Jodie Prenger is about to do something she’s never done before – star in a panto.
Actually, hang on a minute, that’s not quite true.
At least it might not be – she doesn’t seem sure.
“I think I starred in a pantomime when I was about 19,” she says with a grin. “I’m pretty sure it was in Doncaster but I can’t really remember much about it. Anyway, it’s nice to be doing another now.”
Indeed she is, Jodie signing up to play Fairy Bowbells in Manchester Opera House’s Dick Whittington, which starts next month.
“A panto is one of those Great British traditions and I think they are great,” Jodie adds.
“There’s nothing better with a show – and we got this with One Man, Two Guvnors – than hearing an audience just creased with laughter, and I think that’s what you get with a panto.
“Times are hard for people, especially at this time of year with the stress of Christmas, so it is just the total escapism of going and having a laugh with the family and I think that’s great. That’s what keeps people coming back year after year.
“I’m just glad I can finally be a part of one because it’s always fallen that I’ve been in a show at this stage of the year, so that’s why I’ve not been able to do a panto for so long.
“But One Man, Two Guvnors finished early this year. I had a choice between doing a musical over Christmas or a panto, and the fact the panto was in Manchester and closer to home, soppy old me said ‘right I’ll do the panto’. It was a no-brainer.”
Home these days for Jodie is Poulton, where she has settled with her fiancé.
“His business is based in Preston so when I was living in London I never got to see him, plus I didn’t get to see my pets either,” explains animal-lover Jodie.
“So I’ve moved home and I love it. I’ve got all my friends nearby and London is only a two-and-a-quarter hour trip away by train so I can get there in no time if needs be.”
Jodie, 34, has come a long way since working as a mobile nail technician on the Fylde (“I can still do a mean set of acrylics,” she quips), while singing in the working men’s clubs at night. Winning the BBC’s I’d Do Anything propelled her to fame, yet, remarkably, she seems as down-to-earth as she was before showbiz came calling.
“Absolutely, I am,” she insists. “I hate the backbiting element in this profession and I detest anything diva-ish.
“In fact when I see it I’m not the person to be around because I will say something.
“We have people called runners on TV sets and the way some of them are treated by some stars is terrible.
“I remember filming something in Wales and during a break I brewed up for the crew. They couldn’t believe it. They found it weird one of the so-called, quote, talent, would do that. But to me that’s just being normal. I think it comes from my nan. She was a roll-your-sleeves up, pitch in, have-a-laugh type character.”
Jodie looks in brilliant shape and reveals she’s been working on a fitness project, the details of which will be announced soon.
Until then she’s a panto to do. Dick Whittington is at the Opera House in Manchester from Friday Dec 6 to Sunday Jan 5. Tickets priced £10-£35 are available from www.atgtickets.com or by calling 0844 871 3018.