What the Dickens is going on at Winter Gardens?

Adam Rickitt and Maureen Nolan are starring in this year's production of Great Expectations at the Winter Gardens
Adam Rickitt and Maureen Nolan are starring in this year's production of Great Expectations at the Winter Gardens
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Adam Rickitt and Maureen Nolan co-star in musical adaptation of literary classic Great Expectations

Adapting a Charles Dickens story to the stage is no mean feat.

Adam Rickitt is starring in this year's production of Great Expectations at the Winter Gardens

Adam Rickitt is starring in this year's production of Great Expectations at the Winter Gardens

They’re such iconic pieces of literature that anticipation will always be unbelievably high.

You could even say, that there will be ‘Great Expectations’.

Dickens’ 19th-century novel has been subject to many adaptations over the years, including the famous 1946 film and in December, it will be visiting Blackpool Winter 
Gardens – as a musical.

Former Coronation Street heart-throb Adam Rickitt, who plays the protagonist Pip, says that the story is one that translates well to musical theatre.

It’s a story about love, it’s a story about heartbreak and it does suit Christmas time

“I think it does, I’ve never seen this version. I’d love to see the director’s vision for it,” he said.

“The dialogue for the acting side is really strong as well.”

He also added that there should be no reason that a musical adaptation of such an iconic story would be anything other than a success.

“You’re seeing Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton being turned into film. Why not transfer them to the stage for musicals?

The role of Pip is being played by former Coronation Street star Adam Rickitt

The role of Pip is being played by former Coronation Street star Adam Rickitt

“I think Great Expectations is great for that. It’s a story about love, it’s a story about heartbreak and it does suit Christmas time.”

The character of Pip is one that Adam relates to and one that he can’t wait to play, if for no other reason than he gets to knock a few years off his age!

“I get to play a young man again, I haven’t been a young man for many a year!

“I almost kind of see a bit of my life in what he went through. He lived his life with all these hopes and dreams and when he got them they wasn’t what he wanted or needed.

Adam Rickitt and Maureen Nolan are starring in this year's production of Great Expectations at the Winter Gardens

Adam Rickitt and Maureen Nolan are starring in this year's production of Great Expectations at the Winter Gardens

“I suppose that’s like when I first got into showbiz, when I was 18. I just wanted to be famous but you realise that’s a really vacant and horrible life.

“The only way you can find any meaning in it is if you enjoy the art. That’s like Pip and Estella.

“He meets the beautiful woman of his dreams and it’s only when it all crashes and fails, they get back together and you realise it actually is true love.”

He added: “I think Pip’s an amazing character because is reaction is the same as what any young boy would be. If suddenly they were given wealth and a beautiful woman.

“Charles Dickens did, perhaps without meaning to, characterise man. It’s a great opportunity and you see the clear evolution of the character.”

Maureen Nolan, who moved to Blackpool as a young child and now lives near Stanley Park, plays the jilted Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster and the adopted mother of Pip’s love interest, Estella.

“I’m excited to get the part. It’s such an iconic part, Miss Havisham so I really want to do it right. I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

“She’s quite posh isn’t she so I’m going to have to brush up on my RP, we don’t want any Irish coming out!”

Maureen hasn’t seen the musical personally but believes it will be “quite lavish”.

Just last week, she appeared in the Winter Gardens’ production of Footloose and performing in the town is something she relishes.

She said: “It’s just great to be at home and catch up and feel like a normal person again.

“Blackpool people are great, they sort of embrace you as family.

“I’m delighted to not be doing a panto, getting the chance to do something else and then when they said Blackpool it was just win-win.”

Despite growing up singing with her sisters in The Nolans, Maureen’s first love is acting, something she credits to her sister Bernie, who sadly passed away from breast cancer in July 2013.

“My sister Bernie really paved the way, she left the band in 1995,” she said.

“She got into Blood Brothers, then Brookside, then the Bill.

“It’s always nice to sing a song and move somebody with it, it’s a great feeling but I’m really enjoying the acting side of things.

