The “queen of UK soul” is swapping felines for freedom as she leaves the West End stage for a tour of her own.
Beverley Knight has spent the last two years performing in leading roles on London’s West End, but is going back to where it all began for her with a new album and solo tour – including a date in Sheffield.
For now, though, all her attention is on the coveted role of Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, as she nears the end of a 10-week season in the role after previous appearances in Memphis and The Bodyguard.
“It’s going well,” says the 42-year-old. “It’s a very different role to that of Felicia and Rachel in Memphis and The Bodyguard respectively,
“When Grizabella is on, it’s all eyes on you, you can see everyone waiting for Memories. Everyone loves the show, but everyone is waiting for that one song.”
Having enjoyed huge chart and critical success since the release of her first single 20 years ago, the West End was not part of Beverley’s plan – but she is delighted with the way life has worked out.
“It’s definitely something different, different from the public’s point of view, maybe not so different for me, because I have done music theatre before, although never at this level, but I do have that background.
“It was the way life kind of worked out, I never planned to go back into musical theatre.
“It all started when I was handed a script to Memphis. The producers said they wanted to bring it to the West End, with me, and I was very flattered.
“During this, I am writing songs for the album, then I found The Bodyguard was doing a cast change, I thought that could be fun and I ended up doing it for nine months.”
After The Bodyguard, came Memphis and then Cats, but Beverley – a two-time winner of the Brit Award for best British female solo artist – is looking forward to releasing her as-yet-untitled eighth studio album in spring.
“My last album was Soul UK, a tribute to British soul, with songs I hadn’t actually written.
“This will be more in line with my album Music City Soul. It will be very soulful, rhythm and blues, rather than what they call R’n’B these days.”
And Beverley is excited to take it on the road, admitting she has missed the freedom of performing her own material while starring on the West End.
“I love the performances,” she says,
“What it means is the whole freedom of the songs. Maybe it has an eight-bar intro, but I am going to make it 32 because I am going to talk to the crowd and I can signal to the band to keep playing.
“It is that kind of freedom to ad-lib, to change things, to be me, that I have missed.
“You know when you are on stage in character, you can’t suddenly break into yourself and then back into character. From moment the curtain comes up, until it comes down, you are somebody else – or a cat.”
“My shows are always an energetic experience, a performance, that’s what I do.
“In terms of the concert, all the hits will be there, they are always there.
“I couldn’t do a show of only new songs, I have to do older songs, but showcase the new album as well and see how people like that.”
Beverley Knight brings her UK tour to Sheffield City Hall on Wednesday, June 1. For tickets, priced from £21.45, visit www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk