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Hot Honey Vivien Carter Brings Fresh Sass to London Chicago

Hot Honey Vivien Carter Brings Fresh Sass to London Chicago
Vivien Carter as Velma Kelly in 'Chicago'
I use my sexuality and bring out the humor of the character wherever I can.

Age: 27

Hometown: Palm Beach, on the Australian Gold Coast: “It is very gorgeous, but there is not a lot there for me.”

Currently: Selling the sizzle as the latest Velma Kelly—not to mention one of the liveliest and most engaging—in the long-running London production of Chicago. Carter just extended her run at the Cambridge Theatre through December 5 and says she might stay beyond that date. “They do very short contracts in Chicago. It’s such a celebrity-driven show, they like to keep it short in case somebody famous comes in—and I’m not famous.”

No Place Like Home: Carter arrived in London almost five years ago, following a Japanese tour of We Will Rock You. She was cast an understudy in the second company of Michael Grandage’s Guys and Dolls, followed by the director’s Evita, and Chicago marks her big break. “London is definitely home for the moment, though I do have aspirations to go to New York,” she says. “I’ve been there and felt as if I’d come home, whereas it took six months for London to grow on me.” For now, she's based in north London’s leafy Hampstead, where the 5’6” redhead enjoys proximity to the open spaces of Hampstead Heath. “I love it so much,” she says, noting that her parents “are physical people, running and swimming every day.” Carter’s mother was a contemporary dancer, while her father is a chiropractor—not a bad profession to have when your wife and daughter are dancers. “Yeah,” she says with a laugh, "but it’s not so good when I’m here and he’s in Australia.”

Who Needs Fame, Let’s Dance! Before claiming the lead role in Chicago as her own, Carter understudied a handful of Velmas (including Pia Douwes, Anna-Jane Casey and Amra-Faye Wright) over an 18-month period. “This is quite wonderful in that it worked out in that old-fashioned way where you understudy and then they promote you,” she says. “They took a chance to see me in a different light.” As for her sinuous command of the stage, Carter says with satisfaction, “I get to use every inch of my body and my brain. And I get to sing—it’s wonderful to come off stage and feel like I’ve used every part of myself.”

Youth and Beauty, Beauty and Youth: Carter is well aware that her youth puts a unique spin on a role frequently played by performers a decade older than she is, if not more. “I can’t play Velma the way a 40-year-old woman would play it,” she says. “I’m simply not that age, so I like to try and bring out the sexiness of the role. I use my sexuality, if that’s an angle, and I bring out the humor of the character wherever I can.” That, in turn, prompts what Carter calls “an instant connection with the audience. You can’t hear a smile, but if people are laughing, you know they’re getting it.”

Anyone for a Date? Such on-stage heat must surely result in some, um, interesting post-show offers or entreaties from the guys in the audience. “I rarely get notes at the stage door,” insists Carter, who is single, sounding amiably miffed. “I think I probably scare everybody away. Perhaps it’s slightly intimidating for guys to see all these women up there with no clothing, wiggling their hips. Boys may think, ‘That’s terrifying! I can’t go anywhere near her; she would eat me alive.’ So I don’t know how good [this show] is for dating.” Perhaps it’s time for this lucrative franchise to add a real-life matchmaking branch. Carter laughs. “Mama Morton could run that.”

Four Times Over: London’s gruelling four-performance weekend schedule (two shows on both Friday and Saturday) presents a special challenge in a dance-heavy role such as Velma. “It’s half a week in two days,” Carter observes. “The first half of the week, you have to pace yourself and be calm, and the last two days are really intense. The Saturday matinee can be a bit hard because 3 in the afternoon feels like early morning when you finished at 11:30 the night before.” How, then, does she manage? “Every audience lifts you and gives you something to work with,” she says. “If you were doing the show with the curtain closed, you might feel, ‘What am I doing this for?’ But my inspiration always is to do my very best.”

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