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Amanda Holden is a woman who knows how to make an entrance.
That to me was a massive step and was something I wanted to do.’ Other members of the cast include her friends Tamzin Outhwaite – playing former pro-dancer Mavis, who teaches the class – and Tracy Ann Oberman, who stars as loudmouthed mum Maxine.
‘It’s a funny play and it’s a slice of real life because lots of people up and down the country go to dance classes or fitness classes and meet people from all different walks of life.’I wonder how Dominic copes as the only man in the cast. ‘He’s absolutely charming and we all love him, but he doesn’t get involved with all the shrieking, laughing and eating cake that goes on.’After the initial so I’ve been able to get away with legs as hairy as Gary Lineker’s.
There is grit, graft and backbone born from her working-class roots and the strong matriarchal spirit she inherited from her mother and her grandmother Ethel, who, at the sprightly age of 96, will still call or email her most days (Amanda bought her an i Pad) to chat or to tick her off ‘for something I’ve said or worn on the telly’.
There is a flash of that carefully hidden vulnerability when you ask Amanda what drives her and she answers too quickly. ‘There are people out there who are much more talented than me, so I push myself harder and I won’t take no for an answer.’She has worked hard – and consistently – to keep the public on her side. I don’t want television to show women bitching and carping.’and he let people see me as I am.
It usually involves a dramatic frock, big hair and the whole glam shebang, but even in jeans, jumper and no make-up, she can rock a room.
As time goes by and a challenge to put on a show is in place, the women discover things about each others’ lives – from problems with children to difficulties with husbands – and become a tight, supportive group who forge a genuine bond.
She has overcome a scandal that almost engulfed her career (her eight-year marriage to Les Dennis – who is 16 years her senior – ended three years after she had a brief affair with the actor Neil Morrissey in 2000) to alter her public image from ‘nasty little minx and marriage-wrecker’ to one of the most popular and highly paid women on TV. ‘Simon jokes that he loves to set women against each other on his judging panels and I said from the start I would never do that. There will always be people who don’t like me,’ she admits, ‘but a lot more do now – particularly women. 'The main reason I was so thrilled to stand in for Holly Willoughby during her maternity leave from [she did a nine-month stint in 2014-15] was that I’d be able to show a different side of myself.
Alesha Dixon and I have been firm friends from the get-go. I wasn’t wearing the big glam frock; I wasn’t judging people.
‘I’m horribly bossy.’ No doubt Judith will, at some point, end up saying ‘yes’ to a restyle. There’s a drop-dead honesty and well-concealed vulnerability to her – plus she has the wit to laugh at herself and the intelligence never to dodge issues but to confront them head on.
Ask her why she chose to play the snippy Vera over the sexy, confident Maxine, she pauses for a beat before saying, ‘Because she’s got all the best lines, of course! ‘I’m out like a light every night because I’m so knackered.’ (She is also working on a ‘really exciting’ project with QVC, launching in May.) There is another pause. The plan is to work like crazy now and take off most of the summer and next winter. They got to fly across the stage [rigged into the theatrical ‘flying ropes’] and had the backstage of the Palladium as their playground – they loved it.‘Lexi would go through lines with me, which is good reading practice, and Hollie loved every single thing about it.