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Marisha Wallace Q&A

One of the West End and Broadway's most instantly recognisable voices, Marisha Wallace will be coming to the Corn Exchange in March. Marisha tells us more about what you can expect...

How excited are you for your debut UK tour?
Like you cannot believe – it’s going to be incredible! To be going out around the country and singing in these different regions is going to be wonderful – the experience of a lifetime. This is my first time as a solo headliner so I can’t wait

What can audiences expect from the show?
They can expect a lot of amazing songs, a lot of soul, a lot of big numbers from your favourite musicals that I’ve been in over the years and some of my own songs.
This is a brand-new show which I feel has something for everyone. I will be performing songs by artists and songwriters that mean the world to me. I feel sure the audience will get up on their feet and dance. It's going to be high energy and inspirational!

Who will be joining you on stage?
I have my four-piece band, who are all good friends of mine. We will also have some surprise guests, some choirs and singers from the towns and cities where we are going to be playing – so you’ll see some of your hometown friends on stage singing with me as well.

You are used to performing with a cast on stage, this time it is just you and your band. Do you prefer being playing a character or being yourself on stage?

I feel most comfortable on stage as Marisha Wallace because I’m in control of everything! In musical theatre I can only play the one part and it’s already written for me. With my own shows, I get to be the architect of the whole thing. It’s a very personal thing for me. I feel like a showman and it’s what I like to do - I will come out on the night like a firecracker!

So it's a different experience for audience members who may have only seen you in the West End?

If you’ve only seen me in a show before you’ve never seen me like this. When I do my concerts, this is the full version of me. You will get to hear stories about my life and hopefully be inspired.

So you've always wanted to be a singer?
I’ve been a singer my whole life. Music was such an important part of my family growing up, and early on I decided I wanted to make a career out of it. I went to go to university, but I did not get in because they said there was something wrong with my voice. It was then found I had a cyst on my vocal chords and had to have surgery.
I was told they did not know if I would be able to sing again after surgery but thankfully the surgery turned out well and I went back to the same school and they asked whether I would like to do musical theatre. I've worked so hard to get here. I have been working at this for 15, 20 years just trying to make my dreams come true, going from nothing to making it.

Who were your musical heroes growing up?
Definitely all of the soul women: Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Jennifer Holiday. I do a lot of these artists in my show, and of course Whitney Houston. My God, Whitney’s voice. The way those tones affect people is just truly amazing.

How many of their songs feature in the show?

Lots of them. It is brilliant to be able to take a song by Whitney, Janis Joplin, Etta James and fit them alongside songs from musical theatre and my own material. I’m blessed I can sing a number of different styles and while at one point I thought I needed to focus on just one sound or genre I then thought ‘Who cares… I’ll sing it all!’

What would be the dream role for you?
My dream role has not been written yet. I want to do an original piece where I get to create the role from scratch using all my talents. It would be cool to do something brand new, that no-one has done before. I feel in my career I have had to top all the best who’ve gone before me. Behind me I had Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Holliday, Amber Riley and I had to aim to be a better version than all those who went before. I would be so excited to be the foundation version so the next person to come to the role would be challenged to top Marisha!

Marisha Wallace will be at the Corn Exchange Newbury on Wed 11 Mar. Click here to find out more about Marisha Wallace.