The star of multi award-winning musical Chicago believes Cuba Gooding Jr is thriving in his first stage role after its official opening at the West End’s Phoenix theatre on Wednesday night.
The theatre classic stars Oscar winner Gooding as fast-talking lawyer Billy Flynn, as well as Josefina Gabrielle as Velma Kelly, Ruthie Henshall playing Mama Morton and Sarah Soetaert as Roxie Hart.
The story follows Roxie, who has always wanted to be a star but can’t seem to catch a break. She dreams of seeing her name in lights and will stop at nothing to achieve her fame.
On Gooding’s debut, Soetaert said: “We bounce off each other and we encourage each other and we know when something’s gone well and we give each other high fives.
“With theatre you have many more weeks and months of rehearsal. Things have to tick tock quite quickly. On film you have more time to be more creative, you can do a take again or move on.
“With theatre you have to do all that preparation beforehand so when you get to the live performance there is no time for error because – you’re there.”
As a big fan of Chicago, Belgian-born Soetaert had long dreamed of one day actually performing in it.
She said: “I saw the original production many, many years ago and I was so in awe and thought it was completely untouchable because there were just proper women with this amazing show.
“To be part of it now after putting in on such a pedestal is quite an honour.
“I feel tremendously grateful for the opportunity because when you think something is impossible and then it becomes a reality it is quite mind blowing really.”
The 21st anniversary production will be running eight shows a week until October 6.
Soetaert admitted she has many pre-show superstitions, and shared the two things that help her to get into that frame of mind.
She said: “Sometimes I listen to certain music if that helps me, every production tends to have its own album for me to get me there and in that space – and focus. Some people can walk on and be there, some people need to get there before they walk on, its different for everyone.
“But I can’t give my album away, these are all the rituals that are all riddled with superstition and all sorts – this is theatreland you know, it’s crazy.
“And I wear a wig. I think that’s the icing on the cake definitely. In the end the costume, the wig, the makeup, the nails, every single details, the lights, the whole package helps you get there.”
For those who know Chicago as the 2002 film will remember the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago, the corruption and crime of Murderess’ row and the bright lights of showbiz.
Soetaert explained that this production, although maintaining its dangerous, sexy, dark and funny edge, had been stripped back.
Soetaert said: “There’s no set, it’s just the actors, the band which is on stage, and the story.
“With an amazing script and choreography – everything is top class.
“Less is more and this is definitely one of those productions where less is more.”