Swapping Walford for another London borough in pantoland

Samantha Womack in Dick Whittington at Milton Keynes Theatre
Samantha Womack in Dick Whittington at Milton Keynes Theatre
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samantha Womack may be best known for her dramatic role as feisty Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, but the press were instructed not to talk about the soap when we met her prior to her joining this year’s Milton Keynes Dick Whittington panto cast.

She is due to leave the soap in an explosive story line but has plenty of other things lined up for next year.

She said: “I’ve got a musical coming up in March next year, a film in February in LA and then I do Mount Pleasant which is a comedy for Sky1 in the middle of the year.”

Life as an actor seems to be a very secretive affair as Samantha was unable to tell me any more about the musical, but she did confirm she was excited and it will be performed in this country.

Working across so many genres Samantha confirmed: “Musical theatre is my favourite because if you get to do it with an orchestra there is something that’s elevated with the music. I like the intensity of a play, but there’s nothing like hearing an overture and stepping onto stage with an orchestra.”

And Samantha has stepped onto some pretty impressive stages with fabulous shows including Grease, Camelot and South Pacific.

With a background in music and dance (Samantha represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest when she was just 18, and she spent parts of her childhood watching her choreographer grandmother teaching dancers on cruise liners) it was a dream for her to star opposite the late Patrick Swayze in Guys and Dolls in the West End.

She said: “I danced with Patrick Swayze for about eight weeks. He was just gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. He’d just been diagnosed with being quite sick around that time, but we didn’t know it, but when I look back it always amazes me that he was able to come in and be as clear headed as he was, because clearly he was going through a really difficult time.”

Samantha lives in Bedforshire with her husband, actor Mark Womack and their two children Ben, 15 and Lily, 11. And her daughter will be a constant presence backstage at the Milton Keynes Theatre when Samantha stars as Queen Rat.

She said: “Lily is like my little panto companion, she’s been on the last three with me. She’s just in heaven, she loves it, she puts her name on the dressing room door, she decorates the dressing room for Christmas and she helps with the props.

“I’ve done a few pantomimes, in Canterbury, Sheffield, Hastings. I started doing them again recently because I really enjoy them.

“Steve McFadden from EastEnders said, and he’s right, that it’s a bit like joining the circus for eight weeks, everything just goes a bit mad and there’s loads of colours and glitz and you’ll never find a happier audience than a panto audience.”

Samantha is particularly looking forward to being at Milton Keynes as it is her local theatre.

She said: “I’ve got a relationship with the MK theatre, I did South Pacific and Guys and Dolls here, it is beautiful. I was performing here even when I lived in London, I’ve tended to gravitate towards the modern buildings now, I really enjoy being in them, they’re comfier.”

Dick Whittington is on from Thursday December 8 - Sunday January 15.

Tickets from £14. Box office 0844 871 7652.