Mandy Dingle actress Lisa Riley is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of her mum and will bare her soul in an emotional tribute in Sheffield, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
Just two weeks before she started on Strictly Come Dancing last year, her 57-year-old mother, Cath, died after a 12-year battle with breast cancer.
Brave Lisa, the foremr Emmerdale soap favourite, decided the dance show should go on - as her mum would have wanted – and she hid her secret heartache from millions of viewers, because she didn’t want the sympathy vote.
She didn’t need it. Her mum would have been oh so proud and even more so about what Lisa is about to do tomorrow at Sheffield City Hall.
She headlines Strictly Confidential, a new up close and personal theatre production spin-off of the TV show, with professional dancers Artem Chigvintsev, Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite, which takes fans on an intimate journey to tell their real life stories.
And it includes an emotional routine dedicated to Lisa’s mum, featuring her favourite song. Lisa admits she struggled to even perform it in rehearsal and had the cast and crew in tears – even the show’s writer-director, Strictly’s hard- to-please TV judge Craig Revel Horwood.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Graham Walker’s exclusive chats with the stars of the show and rehearsal footage ahead of two shows in Sheffield, on Saturday, July 27, then Leeds, July 28.
Full venue tickets detaials below.
“You all know him as Mr Nasty, but he isn’t really. Criag is also a brilliant director and writer. He has done the most beautiful staging of the dream sequence, where I’m talking to my mum in heaven,’’ says Lisa, as she fills up with emotion.
“My mum adored the arts and musical theatre. It feels like she’s with me anyway. Craig asked if I would be able to do it. I said I think so. Though I couldn’t get through it without crying.
“It’s a very special piece of music – my mum’s favourite song. I’m not playing a role in this. I’m not playing Mandy Dingle. I’m being me and speaking from the heart.”
Manchester born Lisa is no stranger to the stage. She’s appeared in productions including The Play What I Wrote, The Vagina Monologues, opposite Sharon Osbourne and Calendar Girls. The former host of You’ve Been Framed also starred in hit TV series Fat Friends, Waterloo Road, Doctors and Holby City, but made her name in ITV soap Emmerdale, from 1995 to 2001.
“Everybody wants me to go back but I do honestly believe I’ve sort of done that role. I love Mandy. But like Fawlty Towers, everyone remembers it because they did 12 episodes and it was left on a high.
“I’ve spent my life playing mingers. But Strictly showed I can wear false lashes and look a little bit glamorous with a bit of tuty.”
She’ll appear in an episode of BBC TV’s George Gently in the autumn. She has a big secret theatre project next year.
But before then she’s in panto with Craig – oh yes she is. Craig told The Star: “Lisa is still dealing with her mother’s death and having to do it live on stage, every day in Strictly Confidential. When we first rehearsed it was actually the anniversary of her mother’s death and of course all the company broke down in tears. It’s beautiful. We’ve staged it sensitively and it’s beautiful to watch, just gorgeous. And better than a play, because it’s true.
“I created this show two years ago and when Lisa appeared on Strictly last year, I knew she was our lead.
“It’s an autobiographical dance spectacular, full of fantastic dancing, amazing singing, based on the lives of Lisa and our professional dancers. They have all had extraordinary interesting lives and I’ve amalgamated them all into one fantastic show.”
Russian professional dancer Artem, 31, said: “Lisa is a unique and talented person. She can dance, despite what everybody thought of her before we started the show. She proved everyone wrong. She has rhythm, she can move and she’s a great personality.”
Ian Waite, 42: “I’m loving coming back to Sheffield. I’m dancing with Natalie but there’s a lot of fusions of dancers and we all get to dance with each other.”
Leggy beauty Natalie, 32, says she regards the Sheffield date as a “home town” stop – she visited the city many times when she partnered former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan on Strictly last year. “I think he’s hung up his dance shoes – which is probably not a bad thing. Love you Michael,’’ she laughed.
* Craig Revel Horwood’s Strictly Confidential is playing at Sheffield City Hall, Saturday, July 27, 2013, 1.30pm and 7.30pm and Leeds Grand Theatre, Sunday, July 28, 2013, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Sheffield tickets are at £42.50, £32.50 or £22.50, subject to booking fees. Buy in person, book online at www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk or call 0114 2789789. For more information visit www.strictlyconfidentialtour.com.
For Leeds Grand Theatre details visit www.leedsgrandtheatre.com.
CONSTRUCTIVE JUDGE CRAIG IS NO “MR NASTY” BUT ENJOYS A COOR PADDEL, SAYS LISA
Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood is the “Mr Nasty” judge who everyone loves to hate and he plans to step up the tempo for years to come.
Unlike Dancing On Ice, which has announced one more season before it skates off our screens, TV hit Strictly is here to stay, he reassured fans.
“Strictly will never end, darling – it’s fab-u-lous,’’ he said, using his trademark phrase, in an exclusive chat with The Star.
“It’s going on and on and on. And it goes where other shows don’t.
“That’s largely due to the quality of the celebrities, the quality of the professional dancers and also, of course, the judges.”
The Australian born 48-year-old may be famous for his catty put downs of dancers and fellow judges alike but he admits he was a nervous wreck when he returned to the stage for the first time in 16 years, to do panto – because he feared people would judge him harshly.
“I thought people would give me one our of 10; that I would lose my reputation and all of that,’’ he said.
“But actually, what it did, it put me out boldly in the space and OK, let people judge – everyone has a right to an opinion.”
Craig, who also directs the Strictly Come Dancing Live arena tours, added: “I did consider writing myself in to Strictly Confidential but I thought that might be too much – produced, written, directed by Craig Revel Horwood and oh, also starring. I really wanted to get the concept off the ground first.”
Strictly star Lisa Riley said : “I wouldn’t ever use the word nasty when I’m describing Craig. I call it ‘paddle time’. Craig holds his score paddle, from September to Christmas. He’s not nasty – he’s constructive.
“They’ve all got their parts on that panel. Craig plays it very, very well.”