Former Corrie actress Tupele Dorgu is glad to be out of the soap and ‘living’ in Chicago, as she tells CHARLES HUTCHINSON.

TUPELE Dorgu had her eye on playing double murderess Velma Kelly rather than 1920s’ nightclub singer and Cell Block rival Roxie Hart in Chicago. “I think she’s got some great numbers, some great dancing and she’s a great character,” says former Coronation Street soap star Tupele, who will be making her York debut in the Kander and Ebb musical at the Grand Opera House from Monday night.

“It’s very rare you get such two fantastic female leads, and obviously I wouldn’t have said ‘No’ if they’d offered me Roxie instead, but I love the fact that Velma opens the show with All That Jazz.

“You know when you see something and think ‘I’d really like to do that’? Well, that what happened to me ten years ago when I saw Chicago. I like Velma because she’s a fighter, and I just fancied that kind of challenge as I feel it’s the better role for me.”

Tupele played a feisty character in Coronation Street too, making her mark as headstrong, outspoken knicker-factory worker Kelly Crabtree.

“I left in March 2010 after about six years, and I felt great because I really wanted to leave,” says the 34-year-old Preston actress. “I just felt that I wasn’t being challenged; the variation wasn’t there and my character wasn’t achieving her potential, so I didn’t want to wait around for ten years for her big moment.”

Tupele knew there were “other things I could do”.

“I wanted to be in stage shows,” she says, although she acknowledges there were benefits to being in such a prominent soap opera.

“It gave me lots of opportunities to meet different people, go to lots of places, and it gave me the chance to do lots of charity work, such as Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where I was asked to be a patron after I was approached about helping them to raise £20 million for equipment, beds, the canteen, parking spaces and facilities for parents of children with leukaemia.

“You’ve got to think about the difference you can make, rather just going out to parties.”

On stage, Tupele has appeared in such musicals as Mamma Mia! and La Cage Aux Folles, as well as playing a character based on The Selecter’s singer, Pauline Black, in the lead role in the ska musical Three Minute Heroes in Coventry, the home of the 2Tone record label, in 2000.

Now she is on tour in Chicago and revelling in it.

“I love being in front of a live audience, performing the songs and trying to perfect each number,” she says. “It’s not challenging because I can’t do it but challenging for wanting to always improve and give it a little edge. I’m doing the tour for nine months so I want to try new things to make it even better.”

Tupele prefers to concentrate on the moment rather than plan too far ahead, but she can confirm she will be appearing in the Mansfield Palace Theatre pantomime, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, from December 1. Goodbye Velma, hello another bad girl, the Wicked Witch.

“I’d like to continue what I’m doing, working on stage and TV, and there are always new shows being written,” says Tupele, who joined BBC1 drama Waterloo Road last year in the role of Keeley James. But it’s important to focus on what you’re doing at the moment and make it the best you can.”

• Tupele Dorgu, Ali Bastion and Stefan Booth star in Chicago at Grand Opera House, York, from April 16 to 21. Performances: Monday to Thursday, 7.30pm; Friday and Saturday, 5pm and 8.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or

• Chicago last toured the Grand Opera House in April 2009.

• Did you know?
Born in Preston on December 13 1977, Tupele has a Nigerian father and Irish/English mother. “Tupele means ‘the last born’,” she says. “My father came over to England from Nigeria.”