THIS tour of Footloose the Musical has been more than a little bit emotional for Maureen Nolan.
The 63-year-old, who found fame as part of Irish sister band the Nolans, has had rather a lot on her plate while playing Vi Moore, in the musical coming to Basildon next month.
Indeed, it was actually mid-show that she realised her marriage to Ritchie Hoyle was over. Yet she’s not missed a single performance.
“Oh yeh, that was difficult,” she sighed, in her soft Irish burr.
“I didn’t miss a day because of it [the tour] though. I was very tempted…you know when you’re just so low, and our family, we’ve been through a lot recently with cancer and illness.
“But you’re either going to pull the covers over your head and never get out of bed or just get up and get on with it.
“And that’s very much been the way forward for most of us Nolans really. And it worked. But it was really difficult, because I sing beautiful ballads…”
Singing about heartbreak on stage, as her own heart broke… that must make her the ultimate professional?
“Well, I suppose,” she said, with a slightly rueful chuckle.
“As I say, there’s only two choices and I took the one we always take, just get on with it, really. We’re never going to take the other one.
“And you know, it was okay in the long run. It was hard, but I got through it. And it’s still hard sometimes. Anyone who has broken up after 29 years will know how hard that is, but you get through these things don’t you? That’s life.”
Maureen has been performing since she was a mere nine years old. Just where does she find the energy?
“You know, I don’t really think about it. I just think about it when I get too tired to do it.
“I mean there’s still mortgages to pay and stuff so that’s a part of it and it is all I’ve ever know so I can’t really do anything else.”
Does she ever see herself stopping?
“Oh I hope to stop. I do. Put my feet up. Enjoy the grandkids. People say to me, ‘ooo you’d really miss it,’ but I think, no I’d be fine.
“I’ve been working since I was nine so I’d be fine. But you don’t know really what you’d miss.”
Just how has the industry, which she has worked her whole life in, changed?
“It is so different. It’s all about reality TV nowadays, isn’t it? You can fight against it, but that’s what it’s really all about now – the X Factor and people coming out of college.
“People say to me I bet you hate that because we weren’t a manufactured act, we did our apprenticeship for ten years, as kids even.
“But I think you can’t fight against things, that’s the way forward now.
“And I don’t think you’ve got anything to lose really on those shows. If you do well, you do well and that will be good for you. And if you don’t do well, you’ve lost nothing – you’ll still prove that you’ve got talent and people will hear you.
“In our day of course every city had three or four cabaret clubs in them. So that was the way to circuit while you were still trying to make a name for yourself.
“There was always work, but there’s not really that much work now really for people.”
Does she have any regrets?
“My favourite kind of music is standards and got offered to go and record an album of standards with one of the best flugel players in the world and I was young, and I didn’t do it. I regret that.”
“But I did my dream role when I played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers. That was always my dream, that was my favourite show and then I got the part.”
In fact, she was the fourth Nolan sister to play the role, earning them a spot in the Guinness Book of Records.
“There’s no better part, I don’t think, for a woman of my age than Mrs Johnstone because she’s funny and feisty and she sings great songs and gets to do great dramatic scenes.”
So, what drew her to Footloose?
“I actually did Footloose eleven years ago. Then last year I was approached to do it again. And I just enjoyed it so much the first time. It’s not a massive role, Vi Moore the reverend’s wife I play, but it’s a really nice role. Me and the reverend tell the story really and I get to sing a few lovely ballads.
“Audiences always say you look like you’re having loads of fun. Well that isn’t because we’re good actors, that’s because we are having loads fun. You can’t help it with this show.”
So, what’s her favourite part of the show?
“I’m tempted to say when Gareth [Gates, her co-star] gets his clothes off,” she laughs.
“I do watch that quite a lot from the side of the stage! I love that song anyway – Holding Out For a Hero – and it’s such a great scene…”
And on that cheeky note, Maureen has to go. She might be a grandmother, and newly single, but there’s no doubt the lady’s still got it…
Footloose the Musical will be at the Towngate Theatre, in St Martin’s Square from August 21. For booking information and ticket prices, go to towngatetheatre.org.uk
This feature was first published in the Echo newspaper on Friday, July 21, 2017: www.echo-news.co.uk