Cancer fight can’t stop Brenda’s Hairspray beat

Brenda Edwards in Hairspray
Brenda Edwards in Hairspray

The first interview that was planned with Brenda Edwards was called off at the last minute, when she was delayed at a hospital appointment.

Such is the positivity of the former X Factor contestant, she’d planned an afternoon of media to promote Hairspray, after a morning’s appointment to have post-mastectomy tattoos done.

The stage star is thrilled to be back in the new tour now she’s well on the road to recovery, after being diagnosed with stage three cancer early last year, part way through her last stint in the show.

“From the chemo nurse and oncologist, to the surgeon - the care and aftercare, everything has been absolutely wonderful,” said Brenda, who appeared in the 2005 series of the talent show. “I can’t thank the NHS enough. They do an amazing job.

“I was in Birmingham, about to take a Christmas break when I found the lump. I was going through chemo and doing the show at the same time.

“The producers contacted me quite early after the last tour, to say they were thinking of going back out with it, and asked was I interested.

“I literally bit their hands off. They were so good to me that I wanted to do the tour again. It was marred by what happened last time.

“There’s a couple of venues I wasn’t able to perform at and they are on the tour again, so I’m looking forward to doing the whole tour.”

Brenda plays Motormouth Maybelle, a record producer, in the musical - which tackles a range of political and social issues, against a largely bubble-gum soundtrack.

But Maybelle brings much heart and soul to the story, especially with her torch song I Know Where I’ve Been.

“That song had meaning for me before, because of things which had happened in my life, and now it has taken on another level,” she said. “I use the words as strength, they really got me through a lot - you just don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

While Hairspray sends audiences out laughing and dancing, there are a lot of messages tied up in its story - which follows Baltimore kid Tracy Turnblad - a big girl, with big hair and an even bigger heart - on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way on to national TV. As Tracy faces prejudice for her size, Maybelle and her community are fighting 1960s racism.

Also starring comedy legend Norman Pace, the show is packed with hits such as Good Morning Baltimore, Without Love and You Can’t Stop The Beat - an appropriate motto for Brenda: “I can’t think of any other job I would like to do. I just love singing, and as long as someone will listen I’ll be singing.”

· Hairspray, Opera House, Blackpool, Monday to Saturday, September 23.