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    Theatre and Dance Previews

    Hayley Evetts
    Hayley Evetts

    There are worse things she could do!

    Katy Lewis
    Hayley Evetts has come along way from those heady days of Pop Idol. She tells us all about playing Sandy in Grease, and how reality TV changed her life.


    Milton Keynes Theatre

    24 -29 April 2006

    Mon–Thurs: 7.30pm

    Fri: 5.30 & 8.30pm

    Sat: 5.00pm & 8.30pm

    Starring Hayley Evetts as Sandy and Paul Manuel as Danny. The company also includes Kristy Cullen who was offered the role by Arlene Phillips live on TV during the final of BBC 1's hit show Strictly Dance Fever.

    Hayley Evetts first came to the nation’s attention as a finalist in Pop Stars before coming fifth in Pop Idol [the one that Will Young won!]. She went on to present "Popstars The Rivals" with Dane Bowers and her own show on Sky TV, "Cruel Holiday".

    Hayley Evetts as the demure Sandy
    Hayley Evetts as the demure Sandy

    But it was playing the classic part of the sweet-natured but rather square Sandy, made famous by Olivia Newton John in the 1978 film, that she made her professional theatre debut in Manchester in 2003/4. She says that she's delighted to be reprising the role for this latest tour, which arrives in Milton Keynes in April.

    Since it first appeared on Broadway in 1972, "Grease" has proved that a simple musical love story can be timeless, although much of its enduring success is down to the back to back classic songs that we all know and love, including "You’re The One That I Want", "Sandy", "Hopelessly Devoted to You", "Greased Lightening" and "Summer Nights".

    It also recently won the viewers’ vote to become the Number One Greatest Musical of Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Musicals programme.

    It's many a girl's dream to play Sandy and Hayley admits to having performed the songs from "Grease" in her bedroom since she was a youngster. She told us all about her transition into musical theatre and how reality TV changed her life overnight.  

    Did you, like many girls 30 years ago (i.e. me!) sing all the songs when you were younger and want to be Sandy?

    Hayley: I did! I was about two when the film came out and my mum said I used to watch Top of the Pops and when Summer Nights came on I'd be right up against the screen mesmerised. Then I'd stand on the sofa and they'd point a light at me singing - so I was Sandy even then! It was also the first film I saw!

    So you were born to perform?!

    The cast of Grease
    The cast of Grease

    Hayley: Yes - But it took me 24 years to realise it!

    There are so many great songs in the show, do you have a favourite?

    Hayley: Oh there are so many! I love "Hopelessly Devoted to You" because the audience love it too, you can hear them singing along! But I also love "You're the One that I Want" because you can have fun in that.

    So do you prefer the demure Sandy or the vamp Sandy?!

    Hayley: I like both. I'm really lucky that I get to play two different characters in one show. It's hard being the sweet and innocent one though, because when people are shouting at you, you want to shout back but you still have to be sweet and innocent and smile. It's difficult playing nice! But I also like the bad Sandy because you can let go and have fun.

    Olivia Newton John was sewn into her tight black trousers in the film. Are yours difficult to get into as well?!

    Hayley: I'm zipped in because I only have 40 seconds to change, but they are still very tight! I have to get my dress off, a wig on, zipped into my costume and have red lipstick put on in that time! But I'm on auto pilot now with it. The first night I did it, it was the most frightening thing ever. Now I'm having a chat when I'm doing it so it's all fine! It's actually quite a long time really!

    How does the stage version compare to the film?

    Hayley: People think they are going to see something that's exactly like the film but it's slightly different. But it's funny and colourful and loud - very loud! If you want a quiet night at the theatre don't come along! But people say to me afterwards that they've had a really fun night and that's nice to be a part of - putting smiles on people's faces.

    What's it been like working with Arlene Phillips? People tend to forget nowadays that she's actually a top choreographer and not just a dance competition judge!

    Hayley: It was wonderful! Scary at times but wonderful!

    Hayley with Paul Manuel as Danny
    Hayley with Paul Manuel as Danny

    For "You're the One that I Want! she did the whole routine about an inch on fronmt of my nose which was petrifying but absolutely brilliant. She really gets the best from you and she's lovely so that was excellent!

    You have gone from Pop Idol finalist to TV presenter to musical theatre star. How did this all come about? Had you acted before?

