Strictly Come Dancing star Craig Revel Horwood on Prince Harry, Alexandra Burke and bringing Sister Act to Norwich

Craig Revel Horwood and Alexandra Burke, the star of Sister Act. Picture Jay Brooks.

Craig Revel Horwood and Alexandra Burke, the star of Sister Act. Picture Jay Brooks. - Credit: Archant

The Royals would be good. Prince Harry? Yes please,' laughs Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood on who would be his dream contestants.

Craig Revel Horwood and Alexandra Burke

Craig Revel Horwood and Alexandra Burke - Credit: Jay Brooks

While many have competed for the highly-sought-after Strictly Glitterball, there are big names and big egos he would like to see in action on the dancefloor. 'I would love to see Simon Cowell on there as it would make great television,' he adds. 'Sharon Osbourne would be great too as she is so mouthy.'

But given one of his trademark withering putdowns, Prince Harry could have Craig sent to the Tower. With another huge belly-laugh, he retorts: 'I like feisty. Why not?'

Feisty is a word that could also describe the main character of his latest project as director and choreographer of a touring production of hit musical Sister Act.

First portrayed on the big screen by Whoopi Goldberg, it is the feel-good story of sassy soul singer Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses a shooting and ends up in protective custody in a convent where she (and her 'Sisters' in every sense of the word) learn some life lessons.


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It is a show that Craig has long been keen to give his stamp. Far from his cutting comments of Strictly he is nothing but pure, unbounded energy and enthusiasm when he talks about the production, which arrives at Norwich Theatre Royal next week with Alexandra Burke as Deloris.

'I saw the movie and I fell in love,' he says. 'I fell not only for Whoopi Goldberg, but for the story as well. I loved the story of the nuns, the fact that it had a soul and development.'

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He was initially asked to do some work on the West End production but that did not work out. So when plans for the current tour came up, he jumped at it.

'I was booked to do it way back when, nine years ago, and I couldn't do it because of timings – but I've always had my heart set on doing it. It came around again and I snapped it up,' he says.

As a director, Horwood has enhanced the highs and lows of the story. 'I've tried to be epic with it,' he says. 'There's a song called Raise Your Voice, where [Deloris] teaches them all to sing. Before that, they're terrible – absolutely dreadful – and suddenly they just go mad, into the stratosphere. You're expecting it, but you're not expecting it to be that good.'

The vocal prowess of Alexandra Burke, who has enjoyed success both as a singer and West End star since winning The X Factor in 2008, speaks for itself, but Craig was keen to release another of her hidden talents.

He explains: 'Alexandra is a natural comedian and people have never seen that side of her, not even in The X Factor. In life, she's funny. It is really wonderful for her to get stuck into some comedy and it really suits her down to the ground.'

He has put his own unique spin on the choreography, but it is not without his challenges. As he says: 'The problem is that a lot of the cast are in habits. You can't see the body at all, you just see the face. As well as choreography, you need to do lots of 'arm-ography' too and there is a lot that nuns cannot do so you have to be quite inventive.'

There is also some nifty work to be done to allow ensemble cast to take on multiple parts and skills. 'They act, they dance but they also provide the music because they play instruments. I do have to say though that it is quite an alarming sight watching a nun with a saxophone,' chuckles Craig.

The show features original music by Oscar winner Alan Menkin – whose credits include Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Tangled. 'We are in the world of gospel music which is uplifting and will give you a big smile on your face,' says Craig.

'It's uplifting,' he adds. 'The positive story of the nuns learning to sing and becoming human is the important thing. Under the habits, they really are people. They might be celibate, they might be spiritual, but they still have human emotion. Deloris teaches them to sing, but they teach her to respect them.'

Though he is now best known for Strictly, Craig has a long list of West End credits, including Olivier Award nominations for Best Choreography on Spend Spend Spend and My One and Only, as well as more recently dircting a revival of Chess. He also still occasionally steps on stage as a performer recently appearing as Miss Hanigan in Annie and is a panto regular.

But with a long list of stage projects on the go as well as his TV commitments, how on earth does he fit everything in?

He laughs: 'I have a good PA and my diary is very well organised. I am genuinely booked up three years in advance so I generally fit in everything around all of that. I love it. I love directing and choreography. It is my passion and joy. That is what I will do until the day I die. It is something I can still do while I still have a brain and the assistance of my body.'

A lesser-known role is that he enjoys teaching the rudiments of dance on a special P&O Cruise before passengers compete with each other for a title — which must be a terrifying propect for those brave enough to put their dancing skills under his gaze.

Does he think he'll ever tire of the endless production schedules, tours and rehearsal rooms? 'I'll never get bored of show business darling – it's my life!' he exclaims.

Sister Act is at Norwich Theatre Royal from May 1-6, 7.30pm, 2.30pm May 3/6, £34.50-£8, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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