Wednesday, 30 May 2001, 01:30 PM GMT
New star in town has a real Aura...and a great name!

Meet a Deva with designs on being a diva. Delightful Aura Deva  "It's my real name, honestly!"  is currently making grown men weak at the knees and winning fans of all ages and sexes as the latest narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Blackpool Opera House.

But despite gaining rave reviews just days into taking up the role in the hit musical, the stunningly petite songstress isn't quite sure where her future lies.  "I do enjoy being in a show like this but I'm honestly not sure if being on stage is really for me," she confessed during her first ever visit to any British resort.

She partly puts her uncertainty down to the remnants of her childhood shyness growing up in Manila in the Philippines. "I was unbelievably shy," says Aura. "My sister's friends thought I was mute because I was so quiet when they were around. I was terrified of people."   Not the most obvious of recommendations for a performer, though she admits to being "a late bloomer" largely thanks to the encouragement of her mother.

At university she studied piano and voice and again with her mum behind her was given the confidence to join a theatre company and audition for shows. She started arranging music for television commercials in the Philippines before joining the cast of The King & I in her homeland  a show she re-joined recently in the West End having spent more than three years performing (and speaking) in Germany.

"I learned enough German to get by on. I could do my role in German, I could order food in German  and I mastered a few other essential phrases as well," she says enigmatically.  So not that shy then?  "Oh I was in a band as well," she adds. "It was a Manhattan Transfer group. I suppose I'm a bit of a pop star back home. We did tv and concerts."

She came on holiday to London in 1997 planning six months off work. By 1998 she had met and married web designer Martin Christy  and was auditioning again for shows. "Apart from marrying Martin it was a fairly depressing time," she reveals. "I auditioned for 18 months. I was either too ethnic or not ethnic enough  or too short."  At a shade over five feet and a face that lights up a room with its smile, it's difficult to see anyone turning her down  for anything.  "I'm tall enough to be on stage," she insists. "And anyway in this show I can wear boots!" 

The Joseph role came almost out of the blue. "After The King & I, I was going to psyche myself up to do different things and try and discover what I really want to do," says Aura. "But then suddenly there was an audition and four days later there I was again in another musical." She admits she hadn't even seen the show until she auditioned for it.  Now with a matinee in Richmond and a full week in Leeds behind her she says she is now much happier with her contribution to the show.

"This is my first tour, my first time in all these places and my first time away from my husband so obviously it has taken a bit of getting used to," she says. "I'm quite a homely person. I like to have fun but I'm not a party animal. "The rest of the cast are great though. it's a young company and very warm so everyone is very positive and there's none of the bitterness you sometimes find."   She's signed to Joseph for six months and after that it will be decision time again.

"I write songs and my husband arranges them," she says. "I love singing  and that's the problem. I am still quite shy so it's strange that I'm up there on stage. Maybe I will become Deva the diva after all?"
Aura Deva Interview, Blackpool