Atomic Kitten star Natasha Hamilton is getting her claws into a feisty role in a musical which is coming to Sheffield next week.
The pop princess now has another career in musical theatre and is starring in Rent in Concert at the Lyceum next Monday, playing Maureen.
The hit show, which is loosely based on the opera La Boheme, follows a year in the life of a group of New York friends struggling to make it in the big city under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
Natasha said: “Maureen is a very feisty but passionate character. She stands up for what she believes in.
“She’s come out of a relationship with her boyfriend and is now with Joanne. It’s tempestuous and they bicker a lot. There is an undercurrent there and they love to hate each other.
“There’s a lot of cute and funny scenes. They do a song, Take Me Or Leave Me, when they are at loggerheads with each other.”
How did she feel about playing a gay character? “I’m an actress now and thought I have to do this.
“Rent, when it came out, was quite controversial but it’s a subject matter that people are comfortable about approaching now. People are embracing it in the UK.”
This fully staged concert version is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Rent. It also stars Rory Taylor, who was the runner-up in Superstar, the TV talent show where Andrew Lloyd Webber searched for a new lead actor to perform in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Natasha said the music for Rent was “just wonderful” and the story was “poignant and tugs at your heartstrings, although it is a lot of fun as well”.
Being in a musical doesn’t faze Natasha, who says she has been singing and dancing since she was four. She also made her West End debut in 2010 in the role of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s hit musical Blood Brothers.
She said: “I feel that fear and get a lot more nervous energy which spurs me on. I love learning my craft.”
She added: “The musical itself I’ve known for many years. It’s great to be alongside such an amazing West End cast among fellow performers I’ve known for a long time. We enact scenes and sing songs. That’s wicked.”
Natasha said that she enjoyed getting Atomic Kitten, who are one of the all-time biggest British girl groups, back together with the original line-up of Kerry Katona and Liz McClarnon for TV show The Big Reunion.
The ITV2 series brought together Atomic Kitten and five other pop groups of the 1990s-2000s – B*Witched, Five, Liberty X, Honeyz and 911 – for the series and live dates.
She said: “It was brilliant. Me and Liz have been friends for years and I never ended up on bad terms with Kerry, we just drifted apart. It was 12 years since I’d seen her.
“It was like we’d never been apart and clicked back into the old routine.”
She added: “We gigged all summer and did lots of shows.
“We’ll see what the new year brings but I’d love to do more music with the girls. It won’t be the last you’ve heard of us.”
Natasha admits that combining being a mum with her showbiz career is tough but adds: “It’s hard work but it’s just what I have to do.
“There’s a lot of juggling and forward planning. The kids are also used to me going off somewhere so they take it in their stride.
“I’m just showing them I’m working hard to provide for them. It teaches them that if you work hard you can have the nice things in life.”
She says that she doesn’t feel she has to choose between pop and musical theatre.
“No-one’s going to lose me to anything. I want to do as much as I possibly can.”
Rent in Concert is at the Lyceum on Monday night.
Box office: 0114 249 6000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk