Currently, Tsemaye Bob-Egbe is in the West End cast of SIX the Musical at the Vaudeville Theatre, having joined last year in the role of Katherine Howard, with the show booking until April 2023 and recently celebrating 1000 performances in the West End with a special gala night. For Tsemaye’s first show back since the pandemic closed theatres, she was Leading Player in the world premiere of the six-player version of Pippin at the Garden Theatre. Tsemaye has performed as Alternate Tina Turner in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre, having previously covered the role as well as playing Ikette, and she made her West End debut in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical. Later this year, Tsemaye makes her screen debut in Pretty Red Dress, and she has voiced the role of Zelda in Horizon Forbidden West for Sony Entertainment. Answering our questions, Tsemaye spoke about playing Katherine Howard in SIX the Musical, her first role since the pandemic in Pippin and performing in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical as Alternate Tina Turner.
Last year, you joined the West End cast of SIX the Musical at the Vaudeville Theatre, how was it booking the role and how is the run going so far?
It was a joy booking the role. There isn’t a show like SIX anywhere in existence so it’s been really fun and wonderful being part of such a company on and off stage.
What is Katherine Howard like to perform as and what do you enjoy most about playing her?
Katherine Howard is a really tricky character to play, but I love the challenge. It’s a balance between being naive but also thinking you have the answers to everything. It’s being witty and intelligent without giving too much away. It’s playing people up without them realising. It’s wonderful!
Had you seen the show previously and how was it getting into character for the first time?
No actually. I saw the show for the first time only a few days after getting the job. I mean, I already knew the soundtrack and all the songs so falling in love with the show was easy.
Getting into character was a journey. I can’t reveal too much, but the creative team really cultivated an environment where we could explore our own versions of the much beloved SIX Queens, taking inspiration from the real six queens, ourselves as well as existing pop icons. The likes of Ariana Grande, Britney Spears and Rihanna.
How is it seeing the audience reaction to the musical at the Vaudeville Theatre?
The audience is on our side which is great. Breaking that fourth wall and getting to interact with them is my favourite part of the show, especially when I see young people in the audience. Just this week, there was a “mini K Howard” all dressed up on the front row. It made my night.
How was the experience playing Leading Player in Pippin at the Garden Theatre in 2020 and performing when theatres were able to reopen?
It was surreal getting back into performing. A bit scary because it was just after the first lockdown restrictions were lifted, but super fun to get back to the room. Leading Player is such a great part, it requires a triple threat performer so being in a role getting to use all three disciplines is always a blessing.
What was it like being part of the world premiere of the six-player version of the show?
Great! We had a really talented cast which made everything seamless.
You played Alternate Tina Turner in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre, what was she like to portray and how was it performing her music?
Pure fire! Tina is a fighter more than anything so being able to step into her shoes and share her journey motivated me every night as a performer. She always gave 100% no matter what she was going through and so I learnt a lot from that role. A lot about myself on and off stage, about perseverance and also how to be a leading lady.
You’d previously played Ikette and covered Alline Bullock and Tina Turner, what are some of your stand-out highlights from your time in the musical?
Being part of the original cast so having so many people come to see the show. From Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, to Oprah, to Angela Bassett… the list goes on. Also, meeting Tina Turner herself on multiple occasions will forever be a highlight.
Having made your West End debut in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, what was this like?
I haven’t always had an acting background. I came from medicine so landing a West End job just one year after changing my career path was incredibly exciting but nerve-racking. I’ll never forget the dress run in the afternoon before our evening show, I forgot my only spoken line!! I was so mortified, but after that, everything fell into place. It was the perfect start to my career and that show will always have a special place in my heart.
Do you have a favourite aspect of having a theatre career?
The range of things you can do. Being able to transform into a character and forget the world for a moment. It never gets old.
Had you always wanted to be a performer and how did you start?
No, I didn’t, haha! As I mentioned earlier, all my life I wanted to be a doctor and a researcher who would find the cure to HIV/AIDS. I started singing in my late teens because my piano teacher at the time got me into a school musical and realised I could sing. And then things cascaded from there, but always as a hobby as medicine was still my great love. So, I went to university, spent five years training as a doctor while still performing for fun on the side. Until I somehow managed to get into an audition room for the West End production of The Lion King. And suddenly, the dream became a possibility and through drama school, the possibility became a reality.
Can you tell us about training at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and how do you feel it helped with taking acting up professionally?
I did the MA Music Theatre course at Central, and it set me up as a performer in a profound way. It gave me the tools and the confidence to grow as a performer and also to have a sense of my place within the industry and what I wanted to achieve.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
Hamilton and Dreamgirls are my top two. I’m really looking forward to seeing Moulin Rouge over the next few months.
We understand you also work in voiceover and screen, can you say more about this and do you have any plans for 2022 you can tell us about?
I will have my screen debut later this year, playing the role of Vivian Ofori in the feature film, Pretty Red Dress, which I am really looking forward to seeing. I can also reveal that I voiced a new game character called Zelda in Horizon Forbidden West by Sony Entertainment. After COVID, it’s been an eventful year professionally and I’m excited to see what the rest of the future holds.
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