INTERVIEW: Jodie Prenger

Forget Greece, Shirley Valentine is looking forward to coming to Wirral. Globe columnist Peter Grant caught up with West End star Jodie Prenger ahead of her week-long run at New Brighton Pavilion.

Jodie Prenger has a confession to make. She has been learning her lines thanks to help from a pair of cows. She and her ‘fella’ have purchased the bovine duo which are now lovingly-housed in a lodge in their home not far from her native Blackpool.

Before you say ‘pull the udder one’ Jodie laughs that anyone seeing her go through her lines with a glass of wine and two cows as an audience would think she was mad.

Jodie, who had her major break as Nancy in Oliver! at Drury Lane in 2008 following her victory in the Andrew Lloyd Webber television series I’d Do Anything. She can turn her hand to anything on and off stage.

She has starred in the musicals Tell Me on A Sunday, Calamity Jane, Annie, Spamalot and Les Miserables and added her bubbly personality to various ratings-winning TV shows.

She only has four weeks left on the acclaimed 30 th anniversary UK tour that started out in February and he says he will miss her old pal . . . Shirley.

‘’This is a one-woman play about bravery and honesty.

She is a real, life brave-heart.

‘’I love everything about it and the writer Willy Russell is just not real – he is the most amazing, multi-talented man and director Glen Walford has also helped me and supported me.’’

Shirley Valentine is the tale of a middle-aged woman who wants to break free from her ‘hum drum’ life.

She‘s in a rut.

Jodie, 38, tells the Globe: ‘’It is a universal tale. I play this Liverpool housewife with a soft, Scouse accent.

“It was written 30 years ago and it is timeless.

“It’s a mammoth of a play and yet playing her is like sitting talking to a room-full of friends.”

Jodie says during the run at New Brighton she will take time off to wander around.

“I remember the last time there seeing a man on a bike on the prom with a parrot on his shoulder. I thought now that’s my type of guy.”

Jodie says after this sparkling revival of Shirley Valentine she will be working on a musical by Kay Mellor called ‘Fat Friends’ based on the hit television show.

“It’s already looking like a lot of fun. I am lucky to be part of such a great cast which includes Freddie Flintoff.

“I won’t have to talk to a wall for company like Shirley does.”

Shirley has certainly be a labour of love for the actress and singer – one of the nation’s top song and dance stars.

The play also has to display Jodie’s lesser-known skill –cookery.

“I have to cook egg and chips live on stage every night.

“I am very good, oh yes, I feel a Christmas cook book coming on.”

Jodie who has just returned from a break in the Lakes has also made a visit to the Edinburgh Fringe.

She says Shirley often feels like a stand- up monologue.

In the two-hour production she says Shirley’s recalling of the Christmas Nativity remains one of her favourite parts of the play.

But there are many other highlights she stresses as she has to play an array of characters.

“One woman who has seen the film version asked me who is playing my Greek lover?

“She just looked puzzled when I said ME!”

Jodie is hoping to catch the new touring musical about Cilla Black – a woman she greatly admired.

Is there any star Jodie would like to play on stage?

“Oh, Doris Day or Bette Midler – but they are both very much alive so that’s not going to happen.”

Jodie says she is very much looking forward to playing ‘Up North’.

“I’ll be able to commute and catch up with the cow and my fella.

“And playing on Merseyside is a joy.

“The audiences are so lovely. Playing Shirley Valentine is a responsibility especially there – it’s a Liverpudlian classic and I am up for it

“When the time comes to end the run and make my last egg and chips I really will miss her.

“She has become a dear friend – Shirley Valentine.”

Shirley Valentine
New Brighton Pavilion
September 18 to 23
Box office: 0151 606 6666

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