“I’ve only been doing it 11 years so I’m fairly new.”

It’s a sentiment that Adam shares.

Despite flirting with a music career at the turn of the millennium, charting with three singles, Adam sees acting as his priority.

“Acting’s always been my passion, not so much music.

“Music I did because I was offered a lot of money to do it when I was young.

“There are some great musicals out there but a lot of them are just like playing to the masses and it’s not really very demanding from an acting point of view.

“If you’re going to get up and do a show everyday, two or three times you want to find it challenging or else it just get boring.”

Despite focussing the vast majority of his energy on acting, Adam did briefly return to music as part of ITV’s the Big Reunion, which saw the likes of Five, Atomic Kitten and Liberty X reform.

He was part of a supergroup featuring Kenzie from Blazin’ Squad, Dane Bowers from Another Level, Kavana and Gareth Gates, who actually appeared alongside Maureen Nolan in Footloose.

The band visited Blackpool as part of a two-week tour and Adam says it was great fun.

“I have no aspirations to do music but I was getting married in December 2014 and the tour was for the previous two weeks so I just treated it as a massive stag do.

“I was 36, but it was like being a student again. If I got more than two hours a night or ate more than 800 calories it was a 
miracle!

“It was so much fun, lots of people use that show as a platform but we didn’t we just got on really well.”

Adam and Maureen will appear in the production alongside The Bill’s Chris Ellison and Helena Blackman, the runner-up in BBC talent show ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?’

Maureen hopes to form a close bond with her castmates, during the four weeks of rehearsals and the show’s four week run, noting that “it shows on stage if you don’t get on.”

It will top off a busy schedule for Maureen, with just three weeks of respite between finishing Footloose and starting rehearsals for Great Expectations.

“I finish the 23rd October and I have three weeks off. I start rehearsals the 14th November for four weeks which quite a long rehearsal period.

“People say I’m working all the time but it’s a feast or a famine.

“People say you must be tired but there’s people doing cleaning jobs, 12 hour days so I’m lucky really.”

After Great Expectation ends on Saturday, January 7, Maureen has two weeks off, before taking to the stage once again in Menopause: The Musical, to which the 62-year-old jokingly quips: “typecast, obviously.”

It’s hard to imagine that Maureen did anything other than act.

Her first huge break came when she followed the lead of Bernie, Coleen and Denise and played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, with the sisters getting a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the only four siblings to play the same character in the West End.

However she’s in no such rush to follow sisters Coleen and Linda into the Celebrity Big Brother House, instead setting her sights on a show a little closer to home.

“They both really enjoyed it but they both hated it at the same time.

“Strictly I would do for nothing. Please ask me to do Strictly.

“It must be great to learn how to dance like that. I’ve been to tea dances but it’s gorgeous. It’s just so nice.”

Adam, on the other hand, will be moving back to screen acting next year with roles in an unspecified film and ITV Drama.

The 38-year-old keeps himself very fit, running an incredible ten miles a day, however it’s something that recently backfired as he sported a quite visible limp.

He said: I’ve got a bad back and because we’re moving house I’m spending my entire days on my knees packing.

“I run ten miles a day and half way, I just broke down and I had to keep running five miles.”
Clearly undeterred, he added: “The people of Blackpool will see a random man running up and down the beach each day in November!”

Adam has no doubts that he’ll be fighting fit by the time the play opens and can’t wait, despite initial reservations.

“I’m quite selective about which plays I do but this came out of the blue. I was actually going to say no but I sat down and thought about it and I thought it’s a brand new show.

“I just love the way that not many seven-year-olds will know and that Dickens has almost been left behind. I like the idea of being able to draw a new audience into it.

“I bet if Charles Dickens were alive now, he’d be loving it.”
Great Expectations: The Musical debuts at Blackpool Opera House On Saturday, December 10.

It will run for four weeks, before coming to a close on Saturday, January 7.

Tickets are priced at £20, for more information visit: www.wintergardensblackpool.com.