with musical theatre. He said, “It sounds great, but how do I get into it?” I was just like, “Let’s do it!” It started with me just helping out with the MT side of things, song choices, spreading the word, vocal coaching etc, but as its grown, I’ve learnt so much about producing and recording that I now play a much bigger role in the studio with the skills I’ve learnt and we do it all together. Originally the company had a different name, but it was too similar to another organisation, and then Voicebox just sort of happened by accident, and now I can’t imagine it being called anything else! We launched by doing vocal showreels for people and then it grew and grew and grew. 

Chlöe recording ‘She Used To Be Mine’

So you’ve just released your cover of ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from Waitress. Is this the start of a Voicebox video series? It’s such an incredible song – I’m obsessed with the show!
It’s so beautiful! For a long time we wanted to do a promotional ‘Live From The Studio’ video series and invite some artists to come in and perform with our band. The plan was for me to go first as a trial, but we didn’t know which song! We bickered a lot [laughs] over which song to do because we have different tastes... we’re very different but come together on the right things. I got the Waitress album as soon as it came out because I love Sara Bareilles and when I heard ‘She Used To Be Mine’ I thought ‘we have to do this song’. I played it to Simon praying that he would like it, and he thought it was perfect. We spent a long time planning it and got a really great band together with lots of our friends. I’m really proud of it!

It’s one of those songs that in a year’s time everyone will be singing in auditions and at concerts – so you got in there first!
Exactly! I’m going to New York in a few weeks and am hoping to see the show... but I’m not going with Simon so if I see it he’ll be very jealous [laughs]!

So can we expect more of these videos?
I hope so! We’ve got a few ideas in our head but haven’t approached anybody yet. We would also like to do more album work – we loved working on the Cool Rider cast album, which was our biggest project to date. It was really well received so we would love to do more of that. We are hugely passionate about new musical theatre writing so recording this is also something we are looking to do more of. 

Talk me through ‘A Day in the Life of Chlöe Hart’ – it must be crazy running Voicebox whilst doing eight shows a week! After performing Kinky Boots is it hard to unwind?
Yes, it’s a very buzzy show. When I get home, we often watch some cooking programmes like Mystery Diners to wind down [laughs] – we love our cooking programmes! Something trashy [laughs]. We get to bed at about 1 or 2 maybe, then in the morning we head into the studio. Usually we have our first showreel at about 11.30. That takes three hours and then we’ll mix it together. I’ll then often head to the gym and then go and do the show. We do two or three showreels a week, along with teaching singing lessons on other days. I have to juggle everything around, but what’s nice is that we run it ourselves, so if I need to rest for the show then we just won’t book any extra showreels for that week. It’s nice to have flexibility. 

And as a performer it must be so nice to have that stability for when you’re between jobs too?
That was the main goal. I was fairly lucky because up until I did Wicked I was fortunate not to be out of work very often. However, after Wicked I had to have some surgery meaning I was out of work for almost a year. Having Voicebox was so nice because it meant when I went back to auditioning I didn’t feel the pressure as much. I think I actually auditioned better as a result of having something else I’m passionate about. Theatre is, and always will be my number one passion, but I think Voicebox is such a good thing to work on alongside it. We get to work with a huge mix of professional actors, as well as helping students who are coming out of drama school by providing vocal coaching and showreels. It’s really rewarding!

Are you all having as much fun in Kinky Boots as it looks like you’re having?
We genuinely are! I wish someone could be backstage with us for one evening because it’s just the best atmosphere! We’ve got a really good balance of professional versus fun in our theatre; as soon as we get onstage we are totally focused, but when we’re offstage we’re having the best time. The company are really close and we all have the same work ethic. It’s a really well-rounded company.

Chlöe (bottom right) & the West End cast of Kinky Boots

What was the whole rehearsal process like? You were working alongside the most incredible creative team!
We had quite a long rehearsal process which was cool. Working with Jerry Mitchell (director/choreographer) and Stephen Oremus (musical supervisor), as well as D.B. (Bonds) and Rusty (Mowery) who are Jerry’s right hand men was so inspiring. When Cyndi Lauper came I was floored – she’s just amazing. She’s eccentric and brilliant. She’s so passionate about her music and was so hands on. She gave notes to everyone – it wasn’t like she was sat there just observing. Even when they are all back in the US working on other things, they’re always so supportive of us. We hear from them all the time! 

Time for the killer super stagey question... I’m sending you to a desert island and you can take three musical theatre songs with you. What are you doing to take and why?
Ooooo... ok... I would take ‘Run and Tell That’ from Hairspray because it’s really fun and has lots of happy memories. I would have to take Adrian Hansel singing it obviously... because he’s amazing! I just start dancing every time I hear it; I love doing the routine that all the Motormouth kids used to do. 

