AFTER two years playing Fantine in the West End production of Les Miserable, arguably the best known musical of all time, Carley Stenson is now preparing to spend the next seven months of her life touring the country in a brand new production.

Carley is starring alongside Jason Manford and former Strictly champion Ore Oduba in the comedy musical whodunnit Curtains which premieres in Manchester next week.

“After two years in Les Mis it definitely feels as though I’m ready for a bit of comedy again,” said Carley. “I haven’t done that for a while.”

Set in 1959, Curtains sees Jason Manford playing musical loving homicide detective Frank Cioffi who is called in to investigate when the leading lady of a new Broadway musical is murdered on opening night.

Carley plays Georgia Hendricks one of the songwriters of the show alongside her ex-partner, played by Ore Oduba.

Having been part of a juggernaut of a show like Les Miserables, Carley is excited about the opportunities Curtains will give her to develop a new character.

“I’m looking forward to the comedy element and how to make her quirky and different,” she said. “It’s certainly going to be a complete change from being in Les Mis where everyone has an idea about how the characters should be.

“I remember when I first started in Les Mis thinking it was going to be a lot of pressure as everyone wants their Fantine to be done a certain way but actually apart from really early on, that pressure never really materialised.

“The people who love the show are so supportive of it and anyone who comes into that I felt an immense wave of support the moment I started.”

To TV viewers Carley will still be remembered for playing Steph Cunningham in Hollyoaks for 10 years.

“I can see how some people might think it’s a heck of a leap to go from Hollyoaks to Les Mis,” she laughed. “But when I first started performing it was musical theatre; it was singing and dancing.

“Auditions came my way and the first one that stuck was Hollyoaks but at that time I’d say I was a dancer who could sing and then maybe act a little.

“So then with Hollyoaks I became an actor who sang and hardly danced so it all completely swapped around.

“I think in my heart I was always aiming towards musical theatre but I was fortunate enough to get Hollyoaks which became like a second home and I loved it.

“I was fortunate enough to get all these great varieties of storyline with an amazing character who could do comedy and could do drama and could be the bitch. Literally I had the dream role in Steph and that’s what kept me there for so long.

“I had different storylines every month and just loved the people I was working with. I was only 25 minutes from home and I did get really comfy there.”

But in 2011 Carley left Hollyoaks in the most dramatic of fashions, her character being killed off in the infamous ‘fire week’ and from there she returned to her first love.

Since leaving the soap she has had starring roles in a number of musicals including Spamalot, Shrek and Legally Blonde as well as Les Miserables and now gets the opportunity to take Curtains to a audiences around the country.

“I’m just looking forward to it so much,” she said. “There are some good sing-y numbers in the show and it’s going to be such fun. I think everyone in the show has got some comedy in them so I’m really looking forward to it and having a laugh.”

Carley is even looking forward to spending the next few months on the road even through it will mean she won’t be spending much time with husband,West End leading man and Strictly star Danny Mac - the couple married in 2017.

While Carley will be touring with Curtains, Danny will be on the road with a new musical version of the movie Amelie.

“Our day is Sunday,” said Carley. “We have a shared calendar and do our utmost to keep that day clear. Sundays are sacred and we aim to be together on that day wherever we are in the country.

“It has been absolutely wonderful when we have actually been able to live together for a period of time but we both understand the business we are in, it’s something we’ve always known.

“Plus,” she laughed, “it means we don’t get sick of each other. But you do make it work and it also means that Sundays have real quality time attached to them.”

For many actors, long tours are the thing that can get them down, but Carley loves life on the road.

“It’s true, I actually love it,” she said. “I love being paid to go and see this wonderful country. I’ll be on the train to the next venue and wondering what the people will be like, what my room’s going to be like. I’m so excited.”

Opening in Manchester - the show previewed in Bromley this week - is particularly special for Carley who group up around Wigan.

I get to open the show with all my family and friends there,” she said. “That will be extra special.”

n Curtains, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Tuesday, October 8 to Saturday, October 12. Details from