Nicki French is looking forward to getting her teeth into another baddie this Christmas.
The former Eurovision singer and chart star is playing The Ice Queen in Santa Claus - The Musical, which opens tonight at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth.
She will be starring opposite A1 singer Mark Read as chief elf Joe in this festive tale of good versus evil – which also happens to be packed with all your favourite Christmas songs.
Nicki was initially offered fairy godmother-style roles in pantos this year by Paul Holman Associates, who she has worked with for the past three years.
But turned them down, as ‘I really relish my baddie roles.
‘Then out of the blue I got this call and they said, “We’re doing Santa Claus The Musical, and there’s a part we think you’d be perfect for – The Ice Queen, would you be up for it?” So I said, “Absolutely, it sounds amazing. I’ve not seen the script, I don’t know much about it, but I’m keen,” and some other performers I know who’ve played the role said it’s great.’
And she loves embracing her (slightly) dark side in these roles.
‘It’s the one time in my life as a performer where I want the audience to boo. It’s great fun – you can go, not exactly over the top, but you can be a bit more unleashed, whereas if you’re the fairy godmother you’ve got me all nice and you’re a bit restricted - smile for everybody, you know? I don’t find them very interesting. You get quite a meaty role and a good script, and hopefully a few decent songs, as the baddie.’
While Nicki admits it’s a while since she’s been this way, she used to play gigs here – she recalls now-closed gay nightclub Martha’s in particular.
And her parents lived in Fareham before she was born. ‘At some point, if I get time, I’m going to head over to Fareham and see if I can find the old home.’
Nicki’s best-known song is a dance cover of Total Eclipse of The Heart, which has often found its way into her panto performances. But not this time: ‘They did talk about trying to get it in here, but I said ‘‘no, it’s completely wrong, this is Christmas songs in this show’’.’
While Nicki is based here for the show’s duration, she’ll be making sure the rest of the cast don’t go hungry – she loves to bake in her digs.
‘I was baking cakes for everyone last year, and inviting people around for a roast dinner a couple of times. And on Christmas Day I invite whoever can’t get home around for dinner. I enjoy it, I love being in the kitchen and baking. The life of someone on a tour or show is that you often pop to the shop and get a microwave meal, but that’s not me.
‘They’ll all be as fat as houses by the time we’re finished,’ she chuckles.
The cast of Santa Claus - The Musical is joined by 16 students from Portsmouth-based Abstract Dance & Performing Arts, as the elves in the show.
Abstract Dance & Performing Arts founder Amber Leigh Mitchell says: ‘We are honoured to be providing the children’s chorus for Santa Claus – The Musical.
‘It is an incredible experience working alongside the amazing cast and as part of a professional production. We cannot wait to watch our students shine on stage!’
The company’s students have performed in the West End and on TV.
Santa claus - THE MUSICAL
New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth