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Interviews

'Faye STEPS Forward again!'

Posted 1st December 2006, BBC.co.uk
Written by Katy Lewis

The classic British musical Me and My Girl, Lambeth Walks its way to the Milton Keynes Theatre this month starring, amongst others, Dunstable’s own Faye Tozer as Sally Smith.

Faye made her name in the pop phenomenon that was the cart-topping group Steps, whose hits included 5,6,7,8, Last Thing On My Mind and Tragedy. Since their split in 2001, Faye’s career in musical theatre has gone from strength to strength with credits include the recent UK tours of Tell Me On A Sunday and Love Shack and the West End production of Saucy Jack and The Space Vixens, playing ‘Jubilee Climax’.

Clearly loving every minute of this new direction, I caught up with Faye during the tour where she told me all about her latest role, her new career and whether she has really left Steps far behind.

How would you describe Me and My Girl?
Faye: One quote that our producer has always used is "wonderful, beautiful and marvellous" from the lyrics of Me and My Girl. It's a really uplifting, sunny, happy show. It's a kind of Pygmalion type tale - a guy (Bill Sibson) who has nothing finds that he’s heir to a fortune - it's kind of a rags to riches story.

And you are playing the main love interest?
Faye: Yes - I play Bill's girlfriend, Sally Smith who's a little Cockney sparrow. She is dedicated to him and basically sacrifices their relationship to let him do his thing, become the heir and become Lord Hareford.

And there’s and all star cast?
Faye: Yes - the cast is fabulous. We've got Dillie Keane, the well-known comedienne, Trevor Bannister from Are You Being Served, Sylvester McCoy who was the seventh Dr Who, and Richard Frame from Family Affairs, who's playing Bill.

The show was first on the stage in 1937 and revived in 1984 where it was a huge hit for Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson. What do you think keeps it so popular?
Faye: It's actually the 70th anniversary this year which is why they revived it. I think there's a new fashion in theatre, where those 1930s/40s shows are coming around again. I don't know if it's because we've got a bit of tragedy going on at the moment with wars and terrorism and everything and people need something happy and funny and light to bring their spirits up again, but it does seem to be the trend in theatre at the moment to bring that sort of musical back. And the lovely thing about it is the innocence of the comedy in it and the way it's written. It's so light-hearted and everybody can understand it.

People might think that because it’s the 70th anniversary of the show it’s a bit ancient but it is very upbeat isn't it?
Faye: Yes - it really is. Take the music - one of my favourite pieces is The Sun Has Got His Hat On which is a massive tap piece, really, really bright and really, really sunny and everybody knows it, so you can't lose really.

Stephen Fry adapted it from the original didn’t he?
Faye: Yes - when it was written in 1937 they had to take a few things out because of the time of it, like kissing and stuff, because you weren't allowed to do that on stage so Stephen originally revived the original script for the 80s production and has made a few revisions for this one, just tiny things really, little tweaks here and there.

But it’s a more modern version than would have been seen in the 1930s?
Faye: Yes - what we've done with this particular version is that we've swapped a few things round because we understand that the audiences these days don't have the patience capacity that they may have done 20 years ago.

We've made it slightly faster, more upbeat and quicker paced. For example, with my own part, when Sally would keep on coming back and coming back, we get rid of her rather than dragging out that side of the story on so once she's gone, she's gone. But I think they're all fair changes. It doesn't change the storyline at all, it just makes it quicker paced for our audience.

So it’s adapted for the DVD nation?!
Faye: Yes – absolutely, that's exactly what it is. But it doesn't lose any tradition. We haven't made it modern.

You seem to be very well established in musical theatre now, is this the way you see your career going?
Faye: Yes absolutely. I really love theatre. I adore it, it really suits me well. I love changing shows every six months, I love meeting new people and learning new skills. I love the lifestyle as well. Once you've done your manic rehearsal period, it's nice to have the days to yourself and travel round the country. I'm good touring as well, I'm quite happy living out of a suitcase. I love it - this will suit me for a little while yet. My agent is trying to get me into more straight acting and TV acting and stuff but personally I'm quite happy on the stage.

Are there any parts you really fancy having a go at?
Faye: Absolutely yes - I've got a long list of things that I want to do!

I'm not quite old enough for it yet but I'd like to do Mrs Johnston in Blood Brothers and I'd still like to have a crack at Chicago, but not Roxy. I'd like to do Thelma because I think her part's a bit more meaty. And I know it's cliché, but I'd like to do Sandy in Grease before I hang my shoes up.

The whole beauty about theatre and this side of things is that there is no age limit, there's always another part to go to and that's why I'm so grateful that I've been accepted into this industry, having come from a pop background. I know that I've had to do the grind and I've had to start from scratch but it's been well worth it and I think this sort of career has got longevity.

You seem to have left Steps far behind – I want to say - is that a tragedy? – but I won’t?! Do you feel that you have moved on well?
Faye: I do - it's actually coming up to five years ago this Christmas that we split and we were together for five years but the thing is, you never leave Steps behind because people remind you of it every day.

So, it doesn't feel like it's that far away but personally I think I've gained so much from making a new career for myself. Those days are gone and I've got great memories of it but I'm quite happy to be where I am.

So, the time is coming when they'll stop saying Faye Tozer from Steps on the poster?
Faye: No - I don't think so. I think I'm always going to have that. You look at Sylvester McCoy - he was brought up doing all sorts, he's toured the world and done a million other things and he's still Sylvester McCoy who was Dr Who and I'm always going to be Faye Tozer from Steps.

But you know what - I don't mind, I really don't mind. People know me from that and I've been blessed with entry to this world at a higher level because of that, so I'm grateful for it and just take it on the chin.

Well - there are far worse things you can be known for!
Faye: Exactly!

You’re local aren’t you – from Dunstable?
Faye: Yes – and I'm really looking forward to Milton Keynes, I really am. I've got so many friends around there that I haven't seen for ages and my family of course. I've been to Milton Keynes Theatre twice to do shows and I'm really excited because I love it. It's local and all the people at the theatre are really great and I'm going to be staying just down the road which is nice. It's going to be good – I can't wait!

Finally then, why should people buy tickets for the show?
Faye: Because it's just so uplifting and you'll come out singing. It's a cracking night out - it really is!

 

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