Chlöe in Hairspray
Does Hairspray feel like a lifetime ago?
It does! I hold it in the craziest box of memories – when I think back I just smile. It was amazing and I wish I could relive it just for one night to remember that feeling.

If I said “Chloe, they need an emergency cover on the tour tonight” would you be able to remember it?
[laughs] Oh my god!! I think I would know the songs and dance routines... but maybe not the script! My next choice is really random. I would take ‘Life Support’ from RENT because I love the harmonies and it’s really beautiful and sentimental. My final one would be ‘Lothlorien’ from Lord of the Rings. I had never seen the films, so when I watched the musical I could just watch it as a musical and I thought it was amazing! Laura Michelle Kelly singing that song... it was just beautiful! ‘Run And Tell That’ will get me through the tough times of being on a desert island, ‘Life Support’ is sentimental and then I can put on ‘Lothlorien’ and sunbathe! 

Looking ahead is there anything you have your eye on?
Well... my ultimate dream role is Kate Monster in Avenue Q, I hope it comes back to the West End one day! Also, just before Kinky Boots I did A Damsel In Distress in Chichester. It was such a good show and I got to create my role from scratch which is something I’ve never done before. Having that sort of input into a role was incredible, so I would love to do some really creative projects like that again. It would be nice to do some regional stuff! I mean... in my dreams I would be in Hamilton [laughs, jokingly], but I’m probably the worst rapper in the world!

You can learn to rap in time for next year!
I do a little rap in Kinky Boots! Maybe that can be my audition song [laughs]. 

Which three guests would you invite to your super stagey dinner party?
Hmmm... firstly Steven Pasquale so he can sing to me. 

Chlöe & Simon in the Voicebox recording studio 

What would you want him to sing to you?
‘It All Fades Away’ from The Bridges of Madison County. Oh my gosh. Then I would invite Lin-Manuel Miranda because I would want to test him out on his word association thing.

And he could teach you to rap!
Exactly – and then I can be in Hamilton! Finally I would have to invite Idina Menzel because the fangirl within me wants to have more than thirty second conversation with her backstage at Chess In Concert!

What happened backstage at Chess In Concert?!
I was literally like [does impression of herself] “I think you’re amazing and I loved you in Wicked”! She said, “That’s so great”. Then we had a picture together and she made me delete it and take it again because she didn’t like it [laughs]! She was like, “I know it’s going to be on social media so let’s do it again”. 

What are your memories of doing Les Mis and Wicked? They’re both such huge shows to be a part of.
Going from Hairspray to Les Mis was a real shock with regards to the style of the piece. Les Mis is obviously quite sombre and there’s not much smiling; the one time we were allowed to laugh and smile was during Thenardier’s Inn... but I happened play one half of the posh couple who hated everything! So when everyone else got their one chance to smile and dance I couldn’t smile! I was like, ‘Where’s the fluff and the feathers and the glitter?!’ [laughs]. It was amazing though! I got to be part of the 25th year and do the concert at the O2. I grew up watching the tenth anniversary, when I was fourteen I remember thinking, ‘I’d give anything to even just be at the back singing in one of the Les Mis jumpers’... and then I got to be onstage, in costume, watching Colm Wilkinson sing ‘Bring Him Home’. It was just insane!

Wicked was and is my favourite show; I had seen it thirteen times before I was in it. It was amazing – I got to do the show with Rachel Tucker who is the Queen! All hail Rachel Tucker! I met some of my closest friends in Wicked, I stayed on and did it for two years - I enjoyed it a lot. 

Could there be ‘An Evening With Chlöe Hart’ or some sort of concert in the pipeline?
I did quite a lot of them a few years ago around the time of Hairspray and Les Mis. As I get older I get more nervous about the thought of doing one! I did the Kinky Boots cabaret the other week which was amazing and I got the bug again. If I did one now, I would want to make sure it had a theme or story running throughout rather than an evening of me just singing my favourite songs. If I got a director on board, I might consider doing something after Kinky Boots. I would love to do one again!

What’s it like to have so much support from the theatre world behind you?
It’s really amazing! These people keep the shows going, we wouldn’t be here without them. I have a few really, really lovely people who have supported me throughout my career. I consider some of them friends now, rather than fans. Some of them even drove down to Cornwall to watch me in a concert I did for my family in a village hall! They are always at opening nights and cabarets etc. Its overwhelming how supportive people are!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)


Visit www.voiceboxproductions.co.uk for further information about Voicebox Productions.

Kinky Boots is currently booking at the Adelphi Theatre to 24th September 2016. 
Please visit www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk for further information and tickets.

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