THE glamour, the costumes, the songs - and those dance routines. A touch of old fashioned Hollywood is heading to Manchester next week when the spectacular musical 42nd Street arrives at the Opera House.

For Samantha Womack, one of the stars of the show, the current UK tour could not have been better timed.

“I think we all need a little escapism more than ever,” said Samantha, who plays faded star Dorothy Brock is this all-star production which also features Michael Praed, Faye Tozer and Les Dennis.

Messenger Newspapers: Samantha Womack in 42nd Street (Picture: Michelle George)

“There is something about nostalgia and escapism which is very important to people right now. Maybe it’s a chance to remember your nana or your parents and the music they loved, I’m not sure, but it’s just such an infectious show. Audiences have been on their feet every night which is amazing.”

Featuring classic songs such as We’re in the Money and I Only Have Eyes for You, 42nd Street follows the cast of a musical preparing to bring a new show to Broadway in the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression.

“People are very careful about what they spend their money on at the minute,” said Samantha, “but there is something about this show. It is multi-generational, it has this element of a show within a show; there’s a beauty to it and it’s sparkling and glittery but it’s also got heart.

“I think people feel more inclined to part with cash when it’s something uplifting.”

The show’s relevance to modern audiences is not lost on any of the cast.

“It’s set after the Great Depression and there’s a kind of desperation and excitement for the performers to get back on to the stage,” said Samantha. “You can’t help but recognise the parallels with what we went through with the Covid pandemic.

“Within our industry funding for the arts is being taken away. You had the Government talking about actors and musicians going to get a ‘proper job’. There was panic within industry.

“But the arts are the way people connect in times of tragedy so when the chips are down people want to get together to sing songs, they want a story, they want to communicate through art.

“There is something about being in a theatre all together watching the same thing at the same time. There’s this electricity that happens. For me I don’t think you can beat it.”

Messenger Newspapers: Anthony Ofoegbu and Samantha Womack in 42nd 
Street                                                (Picture: Johan Persson)

Samantha first came to prominence as a teenager when represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest - as Samantha Janus. Her song A Message to Your Heart came tenth.

From there both TV and film roles followed, beginning with the series Game On. For TV viewers she is best known for spending eight years in EastEnders playing Ronnie Mitchell.

Since leaving Albert Square she has become a hugely successful stage star appearing in shows such as The Addams Family, The Girl on The Train and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She has also appeared in two of the Kingsman movies.

“I have spent a lot of time doing film and TV but it always comes back to theatre for me,” she confessed. “I always feel that from the minute I go into the dressing room and set all my stuff out.

“Then you start to hear the audience through the little speaker in your dressing room. You just get that buzz of anticipation.

“Then the band strikes up and something happens to you when you walk on to the stage. For two hours you are transported into something else.

“You just don’t get that with filming; it’s a different art form.”

In 42nd Street Samantha admits she gets the chance to release her inner diva as Dorothy Brock.

“Well, a little bit of it anyway,” she laughed. “In the past she has sometimes been played as the stooge, really as a comedy turn who is terrible at everything.

Messenger Newspapers: Samantha Womack in 42nd Street
(Picture: Michelle George)

“That has a certain pull but Dorothy was a star in her own right who was big back in the day. I think it’s important to show audiences that side of her otherwise she’s got no heart to her.”.

“She is a star; an actress and singer who is effortlessly talented but not when it comes to dancing.”

So how hard is it to dance badly on stage and be convincing?

“That’s a real challenge,” she said. “It’s like when Les Dawson used to play the piano. The comedy comes from playing just the odd note badly rather than playing every note wrong.”

Samantha admits that her experience of playing Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train has helped her in this show.

“She had to be drunk for about three quarters of that show but the minute you start to overdo it, it doesn’t look real,” she said. “Drunk people are trying incredibly hard not to appear drunk. It’s the same with a bad dancer trying so hard to dance. That’s where the comedy is.”

42nd Street is coming to Manchester at the end of an extensive UK tour, but being on the road is something Samantha admits she really enjoys.

“I genuinely enjoy it, I think it’s in my blood,” she said. Her partner Oliver Farnworth whom she met on Girl on the Train is also in the show and they are touring in a camper van.

“Although in Manchester we will be staying with Les Dennis and his family,” she said. “But that’s the thing about touring. You develop your own sort of little family around you.”

Les had been juggling shows with rehearsing for Strictly Come Dancing until he became the first celebrity to be voted off.

“Secretly I think we’re all pleased to have him back but he did really well on the show,” said Samantha.

42nd Street, Manchester Opera House, Monday, October 16 to Saturday, October 21. Details from www.atgtickets.com