An Interview With Mica Paris
by Sammy Jones
Mica Paris is cast as Miss Sherman in the brand new 30th Anniversary Tour of Fame – The Musical, and the Selladoor production is perfectly timed; 2018 also marks 30 years since Mica first exploded onto the UK music scene.
“Like most people I grew up obsessed with it when Fame came out,” says Mica. “We were all glued to it. It was such an honour when they asked me to do be involved. I play Miss Sherman, the English teacher who tries to help Tyrone an exceptional dancer and a boy with huge potential. She tells him to stop blagging his way through acting and dancing – and that he needs to have an education. It’s really well cast for me. I have got two kids and I am very good at telling them off!”
Based on the 1980 smash-hit which followed the lives of students at New York’s High School For The Performing Arts, this powerful new version promises a little more grit than fans of the pop culture phenomenon might be used to.
“It’s a little bit darker, and that’s what’s quite nice about it,” Mica says. “Don’t give me too much shiny Hollywood crap. It’s gritty, but with heart and soul. It’s real and not just sweet. That’s what is wonderful about this show, the darker element stops it being twee, and the kids in it are so organically fresh and wanting to be great at the beginning of their lives. That’s such a nice thing to see. And they are all so talented! Then you’ve got the old timer, me, going in and doing some craziness.”
“We’ve got to give people feeling”
Not that Mica has a problem with being the older cast member. Quite the opposite. “I love that I am always the oldest, I love being around young people, and they keep me so on point with stuff. We can all get a little bit samey in our little bubbles. The kids break you out of that and keep you fresh. They stretch me, y’know? That’s why I like collaborating, and I learn so much, too.”
Fame audiences will watch the students navigating their way through issues that are real and affect us all; prejudice, literacy, sexuality and perseverance among them. And of course you get to hear Mica sing.
“One of my songs is ‘These Are My Children’, and that is a proper gospel song. I have reworked it a little bit and it sounds really powerful, there is a church vibe. You’ve got to feel stuff, and it doesn’t matter if you are religious or not. We’ve got to give people feeling with stuff – from the music to the voice to the dialogue, it has got to resonate somewhere. That’s what is exciting – that instant feeling you give the audience. I live for that.”
This is Mica’s sixth musical, and since she first started stage-stepping in theatre-land, she has noticed a shift in audiences: “When I first started, the rich and the posh went to the theatre. Now? Everyone wants it, and musical theatre sells more tickets than pop concerts.”
And she does see similarities in some of her characters. Miss Sherman, for example, has definite tones of Mica’s role in Chicago when she played Mama Morton. “I said to the director, ‘Here I go again, playing the feisty chick.’ And he said, ‘Mica, you do it really well and that’s why we want you to do it.’ I said ‘Okaaay!’ And I really do enjoy it.”
“I am a walking disaster”
Variety is the spice of life that keeps Mica fresh and focused. She still releases records, has carved out a career on the small screen, and is a celebrated Radio 2 presenter. She is a lively chatterbox who delivers a sound-bite with each breath, and she oozes confidence.
Or so it seems. But she challenges that evaluation: “I am nervous all the time,” she admits, “I am a walking disaster, and should go around with wet-wipes and a nappy. I am always crapping myself! But I don’t allow the fear to stop me. You never stop being nervous, because you always want to be good and you want to touch people and make them like what you do. We are all insecure artists at the end of the day, and we live for you guys liking us.”
Mica really is buzzed about getting back on the road with Fame: “It’s really nice to have this take on an old story. It’s so modern and I am very excited. Being on the road is wonderful because it makes me even more disciplined,” says the health conscious lady, “You have to do eight shows a week, so it forces me to stay fit. For me wealth is health, and I’m a bit obsessed about that.”
And at this point it goes without saying that she is a little bit obsessed about is this production of Fame – The Musical. “If I didn’t feel it, you wouldn’t see me in it. I’m a terrible fake!” she promises.
‘Fame: The Musical’ is at York Grand Opera House, March 4-9, 2019