Louie Spence interview

There was only one question asked when anyone heard I spoke to Louie Spence last month. People’s need to know what he was truly like, took precedence over any other detail of our conversation. The truth is, he was simply normal. Enthusiastic, charming and chatty certainly, but today Spence seems distant from his familiar high-kicking TV caricature.

As we speak he’s just off to Bromley, the first stop for him on the nationwide tour of The Producers. He’s certainly upbeat about finally getting the show to the preview stage. “It’s nice to move from the rehearsal studios to having an audience,” he tells me. “So it’s now good fun.” This darkly comic show is based upon the 1968 film of the same name. A theatre producer and an imaginative accountant conspire to stage a sure-fire flop, before absconding with the investor’s money. Their production aims to be the most tactless show ever performed – an all-singing, all-dancing, piece called “Springtime for Hitler”, but nothing is simple… “It’s won so many awards, the theatre show and the film, and it’s got a great script and a great score. So most of the hard work is already done, all we’ve got to do is make sure we’re fabulous!” It’s familiar territory for Spence, who performed in shows like Cats and Miss Saigon before emerging as a reality star. Following this he found himself travelling the world to dance with pop acts like Take That and the Spice Girls.

Later on he would be working on both sides of the Atlantic as a reality talent show judge, but it was whilst working as artistic director at Pineapple Dance Studios that he truly drew the public’s attention. A Sky 1 reality show documented the larger than life characters using those facilities, with Spence and his wild affectations taking centre stage. His antics grabbed viewers affections and facilitated his own show, judging slots on Dancing on Ice, an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and a short stay on celebrity ski jumping show – Jump. “I love doing reality, because it’s not formatted. You can be free, I’m able to pick up on things and make good fun of a situation.” Spence freely admits he’s not usually employed to bring a debate on current affairs, people being more interested in seeing him embarrass minor royals or slinging acerbic put-downs. He’s employed to exaggerate a certain side of his personality, like most people in show business. “It’s more disappointing when people think I’m unhappy because I not kicking my legs up in the air, especially if I’m doing my shopping… just like anyone else.”

The Producers 3 by Manuel Harlan

Whilst recent pantomimes have seen Spence return to the stage, The Producers is certainly his most structured role for ages. Sticking to a rigid set of instructions might present a challenge for someone who revels in spontaneity, but this is originally what he trained for. Having this structure could even take away the responsibility of having to be his TV persona all the time.

This sardonic look at theatrical convention sees Spence line up alongside Cory English, Jason Manford, Tiffany Graves and Phill Jupitus. “It’s a particular type of show, you have to cast it well as it’s so character driven.” For a fun and fast paced show with outrageousness at the core of its appeal, Spence is an inspired choice. He plays Carmen Ghia, the colourful assistant to the equally flamboyant director Roger De Bris. Played by the Olivier Award-winning David Bedella, the actor’s friends all shared a familiar curiously. “When they heard he was working with me, the first thing they all said was: ‘What’s he really like?’ Of course I’m not like that all the time! It would just be stupid and annoying.”

Louie Spence appears in The Producers – The Musical, at Theatre Royal Brighton, on Mon 13 Apr – Sat 18 Apr.


The Producers image by Manuel Harlan

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