Claire Sweeney is about to hit the road as Velma Von Tussle in the new touring production of Hairspray.
And the Liverpool actress, whose son Jaxon turns one in September, has spoken of her excitement as she prepares to play a mother for the first time on stage.
Claire, 44, says: “It’s fantastic. It’s a brilliant musical.
“The thing about this show, I saw it on the West End and I’ve seen the movie, people think its fluffy, but there are two big messages in there.
“There’s the racism and it’s also about women coming to terms with their size and embracing it and feeling beautiful.”
Walton-born Claire will star opposite Benidorm’s Tony Maudsley.
The Kirkby actor, who plays Kenneth in the ITV comedy series, will take on the iconic role of Edna Turnblad – previously played by Michael Ball and Phill Jupitus.
Claire too has some big shoes to fill, with Velma previously played by Debbie Harry, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tracie Bennett who won the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.
She can’t wait to take to the stage, admitting touring with a baby does have its advantages.
“I’ve never played a mother on stage before,” says Claire. “So that’s quite exciting.”
“Jaxon’s one in September. It’s gone so fast. He stood up for the first time this weekend.
“The benefits [of touring] are that if I was working in an office I’d be leaving him from 8am or 9am and not seeing him until 6pm. He can come with me everywhere.
“The only time I need someone to keep an eye on him is when he’s going to bed so I’ll have a friend with me or he’ll be with my mum.
“I’m a bit of a gypsy, I do love touring, and I love musicals.
“Hairspray is going to be such good fun, with Tony Maudsley playing Edna. We’ve got a great cast and a great director.”
The Brookside actress turned theatre star also says she would be happy for Jaxon to follow in her showbiz footsteps.
She says: “I’ve travelled, I’ve seen the world and met some lovely people and if he wants to do that of course I’d encourage him.”
Claire and Tony will be joined by former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan as Wilbur Turnblad and X Factor’s Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle.
Meanwhile, Freya Sutton will reprise the role of Tracy Turnblad for the tour, which runs at the Liverpool Empire from October 12-17.
The production – directed by Paul Kerryson – will premiere at Leicester’s Curve Theatre on September 9, before embarking on a 40-week nationwide tour.