Coronation Street star Wendi Peters talks ahead of role in Wonderland at Wolverhampton Grand
She used to be the Queen of the Street. But now Corrie star Wendi Peters – aka Cilla Battersby – is the Queen of Hearts.Following sold out seasons across the globe, the multi Grammy and Drama Desk Award-nominated Wonderland has received its UK and European première.
A new British production, which visits Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Monday until August 5, stars Wendi as the Queen Of Hearts.
It also features leading musical theatre star Dave Willetts as the White Rabbit, with We Will Rock You & Britain’s Got Talent’s Rachael Wooding as Alice.
Wendi says: “My job as an actress is to be creative. I just love the process of reading something off the page and thinking through how I’m going to best tell the story. I don’t like doing anything for too long – I played Cilla Battersby in Coronation Street for four years, the longest time I’ve ever worked on the same role. It got to that point where I wasn’t doing anything different and I knew I needed to create something new and get back out there to do theatre again, where I’d learnt my craft.
“People would watch me on TV four times a week and think that’s all I could do, but they perhaps didn’t realise that for 15 years before Coronation Street I’d been in musical theatre – it’s lovely to go back to my roots and have a good old sing every night.”
The music in Wonderland is one of Wendi’s most favoured aspects. And she’s thrilled to be lining up alongside David, the Birmingham-born singer and actor who left his job as a quality control supervisor at an engineering firm to pursue his dream of being a star.
David went on to feature in the West End in Les Miserables, in the lead role of Jean Valjean, before joining the Broadway cast. He then succeeded Michael Crawford in Sir Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Wendi loves the musical element of Wonderland.
She says: “The music is just amazing, Wonderland has a wonderful score by Frank Wildhorn with great vocals from everybody in the cast. There’s music from every genre, there’s rock, pop, pure musical theatre, boyband and even a bit of classical, there’s something for every age. There’s a modern twist on it – our Alice is 40 now and she has a teenage daughter, once she’s back in Wonderland you meet all the familiar characters you know and love. There is the twist of the Looking Glass, anybody could change at any point.
“For this production we had nothing really to copy and that’s lovely. I don’t think that any actor should ever copy what’s been before, but of course if the material’s out there you’re going to have a sneaky look at what’s been done previously. Apart from a performance by the Broadway cast at the Tony Awards there’s little else of Wonderland online and I love that because I can think through the character myself and be my best interpretation of the role and hopefully bring something new to it.”
She found her way into the role of Queen of Hearts, taking inspiration from a number of sources. However, given that the British play is a UK first, she was able to create the role from scratch. And she’s hoping local audiences will enjoy her portrayal – even though eating so many jam tarts has been no good for her waistline.
“With the Queen Of Hearts, there are so many different versions of her. The one that always stands out for me is the Disney film and that’s probably the image that springs to mind for most people. There’s a little bit of myself in my characterisation and I think that for any actor, to play the role truthfully there must be a little bit of their own self in the character.”
“As the Queen Of Hearts, I do a lot of shouting, sing a few numbers and eat three jam tarts every show. By the time we get to Wolverhampton we’ll have done about 200 shows, so I’ll have eaten 600 jam tarts.
“It’s always fun to play the baddie, but you must find something within them that does make people like them a little bit. I’d like to think that there will be a little bit of all my comedy heroes in my Queen Of Hearts. I love Molly Sugden, Peggy Mount and Patricia Routledge who played Hyacinth ‘Bouquet’ Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances – you can’t help but love Hyacinth, she’s a monster but part you that says ‘oh isn’t she wonderful.’”
l WONDERLAND is now on sale at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre for performances between 31 July – 5 August 2017. Tickets from www.grandtheatre.co.uk.