A Chorus Line is back on the London boards for its first West End revival in almost four decades. In an Anglo-American cast of hard-working hoofers, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, 31 in May, stands out as Diana Morales, the Latina who sings to us in no uncertain terms of “what I did for love.” A veteran of Flashdance in town and Gypsy at the Curve Theatre in Leicester, the actress-singer recently took time to talk ethnic mixes, transferring Broadway razzmatazz to London, and the occasions when, like her honest and funny character, she dug down to the bottom of her soul and felt, well, “nothing.”
You made a splash in Flashdance, but the success of A Chorus Line must feel like something else altogether.
It does! You know, I didn’t realize how big A Chorus Line was, if I’m speaking honestly. I was aware of it as a child, but I only had the movie to go by, and the film isn’t the stage show—not at all. So when I joined the cast, I didn’t anticipate just how emotional it would be to be part of this legacy. This is, hands down, the most special emotional time I’ve ever experienced with a show. It really has been the most magical time.
Were you surprised to be cast as Morales, since you’re not Latina?
I wasn’t that surprised. There’s a Latina vibe that I get from my father, who’s of Italian and German descent, so everything for him is always very dramatic [laughs]. My mum is Anglo-Indian and Persian, so I’m a bit of a mongrel myself. I have an interesting time when it comes to casting, but with this show, it was quite obvious I was Morales and not really anyone else.
You’re the only character in the show who gets two blockbuster solos, “Nothing” and “What I Did For Love.”
I was really confused when I got the music for “What I Did For Love” because Cassie sings that song in the movie, not Morales, so I thought, “What? Did they make a mistake?” [Laughs.] But it does work that Morales should sing the number: The song is reflecting on these dancers’ love for what they do—the things they give up and the trials and tribulations they go through day by day in service to their art. It’s my favorite song in the show.
It was amazing on opening night to realize how few of the show’s original creators are still with us, following the death last summer of composer Marvin Hamlisch.
I know, and we had his widow [Terre Blair] with us at various points telling us how proud she was and trying to calm our nerves. As it is, I don’t think we stopped crying throughout the whole rehearsal process; we were so cried out by the time we had to do the press night that it became this amazing combination of emotions, all going in different directions.
Do you feel that the audition process described in A Chorus Line has to some extent moved on in 2013?
Things haven’t moved on; we still go through the same process as it’s always been. You’re there on the line and they either like you or they don’t. Sometimes it’s more aggressive than others; you don’t know how you’re going to feel and your nerves are horrendous! At least Zach [the director within the show] actually creates light and shade, whereas I’ve had many experiences in which you couldn’t even say that. Auditioning isn’t the nicest experience that one can go through; it’s still horrible [laughs].
Morales always slays the audience with “Nothing,” which tells of the character’s worst-ever acting class. Could you relate to that?
Oh, yes, absolutely! I’ve done classes where you have to pretend you’re a tree, a dog is taking a leak on the tree and how does the tree feel? You think, “Oh god, how far-fetched!” But a lot of it is about trying to lose your inhibitions, so I try to portray it in the show as if Morales, although very down-to-earth, is quite nervous, as well, and a bit more highly strung; maybe she’s not as open to these suggestions from her teacher as other students have been. She’s not so open-minded, which makes it that much more effective, I hope, when she finally goes, “snap!”
How do you cope with the ups and downs of the profession?
My only response, really, is keep it real and don’t get too upset. You have to realize that everything happens for a reason and that maybe [a role] wasn’t meant to be. And you have to laugh at yourself. If people get too consumed, it can end up taking them over. I’ve seen lots of horrible situations where people let this industry start to rule them, down to the way they look and dress and wear their hair. The only way through all that is to keep it real.
It must help on that front to have gotten married.
Absolutely! In fact, Rory [Svensson, her husband] and I have been together for over seven years. I have to say, I was the worst fiancée: I wore that ring for four years and didn’t do anything about it [laughs]. But what’s great is that he is my best friend, and I really do believe you have to marry your best friend. We are still loved up to this day.
Is your husband in the business?
No, he’s a mechanical engineer, thank god, and works for Transport for London. He’s completely out of the industry, which is good, at least for me. I read a fact the other day that the highest divorce rate in all professions is between dancers and choreographers, which is pretty sad to learn. I can understand the appeal that comes with working with all these super-talented people who are endearing and sexy and easy on the eye, but I got out of that, at least in romantic terms, and I’m glad I did!