Claudia Morris

Claudia Morris

Claudia Morris is returning to the stage this autumn as she stars in her own show Secret Love; a show about the life and loves of icon Doris Day.

We caught up with Morris to chat about the new show, the challenges of putting a production like this together and what lies ahead.

- You are about to star in a new musical Secret Love, so can you tell me a bit about the show?

I am a jazz singer and I wanted to do a show about Doris Day because I just think her life is fascinating. I have read her biography and I just love all of that old-fashioned music, as it is just beautiful. It is a retro show - for all of your younger readers - starring me and two actors: David Haydn and Andrew Glen.

They play all of the significant men in Doris Day’s life including husbands and managers. We tell the story through acting and singing and all of the favourite classic songs are in there. It is a music/cabaret/jazz gig. It has its own identity.

- You take on the central role in the show, so how did you get involved with the production?

Well it is my show I have produced it. Phil Wilmott is the director and the writer and I basically told him I wanted to do a show about Doris Day, and this is how we got it together. He wrote me the script and I told him the songs that I wanted to sing.

I wanted the songs to tell her life story and so the songs are acted out. I got wonderful musicians on board and Malcolm Edmonstone has written all of the arrangements. We just take you on the journey of her life and it is very fun and also incredibly sad; she has had a very difficult life at times.

- What sort of research did you do for the production? You are a big fan of Doris Day so did you unearth anything about her that you perhaps didn't know?

I knew nothing about her personal life really. I read her biography by Hotchner: so it was in her words but written for her. It is such a fantastic read. The thing that speaks out to me most is that she never really wanted to be a singer or a famous person; she just wanted to be a mum.

She believed in destiny, and destiny had different things mapped out for her. That ended up being her vocation really, but she really only ever wanted to be a housewife; that is fascinating in itself.

She wasn’t driven she wasn’t… all of the kids on X-Factor are ‘I want to be a star’ but she wasn’t like that, it was just something that happened. In her mind, it was never meant to be. She would have been just as happy being a housewife: or so she said.

- You are very much the driving force behind this show so how have you found taking on this role? What have you found to be the major challenges in putting this show together?

(Laughs) Oh boy. It has been very challenging. I have done everything: I commissioned the writer, the director, I cast it. It has just got bigger and bigger: even though it is a small show, it has got an energy and a life of its own.

Not only am I doing the show but I am also doing the PR, making sure that the posters are right, the marketing. That side of it has taken about a year to organise.

The director Phil Wilmot is a musical theatre director; I am a jazz singer with a background in acting: I trained as an actor and I did do that many years ago. I suppose the biggest challenge was that I had to start doing a lot more acting and dancing than I anticipated.

It is more formal - I am use to rolling up at a gig and ad-libbing and doing my songs; especially with jazz at it is all ad-libbing. It is just not like that. I have to remember where I am standing, where I am sitting, cues and I have a lot of lines to learn.

It is a production, and I think that really overwhelmed me at the beginning. I had a meltdown and now I am back on top and very excited.

- Have you ever put a show together? Is it something that you could see yourself doing again?

No, not at all. Only jazz gigs, which I suppose are shows in themselves with a set list and so on. Yes, I would do it again (laughs). I am a glutton for punishment. There is a side to me that is the businesswoman and a side to me that is the artist, and the minute that the rehearsals started, I thought ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with the running of the show as I just want to concentrate on the part’.

It is very difficult to do both. In a perfect world, would I want a producer to take it over? Maybe, as long as I didn’t lose my control over it.

- The show also feature some new arrangements of famous Doris Day hits, so how have you found putting your own stamp on the tracks?

Lovely. They are such classics songs and they work in so many different ways. My new album is a little bit different to the show in that it is very much a jazz album: the show does give the audience what they want and is a mixture. Malcolm Edmonstone is an amazing musician and he has done a brilliant job.

- You have mentioned Phil Wilmott already and he has directed the show, so how have you found working with him?

He is quite tough (laughs), but he is lovely as well. He really pushed me, and I think that was difficult. However, I do think that he has got the best out of me. So he is really good but he can be a big mean at times (laughs).

We had a very short rehearsal period and he needed to get us all to raise our game very quickly: in the context of that, he has done a brilliant job.

- I was reading that Doris Day is someone that has inspired you for many years? So what is it about this woman that you admire so much?

Her down to earthness. She is not really a big star; she is just a really normal woman: well she thinks that she is. In addition, she is quite spiritual. She is incredibly talented. She is just so funny and she really does light up the screen.

Her timing is brilliant and her singing voice is just divine. I never tire of listening to her voice. Some artists you can listen to them and then get a bit bored of it, but you never get bored of listening to Doris.

- So when does the show get underway and where can people see it and your performance?

We opened in Dartford to a full house; we were very excited about that and the audience loved it. They all stood up at the end and that is always nice. We are travelling all over Scunthorpe, Camberley, and Bournemouth: we are doing over twenty shows in all.

- You have also mentioned an album, so can you tell me a bit about that?

The album will contain many of the songs that are in the show. It is our take on Doris Day, and it is beautiful. It is quite an ambient record and very much a vocal album. It’s very nice, if I say so myself.

- Finally, what is coming up for you after you have toured this new musical?

We will probably tour it again (laughs). It is not going to be just a one off tour as tickets are doing well. What we would like to do is do a run in London or in a theatre for a few weeks. Touring is good because it means that I can see my kids in between and I am not just away for months on end. So it does work out well for being a mum.

To check out all of the dates for Secret Love visit:

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