Culture: Theatre

Velma Celli at The Hippodrome Casino

Velma Celli

The captivating Velma Celli is a woman to watch. The alter-ego of West End performer, and live events producer Ian Stroughair, has graced many a West End stage. This month she hits the Hippodrome Casino. You can expect aerial shenanigans, burlesque and one of the best belts in the business. Alex Hopkins caught up with her to talk all things musical theatre. 

You have appeared in numerous West End productions, including Cats, Fame and Chicago. What’s your favourite part that you have played and why?

All the roles I have played have been amazing but I have to say playing the role of Angel in Rent is my most favourite to date. It was a dream role for me and to have a chance to play it was incredible. I’m very grateful.

Why did you create the character Velma Celli and what sort of a woman is she?

Velma was a creation of mine during my run in Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre. I had worked so hard on my character for Mary Sunshine and had so much fun in the process I decided to take it further. Whilst creating this character I looked at the other incredible strong female characters in the show, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, and I realised there was a lot of fun to be had. I like to think Velma Celli is a mix of the sensitivity of Mary Sunshine, the neuroticism and ambition of Roxie Hart and the power and strength of Velma Kelly…. Obviously complete with a high belt and a jump into the splits every now and then… to keep it fun! The “Celli” part (pronounced chelly) came from a post show chow down in china town, eating Singapore noodles (Vermicelli) . We were discussing what my name should be and there you have it… Velma Celli!

What can audiences expect from your Hippodrome show?

This time we have mixed things up a lot. My shows are always completely different every time. We have the incredible guest vocalist Jordan Lee Davies (he has just appeared on BBC’s The Voice), the stunning burlesque from Jolie Papillon, amazing aerial hooping from Ben Brown and hand balancer Jonathan Finch. This show will also debut Velma’s new partner in crime… Mr Fox… all will be revealed! It’s a secret for now… complete with live musicians – it’s gonna be an awesome show!

How do you choose the songs that you sing and what draws you to a particular number?

Hard to say really. As an actor/singer it’s usually something in the lyrics that grabs me… without sounding too cheesy, if I can relate to the lyrics in the song then I will most likely want to sing it. However some songs you just want to belt out. Velma always loves a bit of Queen, it’s her favourite band of all time.

Which composers for the musical theatre do you particularly like and why?

Too many! All of them! I have to say I’m always partial to some Kander and Ebb… However you cannot beat Stephen Sondhiem for touching your soul and new writers like Craig Adams inspire me so much.

You have also produced shows for other West End stars. Tell us more about this work. What have been the highlights?

I love helping out other performers. In some cases I simply just give them a platform. In some cases it’s simply because I adore a voice. Working with Louise Dearman has got to be my most emotional memory. I produced her show Dearie Me years ago and that was a treat, but then when she asked me to direct/choreograph her Leicester Square show I was overcome. She is a dream to work with and without a doubt one of the greatest Musical Theatre leading ladies the UK has…perhaps the greatest. We’ve become very dear friends. I’m also working with Drama Desk award nominee and broadway star Christina Bianco (Forbidden Broadway, Newsical the musical), who is coming to the Hippodrome on 6 and 7 Sept. It’s very exciting… check out her video firework on YouTube…incredible.

What is next in the world of Velma Celli?

Well… our monthly show at the Hippodrome (26 July, 22 Aug, 20 Sept). We have some amazing guests lined up for these shows! Lots of gigs at my favourite venue in Covent Garden.. .Circus and private functions. I’m performing at Liverpool and Manchester Pride. I’m also performing in Diva Moments at the Hippodrome with Christina Bianco (Forbidden Broadway US) alongside Kerry Ellis and Anna-Jane Casey on the 6 and 7 Sept. Then I go out again with the 20th anniversary concert tour of Rent, which I couldn’t be happier about. I adore that show and the entire cast and team in general. I will then be putting on the Velma Celli Christmas show (venue tba), before jetting off to Tanzania and Kenya for New Year’s Eve and January fun… Velma in a suitcase!!

Obviously the best way to keep up is on twitter @velmacelli and also

The Velma Celli show is at The Hippodromne Casino 26 July, 22 August, 20 September.


Jump to comments
Scroll Top