Sheffield ready to tap into Debbie’s musical talent

Debbie Kurup as Reno Sweeney in rehearsal for Anything Goes at Sheffield Crucible. Photo Johan Persson.
Debbie Kurup as Reno Sweeney in rehearsal for Anything Goes at Sheffield Crucible. Photo Johan Persson.
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Musical theatre actress Debbie Kurup is looking forward to strapping on her tap shoes again for the musical Anything Goes at the Crucible.

The classic musical, with songs written by Cole Porter, features several tap numbers, including one that lasts an exhausting nine minutes.

Despite starring in a whole host of West End musicals, including Fame, Chicago, Tonight’s the Night, Rent, West Side Story, Boogie Nights, Sister Act and the original cast of The Bodyguard, it’s been a while since Debbie’s tapped.

“I knew this was going to be a big tap show and I’ve not done it for about 16 years but thought ‘that’ll be fun’. It’s like riding a bike, you remember how to do it, but the first couple of days I was a bit rusty.

“As a student I just adored tap, that was my favourite discipline. It spoke to me. “Also I like making a noise!”

Even for an experienced dancer, the level of fitness needed is formidable, said Debbie. “You need to dance for quite a long time. There are five big dance routines.

“I started running to get my fitness levels back up to peak and I thought oh my God, I feel like I’ve got two left feet!”

Debbie plays a central character in Anything Goes, evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney.

All the action takes place on a 1930s ocean liner travelling from the US to Southampton when Billy Crocker stows away, hoping to woo heiress Hope Harcourt, who is on her way to Britain to get married to an English toff.

A host of eccentric characters on board the ship get involved in their romantic adventures.

Debbie says that Reno is “a lot more than a nightclub singer. She is very passionate about her faith.

“She believes in making confessions but not being judged. She encourages her audience to cleanse their souls by confessing. She’s not there to judge, she wants everyone to say something, get it off their chest and let it go.

“She is great fun and has an act that incorporates her faith and blended them together. You’ve got to have a gimmick but she truly believes it, it’s not just created for the act.”

Debbie continues: “Reno is strong, headstrong, passionate, caring, with a heart of gold. She’s slightly lonely and very vulnerable but you would never know it as she has such a tough exterior. She is ultimately looking for love.

“When we first meet her she has always held a torch for Billy but it soon becomes evident that will never be because he is in love with Hope, so there is a love triangle.

“Because she is so generous in spirit, she takes it on board to help Billy in his plot to get Hope. That is such a selfless thing to do and by doing that she is effectively stuck on her own.

“Without giving anything away, it is such a lovely story that she will have exactly the ending she wants!”

When she studied the character more, Debbie was pleased to realise how fully rounded she is, and far from being a caricature, as you might expect in such a frothy musical.

She said: “She is multi-faceted and you get to go on a huge journey with her.”

On the way Debbie sings some of the show’s big hit numbers, including I Get A Kick Out Of You, You’re the Tops, Anything Goes, Blow, Gabriel, Blow, and Friendship.

She is excited about it: “Cole Porter is a genius, he really is. I grew up listening to people like Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter.”

Debbie is enjoying her return to Sheffield Theatres, 14 years after she appeared in Guys and Dolls at the Crucible, which she remembers as “a stunning show”.

Now she’s looking forward to another one.

Anything Goes begins its run with a public dress rehearsal tomorrow and continues until Saturday, January 17. Box office: at the theatre, online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call 0114 249 6000.