Wendi Peters stars as Princess Puffer in a revival of Rupert Holmes’ 1986 musical version of Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which transfers to the Arts Theatre this week (18 May-17 June) following its recent run at the Landor.
Peters is best known for playing Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street, and has appeared on stage in a variety of productions including Brighouse’s The Game, April In Paris, Cecelia Ahern’s Mrs Whippy, Grumpy Old Women Live 2 – Chin Up Britain and Noises Off.
Also no stranger to musicals, Peters has appeared in national tours of Hello Dolly! and Guys and Dolls, as well as The Scarlet Pimpernel, Into the Woods (Wolsey, Ipswich) and Follies in Concert (London Palladium).
Date & place of birth? Born 29/02/1968 in a village called Whalley near Blackburn in Lancashire. I'm a Leap year baby so only really 11!
Lives now in? I now live just outside London on the Herts/Bucks border and love how easy it is to commute but also have beautiful countryside surroundings.
What made you want to become an actor? Like most little girls I went to ballet classes and it progressed from there with festivals, school plays and amateur shows. I loved watching the old MGM musicals as a child and wanted to be in them too.
If you hadn’t become an actor, what might you have done professionally? I don't really know what I'd have done if I hadn't become an actor, it was all I ever really wanted to do. However I have a real love and passion for cooking and baking, even have a blog - wendipeterspuddingqueen.blogspot.com - so maybe I would have had a career in the culinary world somewhere.
First big break? My first big break for me personally was getting my first big musical, Hello Dolly (where I also met my husband, Kenny) just after leaving drama school. I didn't have an agent so spent hours writing and sending letters and photos off to production companies and theatres and eventually it paid off.
Career highlights to date? Career highlights to date are plenty but personal favourites are singing "I Know Things Now" from Into the Woods at Theatre Royal Drury Lane to celebrate Stephen Sondheim's 75th birthday, performing a one woman play called Mrs Whippy, written by Cecelia Ahern, in Dublin and on tour in Ireland and, of course I'd have to say playing Cilla in Corrie. She was such fun and has brought me so many amazing opportunities.
Favourite co-stars? There are lots of favourite co stars but I'm going to pick out three; Sam Aston, who plays my son, Chesney, in Corrie. He was such a joy to work with (knew everybody's lines) and had everyone in stitches on set; Susie Blake, who I was in Corrie briefly with (we shared a dressing room) and then we performed together in Grumpy Old Women. Amazing to watch every night and I learned so much from her; and finally Jos Vantyler, who I appeared in a play with for Northern Broadsides theatre company. A star of the future and the funniest person I know whose favourite phrase, when referring to a performance, is 'Trick it Up'!
“ I don't know if I'll ever return to Coronation Street but never say never”
Favourite playwrights? Favourite playwrights are many but I love the northern writers for their grit and comedy all in one... Harold Brighouse for Hobson's Choice and The Game (which I appeared in with Broadsides) and John Godber, Willy Russell and Alan Ayckbourn for more modern plays.
What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you? The first show I saw on stage that had a big impact on me was Annie. It was part of our first family London trip when I was about ten and my sister and I didn't know we were going to see it. It was such a wonderful surprise and experience, a big West End theatre and a fantastic show, I knew then that it was definitely for me.
And the last? The last thing I saw with a big impact sort of ties in with my last answer as it is an amazing new musical dominated by brilliant child performances, Matilda. We had a family outing at Christmas and took my daughter, who's 11, and she fell in love with it. I think she may have the 'theatre bug'... help!
What's the best advice you have ever received? The best advice I've ever received is 'treat others as you would like to be treated'.
Do you often get recognised? Being recognised has quietened off a lot since leaving Corrie and it helps living in London as people don't expect me to be here. I tend to get a lot of 'don't I know you from somewhere' nowadays.
Would you ever return to Coronation Street? I don't know if I'll ever return to Coronation Street but never say never. Cilla is still alive somewhere and has family members living on the cobbles, so who knows.
Favourite book? I'm not a great reader, it's not something I'm proud of, but I will always remember reading Jane Eyre at school, loving it, and being fascinated by the Bronte sisters. Nowadays I tend to pick up and read biographies.
Favourite holiday destination? We love relaxing hoildays as a family as well as city breaks. We loved a cruise we went on last year around all the Caribbean Islands and also love New York trips for the theatre.
Why did you want to get involved with this production? I wanted to get involved in this production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood because it has a score that I have loved for 25 years and was desperate to sing and also it has been lovely working with the director Matthew Gould again as we were at drama school together.
Are you a Dickens fan? I am a huge Charles Dickens fan. His novels are full of wonderful characters and I feel very lucky to be playing one of them.
What’s your favourite song in the show? My favourite song in Edwin Drood (and it isn't one of mine) is "No Good Can Come From Bad". It's a wonderful tricky six part number with the most fabulous lyrics.
How does it feel to be bringing it to the West End? After having a great time at The Landor Theatre in Clapham, I'm thrilled that we are bringing 'Drood' back to the West End 25 years after the original production. I feel it's time people heard this wonderful score again and what better time than in Dickens bicentenary year.
What have you got lined up next? I don't know for definite what I've got lined up next but that's what I love about this business. Hopefully something completely different again, as I love change and a challenge.
Wendi is splendid- I reviewed the show at the Landor and am thrilled that it has now reached the West End. In the first half she shone forth, with some very strong performers around her, then in the second half she dazzled and sparkled, inspiring everyone to the same high level. I'll be joining in with them on Tuesday, looking forward to an excellent evening's entertainment. - charlesdickenslondon
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