Sam Bailey has it coming... for Chicago role at Milton Keynes Theatre

John Partridge and Hayley Tamaddon star alongside Sam in the show

John Partridge and Hayley Tamaddon star alongside Sam in the show

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You might think that Sam Bailey has got it easy – a former prison officer playing a prison officer.

C’mon, how hard can that be?

Sam Bailey in Chicago

Sam Bailey in Chicago

Except that Sam Bailey, the lass who bagged the X-Factor title of course, is playing Mama Morton in Chicago, one of the most delicious and successful stage musicals out there.

So yep, it’s quite a task as it happens.

“This show is somebody’s baby, and you’ve got to look after it like it’s someone else’s baby,” she starts.

And with the role came a certain amount of intrigue from the critics and fans.

“Every night there seems to be some pretty important people in, so it’s nerve-wracking, a lot of people from the industry checking out what Sam Bailey is doing, because no-one has ever seen me do something like this.”

And that includes mastering the American accent.

“I think a lot of people are genuinely shocked by my accent, because an American accent is seemingly hard to do.

“But little do they know that when I was about 12 or 13 all I wanted to do was be American. I used to talk American to my Mum and Dad, I wanted to live in America and I watched American films all the time.”

So the accent was in the bag before that first rehearsal, but everything else has been a steep learning curve.

“The first day of rehearsals, I turned up and thought it would be a blending in day when you get to know each other.

“I had been there 15 minutes and they were like, ‘Right, Scene One, let’s go!’

“I’ve never done any acting, so to be in a room of people that have all done it before, and all the lingo, the different things they were saying – words like ‘eggy,’ I didn’t know any of it.”

What does ‘eggy’ mean?

“When something is a bit eggy – it’s a bit awkward or doesn’t feel right, feels a bit cheesy or wrong. People had to explain upstage, downstage, stage left, stage right, these are things I had never experienced before...but I am learning every single day.

“Musical theatre has been a massive love of mine, but to be in it is an eye-opener, and not as easy as it looks.

“I can walk out on stage and sing a song and own it, but with this it’s about people believing who you are on that stage straight away – not seeing you as Sam Bailey, but seeing you as Mama Morton.

“If I’ve done that, I’ve done my job properly.”

And Mama Morton is a fantastic, strong character.

“She looks after County Prison, and a lot of the women in there, all of them do favours for Mama, and she does favours for them, for money – sorting out lawyers and things like that. Her character is calculated, strong and she’s the keeper of the keys...”

Let’s talk about the similarities between your own time walking the halls of clink, and this part.

She laughs: “Yes, I did work in a prison, but I didn’t have money for favours, that’s one thing that’s not the same as the character!”

Chicago, also starring John Partridge and Hayley Tamaddon, begins a six-day stay at MK Theatre from Monday March 14.

Visit the box office at or call 0844 871 7652.