    Hayley: People were always asking me if you could be in a musical what would it be and I always said "Grease". The producers got in touch with my management at the time and got me to sing Hopelessly Devoted and read a bit. I was fine singing the songs, and if it was just about singing the songs I could have gone on then and there because I'd been singing them since I was two!

    But as far as the acting was concerned I had never had a lesson which was one of the reasons why I didn't know if I should do it or not. Theatre is very difficult to get into, people go to stage school for years and I was just a Brummie girl coming in from a TV show. But then I thought should I just take a chance because it's something I'd always wanted to do? So I did it - but I'd never been so petrified in my life!

    I was really lucky though, I was working with a great group of people who didn't look at me like "who's this girl coming in?" They'd go through it with me and go over bits if I wanted to. They were fantastic people and I was very lucky.

    I guess you just have to go for it when the chance of a lifetime arises?

    Hayley: Yes - I thought you've got to go for it, this is my opportunity!

    You've also done quite a bit of presenting work on TV - which way do you see your career going?

    Hayley: My favourite thing is singing so Grease is perfect because I get to sing every day, but I did enjoy presenting, especially live telly, it's such a rush, especially when you forget your links! But I don't know. I'm doing an album in breaks from the show so we'll see what happens with that.

    What type of music will that be?

    Hayley: Different - it's all new original music, it's a bit rocky, and in a pop style and I've got a live band behind me and they're all men so that's not a bad job either! So I think that's what I'll be concentrating on when "Grease" finishes, whenever that is.

    You are quite a reality TV veteran. You were first in Popstars, and then Pop Idol, what made you go back to do that? Was it just a case of let's have another go?!

    Hayley: Yes - exactly that - keep going. Popstars was an open audition where you could just turn up and I was on my day off from work so I went along. No one knew I could sing really at that stage, not even my mum, so I just thought I'd go along and see what it was like. But then I got really far! It was a bit unreal, I was working in a fancy dress shop and then I got to the last 18 out of however many thousands it was!

    Pop Idol came straight after that and you had to fill in a form and send it off. I thought that as Popstars was my first attempt and I did really well, I'd have another go. I'd had a good experience and picked up a lot of tips from the first one. So I did it - and thank god I did!

    Life has changed a lot from the days in the fancy dress shop then?!

    Hayley: Yes and it was overnight, very dramatic. When I got to the final 50 - where they did five shows of ten people in each, I walked into the studio in the morning and just walked around normally. Then by 10.30pm when we were having a drink afterwards in the pub it was like - "you're that girl off the TV". It was bizarre that I walked out of the studio and people knew me. Even my mum thought it was odd.

    But it was also a good thing because we were all thrown in at the deep end and had to deal with it. It was only when it was over that we took a breath and said "Wow that was huge"! But it was scary then, when we were left to our own devices and we had to find management and find jobs.

    They [the show] open this world of celebrity and showbiz which was great and we were just people from normal walks of life. But then it was like "thanks guys" and we were all like "well, what do we do now?"!

    But it was great experience. It built my confidence beyond belief. I was painfully shy when I was younger and had no self-confidence. Then afterwards, when I went for presenting jobs, it didn't bother me making a fool of myself in front of loads of people! I will always be grateful for it. We also learnt how to pick ourselves up when we're knocked down.

    Do you still see anyone from those shows?

    Hayley: Yes - I still see Will [Young] and his brother and Jessica [Liberty X] and Darius. In fact all 10 of us [the finalists] still text each other now and then. We do all keep in touch and we keep talking about a five year reunion but it's great that after four and a half years we're all still in touch with people that we wouldn't have been friends with otherwise.

    Getting back to "Grease", it was recently voted No. 1 musical in a Channel 4 poll. What is it about the show do you think that makes it so special and keeps it so popular?

    Hayley: It was also voted the No. 1 film watched by women, in another survey!

    It's just a high school love story and lots of people have been there. It's always on Tv now and it's passed on through generations and the songs are fantastic. You see all the generations in the audience - grans, mums and grand daughters - it's just a fun feel good show!

    It doesn't lose it's spark - it's one of those films that will always be there. We've got four year olds coming to see it now, so I know it will be around for another 30 years! It's wonderful!

    last updated: 21/04/06
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