Weird and wonderful for Wendi to be back in resort
A Lancashire lass at heart - although the accent is somewhat lacking these days - it's hard to believe Wendi Peters is making her professional debut in Blackpool this week.
The former Coronation Street star heads the cast of Wonderland at the Opera House, and recalls dance classes in the resort and even treading the Winter Gardens theatre’s boards as a youngster.
Wendi, who’s best recognised as Cilla Battersby-Brown from the Weatherfield soap, was born across the county in Blackburn and grew up in Wilpshire, before heading to London to train as an actress.
“I’m excited to be in Blackpool,” she said. “The last time I played the Opera House was in an amateur production of Annie in 1985, I think maybe with Blackpool Amateurs probably through the dance school, and my mum and sister Lindsey were in the show too. Our dance school in Blackburn closed and we started coming to one in Blackpool.
“I remember coming home from London after I’d moved away and taking Lindsey to her classes. In fact, I came home from my driving test and mum sent me off to take Lindsey to Blackpool - literally two hours after I had passed my test.
“But I don’t think I’ve ever played Blackpool, which is weird. Even in Grumpy Old Women, we went to a lot of places, but not Blackpool.”
Wendi’s making the most of her trip back north, with husband actor Kenny Linden and daughter Gracie in tow, all enjoying a week at her mum’s Ribble Valley home.
Wonderland is ‘one of the longest tours’ Wendi has done, eight shows a week for a solid seven months.
“We’re about half way through now, and people are saying it would be nice to have a week off, because that’s what your body is telling you,” Wendi said. “But the youngsters were looking forward to Blackpool, thinking it’s a holiday week beside the sea.
Wonderland merges Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, but turning Alice into a single mum who shares the crazy land of her own childhood with her daughter.
And Wendi can appreciate the family dynamic.
“Gracie’s 16, nearly 17, and boarding at Tring [a performing arts school] and I’m incredibly proud of her,” Wendi said.
“She came to see the show last week, and - like we are in the business - was critical, but I like that she has her opinions.
“We’ve done a few things together and I find it very emotional to watch her. Gracie has a beautiful soprano voice, very different to mine.
“And I love to watch the mother-daughter dynamic in this show.”
The show revolves around a ‘phenomenal’ score by composer Frank Wildhorn, who as well as musicals such as Jekyll And Hyde wrote hits for Whitney Houston - including Where Do Broken Hearts Go.
“To work with him it has been fantastic,” Wendi said. “Frank has been hands on musically with this version of the show, but is very much the sort who says ‘I think you can do this and I want to see what you do with it’.
“He’s great to work with, and because we are doing an English interpretation not the original American version, everything has changed slightly, especially the humour - the irony - which Americans don’t really have.”
• Wonderland, Opera House, Blackpool, until tomorrow. Call 0844 856 1111 to book.