Jade Ewen brings Tonight’s The Night to Playhouse

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‘ADELE,” says Sugababe Jade Ewen with a big smile, when asked to name an act that could win Eurovision for us. And she should know. In 2009, Ewen came fifth, performing It’s My Time with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, making her the most successful British Eurovision act since 2002.

“But who would want to do it?,” she asks, laughing. “I would love Adele to, but doubt very much that she would because, although we have such an amazing hub of talent, big voices and great singers/songwriters, it is annoying that it has been tarnished so badly that nobody really wants to go up for it.

Jade Ewen. Pic: Comp

Jade Ewen. Pic: Comp

“So I don’t feel we are always represented in the best light. We don’t send the best examples of what we have going on here musically, which is really frustrating.

“That’s why it’d be really cool to have somebody like Adele, who is amazing and credible to represent us. She would be perfect. But I think I’ll have to keep dreaming.”

Ewen’s Eurovision experience is well in the past now, and since the actress, who made her stage debut as the young Nala in the West End production of The Lion King, has gone on to a successful pop career both as a member of Sugababes and in her own right as a solo artist, as well as appearing in TV shows like The Bill and Casualty.

Right now, however, the 26-year-old is returning to her musical theatre roots, starring as Dee Dee in Tonight’s The Night, the comedy musical inspired by the songs of Rod Stewart, which tours to the Playhouse next week.

With a book by Ben Elton, who also wrote the Queen musical We Will Rock You, Tonight’s The Night features more than 20 classic Rod Stewart hits, such as Hot Legs, Baby Jane, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, Maggie May, Forever Young, Sailing and many more.

“I knew of Rod Stewart but didn’t realise how familiar I was with his songs,” admits Ewen. “But I didn’t grow up listening to his stuff... it was before I was born. At the same time, his music is in adverts, it’s on the radio, it is everywhere, so you find you have subconsciously absorbed his songs without even knowing where you know them from.”

Set on the mean streets of Detroit and in the glamorous clubs of uptown LA, the show tells the story of Stu, a shy young man, so tongue tied that he cannot find the courage to declare his love to the girl of his dreams. How different he is to his hero, that legendary rock n’ roll vagabond Rod Stewart.

One night he strikes a deal with the Devil, trading his soul for Rod’s. It seems like a good idea at the time but he’s is about to find out the hard way that you can’t find true love using another man’s moves and that devil or no devil, there’s only one Rod Stewart.

The all-singing, all-dancing feel-good show premiered in London’s West End in 2003, winning the praise of the man himself.

Talking about the current tour Stewart, whose father Robert came from Leith, says, “In the past, any ideas for musicals revolving around my songs just didn’t work for me. It was only when we were approached to do Tonight’s The Night that the idea really took off. I’m absolutely thrilled that this great show is touring the UK again.”

And Ewen is certainly having a ball as Dee Dee. “It’s been great. It is just so funny,” she says.

“Every night something different seems to happen, last night I managed to throw a jacket into the audience by mistake. I was supposed to hand it to the character Mary, and it just left my hand and landed in this woman’s lap. I thought, ‘What do I do now? I don’t know how to get this back.’

“I saw Jenna Lee-James, who plays Mary, look at me with fear in her eyes. So we just stood and stared at this woman, willing her to throw it back to us, but she just kept looking back for ages. Eventually we got it... but it was very funny.”

If there is one thing Ewen is used to, it’s performing before a live audience, as a later recruit to the Sugababes she quickly learned how to work an audience.

“It was mad fun. I can’t even tell you how many places I saw that I never dreamt I get to experience. I learned a lot from the other two girls too, because they’d been doing it for years.

“I didn’t know how to deal with press... promotional stuff... fans... being papped. It was a massive learning curve for me so it was very valuable... and really fun.”

Looking ahead, Ewen concedes that while she won’t give up her recording career, musical theatre is now an important part of her life.

“I definitely see it as part of my future. I don’t know if I would say completely because I’ll always want to make create my own work. But theatre is where I started at 11. My first job was as young Nala in The Lion King. It was so magical.

“ I enjoyed having that experience with an audience every night, with the costumes, the lights, the orchestra. It was such an amazing feeling that it has been a massive part of me every since.”

Back to the present and Ewen is looking ahead to a rather special performance of Tonight’s The Night. There are rumours in the company that Rod will be popping in to see it at some point during the tour.

Ewen reveals, “Rod hasn’t been in to see it yet, but I know that he plans to, that would be amazing. Although I wouldn’t want to know if he was in. I’d want to find out afterwards. I don’t like knowing when anyone I know is in, not that I know Rod, because then I suddenly think ‘Oh I’ve got to be really good’, and then you start forcing things and you’re not as natural. It’s always better when you are relaxed and in the moment and enjoying it. Then if they are there, and you find out at the end, it’s too late, you’ve already done the performance.”

Tonight’s The Night, Playhouse, Greenside Place, Monday-Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £10-£32, 0844-871 3014