In the UK Tour of Dreamgirls, Sharlene Hector has been cast as Alternate Effie White, with the show currently at London’s New Wimbledon Theatre before heading to Nottingham next week, and the tour is booking until early 2023. Sharlene made her West End and musical theatre debut as Lorraine in last year’s production of Hairspray at the London Coliseum, where she also covered the role of Motormouth Maybelle. As a singer, Sharlene was part of the House Band of Alan Carr’s Epic Game Show Name That Tune, has been a backing vocalist for artists including Michael Bublé, Tinie Tempah and Muse and, as lead vocalist, she has performed with Basement Jaxx for a number of years, as well as with Blonde, with appearances at festivals such as Glastonbury and V Festival. Catching up with Sharlene, she answered our questions about playing Alternate Effie White in Dreamgirls, making her West End debut in Hairspray and her time as lead vocalist with Basement Jaxx and Blonde.
Can you tell us about being Alternate Effie White in Dreamgirls, and what is the character like to play?
It’s an honour to play this iconic role and I’m really enjoying being stretched. I’m learning a lot about my voice and it’s fun going through the different stages of Effie’s journey.
How much did you know about the musical before booking your role and what originally drew you to the production?
I wanted to watch the show when it came to the West End with Marisha Wallace in the role but I wasn’t able to get tickets, so I’ve always wanted to see the show. The closest I’d ever come was the 2006 movie with Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé. I’ve been mistreated by men much like Effie is so I had a lot of experience to bring to the role! 😁
How is the UK Tour going so far and what are you looking forward to for continuing in the musical?
The tour is going well and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the UK! Edinburgh and Cardiff have been my favourite places so far!
Why would you recommend booking tickets to see the show at one of the tour dates around the UK?
I would recommend coming to see the show simply because the cast is amazing! The ensemble performers are second to none and watching them dance and sing is stunning! Whether you come when I’m playing Effie or when Nicole Dennis is playing the part, you’ll get a great show. Paige Peddie as Lorrell, Natalie Kassanga as Deena Jones and Dom Hartley-Harris as Curtis are all amazing. The swings and covers are insane performers too. So whenever you come, whichever line-up you’re lucky enough to see, you’ll have a great time!
Last year, you played Lorraine in Hairspray at the London Coliseum, how was your time playing her?
I made friends for life and had an awesome introduction to musical theatre, so it was an experience I will treasure forever. I was given a lot of scope to make Lorraine my own and that was so much fun! Making my West End debut on a Jerry Mitchell production was very exciting. I’d heard so much about him so getting to meet him was lovely. Our amazing director Ben Klein made it a very safe environment for the Black members of the cast especially given the themes in Hairspray and the state of the world concerning racism and prejudice. It was an experience I will remember forever.
What was Motormouth Maybelle like to cover?
Compared to Lorraine, Motormouth was a bit of a rest from all the dancing! 😁 Her part in the story was super important and it was an honour to play her.
This role marked your West End debut, how did you find the experience?
Musical theatre is not easy, but it is so much fun! I learned a lot about myself, time-keeping, dancing and I grew in confidence. I would love to return to the West End at some point; touring is fun but there’s great joy in working at a base close to home too.
What was it like workshopping a Luke Sheppard production last year?
It was a very interesting experience! It was my first ever workshop and it was wonderful to be involved in the show’s first inception. It was great to work with Luke and the team and I had fun learning the songs!
How was it being part of the House Band on Alan Carr’s Epic Game Show Name That Tune?
This was such a fun project to be part of! The band was amazing and Alan Carr was so funny and super friendly! I had a great time!
What is it like being a backing vocalist for artists including Michael Bublé, Tinie Tempah and Muse?
I love singing backing vocals and blending with other voices and it’s super fun getting all dressed up to do it on TV too! I’ve been really lucky to work with amazing and generous artists and all the artists you mentioned were so lovely.
Can you tell us about being lead vocalist for both Basement Jaxx and Blonde?
I first auditioned for Basement Jaxx back in 2001 and did my first world tour with them shortly after September 11th. I remember going to America and speaking with people after the gigs; they were all so happy that we still came to do the shows as many artists had cancelled their tours at the time for obvious reasons.
Since then, I’ve seen a lot of the world thanks to Basement Jaxx and created some amazing memories with some beautiful people! One of my favourite memories is dancing with Busta Rhymes in a swimming pool in Australia!!
Working with Blonde was a real treat! We toured the UK for a short time and listening to the crowd erupt when we played All Cried Out was fantastic. I met a lovely bunch of people and it was interesting being the only girl on the tour! 😁
What is the experience like performing at festivals such as Glastonbury and V Festival?
Performing at large festivals is always fun! Getting a sea of people to wave their arms when you tell them to is crazy, and hearing crowds of people sing along to songs as you perform them is always so heart-warming.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from your time performing as a vocalist so far?
I have a few but one of my favourite highlights has been performing as a backing vocalist with Gregory Porter at the Royal Albert Hall last year. He is one of my favourite vocalists and he’s a lovely man too!
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you get into music and theatre?
I started singing in church at a very young age and that’s where my love for singing and harmonies was born. When I was about 18, I joined a session agency and performed on shows like the MOBO Awards, the BRIT Awards and Top of the Pops. From there, I started getting a lot of work through word of mouth and a few years after I finished college I decided to ‘go full time’ into the music industry and I’ve never looked back.
Musical theatre was something I’d always wanted to do but never had the chance. I auditioned for Thriller Live some years ago but only made it to callbacks and no further. Then, during lockdown, I began to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my career and through a series of serendipitous events and with massive thanks to my wonderful friend Lawrence Rowe, I joined my agents Brewis Scott Associates and they helped me get my first job in Hairspray. So the move to theatre was very quick but definitely the right move for me!
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
I’ve seen Dear Evan Hansen twice now and love the music from that show! Get Up, Stand Up! is awesome too! I recently saw The Drifters Girl and I can’t wait to see it again!
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