Maureen breaks loose in hit musical comedy
And she’s back on stage in the North West this week (March 14-19), this time in a story with a rather more upbeat tone, in Footloose at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.
It’s only a few weeks in and the tour’s proving popular, with extra dates still being added to the run – including Blackpool’s own Opera House from Monday to Saturday, September 19 to 24.
“It’s obviously good for me financially, as well as it being a brilliant job to have,” Maureen said. “I did Footloose eight years ago or something, but I’d forgotten how good it is.
“It’s an actor musician show this time, which is more incredible; really these youngsters, gosh I sound like a granny – which I am, but they are dancing, singing, playing instruments and acting all at once. It’s incredible and fantastic to watch.”
Where Blood Brothers is usually remembered for its tragic ending, Footloose is somewhat more light-hearted, so how does Maureen adapt?
“It’s certainly very different to Blood Brothers,” she explained. “Although people forget that there’s a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in Blood Brothers for the first three quarters of the show.
“The good thing about Footloose is that like a lot of 70s and 80s musicals, they are a lot of fun, but this has a story based on truth so there is substance to it.
“A reverend did ban dancing, that actually happened and it’s based on that.”
Resort-based actress and singer Maureen plays Rev Moore’s wife Vi, and like Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, she’s a strong mother figure, torn between her husband’s dancing ban and her daughter.
“It’s a nice role,” she said. “She’s not in it a great deal, but it’s kind of a holiday for me after Blood Brothers for so long when you’re on stage all the time.
“I went into that in 2005 in the West End for two years and have been in and out on tour since then, so it’s nice to get a change.”
In the cast, Maureen’s got some good Lancashire company in Blackpool and The Fylde College graduate Natalie Morton-Graham, from Accrington, who’s making her UK tour debut in Footloose, and the pair have been sharing digs on the road.
“She’s amazing,” Maureen said. “She plays trumpet, saxophone, keyboard and is dancing around with her sax, does a bit of acting and does a great job of it all.
“We just get on so well. Just as I’m thinking about going out, Natalie will say ‘Shall we get our pyjamas on?’. She’s calling herself the granny of the tour.
“It really helps to have a lovely cast, it makes it easier on tour. There’s a lot of massive trips to do, we went from Edinburgh to Lowestoft and at one point we do Torquay to Glasgow. It’s not too bad after Manchester though, we’re then on to Carlisle.
“Me and Natalie travel through the night between venues after the Saturday show then we get Sunday at home. I have three granddaughters and my husband, so I have to get back to see them, even if it’s less than 24 hours.”
Besides getting a chance to see family, Maureen’s a passionate supporter of her hometown - and willingly spoke out in The Gazette against sister Coleen’s criticism of the resort in a national newspaper column last year.
With family feuds between the former girl group the Nolan Sisters - made up of Bernie, who died in 2013, Anne, Denise, Maureen, Linda and Coleen - in their recent history, this was perhaps a brave move on Maureen’s part.
But she says relations are all good at the moment.
“We have had some rough years, but you have to get through,” she said. “We are all speaking again which is lovely. Life is good for the Nolans at the moment.
“People identify with the family; it’s really funny, since the rows happened, people come up to me saying ‘I didn’t speak to my sister or whoever for a year’.
“I didn’t ever think it would happen between us, so I’m delighted we’re back on track.”
• Footloose, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Monday to Saturday, March 14 to 19, and Opera House, Blackpool, September 19 to 24.