Playing errant gobby mum Cilla Battersby-Brown on Coronation Street makes Wendi Peters perfect casting for the Wicked Queen in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs at the Lyceum Theatre this Christmas.
“I haven’t done panto that many times but I’ve done a lot of Christmas musicals and stuff,” says the soap star.
She actually made her professional debut in the Crucible pantomime in 1985 with Bobby Knutt and returned in 1987 in Babes in the Wood.
The comedy antics of Bobby Knutt were nothing compared with Damian Williams’ capacity to ad-lib and make the rest of the cast corpse.
“He’s being very good at the moment,” she reports. “He is very funny but as the Wicked Witch I don’t feel I should laugh. You want the kids to believe in it. Pantomime so often is a child’s first vision of theatre and you want them to come back and see other things. It’s about transporting them into a different land of the imagination.
“I’ve managed to hold it together so far but I’m sure he’ll get me at some point.
“I trained in musical theatre and it’s what I did for 15 years before Corrie. It’s nice going back to my roots. Many just know me as that horrible woman on Corrie.”
From 2003-7 she played Cilla who left the soap, leaving her son, Chesney, behind. “She turned up in Vegas and then South Africa and was last heard of in Wolverhampton which isn’t quite as glamorous.
“You get people who think you aren’t in work any more because they don’t see you on the telly. I don’t bother correcting them. It’s fine and I’m grateful to the character.
“I am sure I would be still working because it’s my job but it’s opened up so many other things.”
That includes Celebrity Masterchef, where she reached the finals, Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? with Jamie Theakston and Adrenaline Junkie jumping out of a helicopter with Jack Osborne at 9,000 feet over Table Mountain.
On Christmas Eve viewers will see her on a panto edition of Celebrity Pointless teamed with Joe Pasquale.
Recently she has been focusing on theatre. She was part of the ensemble for Terry Johnson’s revival of Oh What a Lovely War which toured the UK and in November did a concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Stage Fair at the Cadogan Hall in London. “There’s been a lot of singing this year.”
Once panto duties are over she will start rehearsals for Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland oppsite Dave Willetts and Tracey Ellis. The British premiere of the multi Grammy and Drama Desk Award nominated musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass will open in Edinburgh at the end of January and go on a UK tour.
“Then in the summer I will be filming Series 3 of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather in which I play the cook. It’s quite nice to have something in the summer months. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs continues at the Lyceum until January 8.