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There's lots to Love as actress helps to re-create the 1950s; GORDON BARR chats to former Emmerdale actress Sian Reeves about her role in the musical Love Me Tender, now at the Sunderland Empire.

SHE played something of a Devil in Disguise in Emmerdale, and now actress Sian Reeves is performing that very song six days a week in new musical Love Me Tender.

As Sally Spode in the Yorkshire soap, her character made few friends. The same could be said of her latest role, that of Mayor Matilda Hyde in the musical, which is based around 25 Elvis Presley songs and at Sunderland Empire from July until Saturday.

"It's an hilarious story about a young guy who comes to this old hicky town in America and tries to make everybody wear blue suede shoes, fall in love and dance," she explains.

"I try to have him arrested.

Then I have a massive meltdown and you realise she's been a ba-a-a-d girl at some time.

"I think this is my first grown-up 'lady' role. That is what attracted me to it. Normally I'm kind of a sexy, floozy person or a girl with a heart; I play a warm person a lot on telly.

"Although I know in Emmerdale as Sally I was such a terrible person. But I think she was the only one I did - she was a rapist, she burned the church down. She made very few friends. What a character."

Love Me Tender is a feelgood musical featuring Elvis Presley's greatest hits. In a small town in 1950s America, a guitar-playing, hip-swivelling stranger rides his motorbike into town. Is he The Devil in Disguise or a Hound Dog in his Blue Suede Shoes? The townsfolk are about to be All Shook Up and could be headed for Heartbreak Hotel, but for Natalie, the love-struck, tomboy mechanic, it really is Now or Never.

"I play Mayor Matilda Hyde and it's not just for Elvis fans," Sian, whom TV viewers will also recognise from hit drama Cutting It, states. "Although we do have a lot of Elvis supporters coming, and they are not disappointed.

The guy who has done the orchestration for this, Matt Spencer Smith, is a genius. When you try to have an 25 Elvis songs sung in two and a half hours, they have to be done so well. He has made each one a kind of anthem.

"You will be blown away by what he has done with the orchestration of the songs. They are beautiful. If you love a good musical, it's a side-splitter, laugh-out-loud musical.

"It's a bit cheesy too. I love you, I love you, and then into It's Now or Never. It's really silly and it's hilarious how you get to my Devil in Disguise. Then I have the American Trilogy added on to it, so I have this five-and-a-half-minute number.

"Mica Paris does the emotional, wonderful singing. She's incredible. Everyone wants to stand up and applaud her as soon as she starts.

"It has been written very tongue-in-cheek. There are 10 leads as well, which is very rare.

You are constantly surprised and engaged by all the different stories that are going on. People have said to me it is the best thing they have ever seen.

"My parents are going bonkers about it - my mum bruised her hand clapping. For 30 years they've been watching me and they went mad about this, so it must be good as they have seen a load of old rubbish."

As we chat backstage, Sian is nursing a bad leg which she says will be healed by the time the show reaches Sunderland. "I ripped a calf muscle doing some amazing dancing. I'm 49 and I am surprised and relieved this is all that has happened to me. I haven't done a musical in 27 years. I wouldn't leave my house and lovely bed to go on the road for nothing. I wanted to be a dancer when I left home at 18 and came to London. But it just didn't work out that way for me.

"I love a bit of jigging around. But you have to look after yourself when you are older, so I am just being careful and sensible."

Sian is also no stranger to the North East and used to perform in Newcastle with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was last here competing in the Great North Run.

"I managed it in two hours 45 minutes. It was a target for me as I had a terrible fall in 2007. For five years I was in constant pain, so that run was a big milestone for me. It was a lovely place to do a run like that , with everyone cheering me on."

You are constantly surprised and engaged by all the different stories that are going on in the showSian Reeves


Sian as Matilda Hyde on stage with some of her co-stars in the Elvis music-themed show Love Me Tender JOHAN PERSSON
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 13, 2015
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