Bad girl Bastian on Chicago and all that jazz at the Ipwich Regent
Chicago star Ali Bastian talks werewolves, puppies, prison and her sinister side with entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE
“We did have a blast; there was lots of slipping around in fake blood and fighting,” says Bastian.
Don’t worry, the current touring version of West End and Broadway smash Chicago hasn’t been given a Quentin Tarantino style makeover. We’re talking about her latest movie, Strippers Versus Werewolves, out next month.
She plays nightclub worker Dani who, along with a gang of girls, give a pack of rampaging lycanthropes a run for their money.
“They kick some werewolf butt and it’s really good fun,” she laughs.
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“It’s a really fun comedy horror. I shot it last year with my friend Adele Silva and it’s really a bit of a romp. I read this script and just laughed my head off; I thought that looks like really good fun. It’s lots of blood and gore.”
Bastian seems to be having a regular trouble with dogs recently; she asks me to hold the line while trying to coral her 11-month-old King Charles cavalier and poodle cross who’s going bananas during her walk.
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“Didn’t really work,” she laughs a minute or so later.
Bastian calls the puppy her little compardre; travelling from theatre to theatre together as part of the Chicago tour, which arrives at the Ipswich Regent on Monday. She enjoys the company.
“It gives you some structure to the day as well. I probably sound like a bit of an old granny but I enjoy it; get up, get a coffee, walk the dog.”
Bastian has been a regular on British TV screens for nearly a decade; playing the long-running roles of Becca Dean in Hollyoaks and Sally Armstrong in The Bill.
She also reached the semi-finals of Strictly Come Dancing in 2009 [she should’ve won] while theatre credits include Helen in the UK tour of Verdict and Burn the Floor at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
“I’m fine about it,” she says about turning 30 last month. “It feels like a good time to be playing such an amazing role. It makes me very happy and I feel like everything is in a very nice place for me at the moment. I’m a happy bunny.”
The role in question is Roxie Hart in the international award-winning musical which also stars Stefan Booth, who played one of Bastian’s lovers in Hollyoaks, as Billy Flynn; Coronation Street’s Tupele Dorgu as Velma Kelly and Bernie Nolan as Mama Morton.
A tale of murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery; it’s based on real life events in the roaring 1920s.
Nightclub singer Hart shoots her lover and, along with cell block rival and double-murderess Kelly, fights to stay off death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer Flynn.
The tour’s been going really well. Bastian is having the time of her life.
“Roxie’s feisty and fun and incredibly ambitious. She thinks on her feet, she’s got incredible survival instincts and then I love the little girl in her as well.
“Some of the scenes I get to play, like the court room scene at the end, it reminds me of being a five-year-old and putting on a show in the living room, demanding my parents and neighbours come watch and just going absolutely bananas for half-an-hour. It’s a dream role, it really is,” she says.
When you think of Bastian you think actress, dancer - not singer.
“No, this is the first time,” she laughs.
“Obviously a lot of my background is in TV, but being able to do theatre and musical theatre is a new experience for me; I’m absolutely hooked. The music starts every night and you just get swept along; it’s electric.
“I’m loving it; I used to sing, I went to stage school so I had to do all of that when I was there. I just tended to focus more on the acting side of things, that’s the way my career has taken me. This is like coming back full circle.”
“I really enjoy it actually; I can’t explain it but it’s a really lovely thing to do,” she says, that enthusiastic five-year-old living room performer coming out in her voice.
Bastian has had a more varied career than a lot of soap actors. A show like Chicago, which uses everything she’s learnt, is a dream.
“I used to dance as a little girl but I hadn’t done it for years so Strictly really opened that up again for me,” she says, admitting to being driven to tears by McFly drummer Harry Judd’s Viennese waltz last year.
When back in London she still does ballroom and Latin at former professional Strictly judge Karen Hardy’s Chelsea studio. She’s keeping her hand in on tour too.
“One of the cast on this tour, Ian Oswald, who plays Fred, my lover, is a ballroom and Latin dancer; we’ve had a few little spins around the dance floor which was lovely.”
Back to Chicago, I notice a pattern emerging - the number of times she ends up in prison.
I’m thinking, mainly, of her role as teacher Becca in Hollyoaks which saw her fall in love with student Justin; resulting in pregnancy, prison and then being stabbed to death by her cell-mate.
“It’s funny, I end up on the wrong side of the law an awful lot these days,” Bastian laughs.
“I played a murderer as well in an Agatha Christie play last year, on the tour of Verdict. They obviously see something in me, a kind of slightly sinister streak. I keep playing murderesses but it’s really good fun.
“As an actress it’s so wonderful to play characters so far removed from your own personality. I ended up in prison on Hollyoaks, then I did come back to life in The Bill on the right side of the law for a little while, but even then I was a bit of a vigilante copper. I’m never on the straight and narrow these days,” she laughs again.
Still, Roxie’s ending is much happier than Becca’s?
“Yeah, definitely. We don’t want to give it away obviously but poor old Becca had a pretty tough time.”
Chicago runs at the Ipswich Regent from tonight to Saturday.