RESPLENDENT in red bustle, shawl draped across her shoulders, Jodie Prenger made her name as Nancy in Lionel Bart’s hit musical Oliver!, having won the BBC talent search I’d Do Anything.
Last time she starred in the Capital, her appearance had changed somewhat, the hooped skirt exchanged for buckskin as she morphed into the gun totin’, whip-crackin’ Calamity Jane.
In between, Prenger could be found shimmering in a diaphanous medieval shift as Spamalot’s glamorous Lady of the Lake.
However, eight years on from her TV debut, the 36-year-old reveals that, give her a pair of wellies and a comfortable jumper and she is in heaven.
It’s all to do with her love of animals... and the fact that she has just bought a farm.
“I’ve got loads of animals,” she smiles. “My escape is getting my fake eyelashes off, putting my hair up and mucking in with the chickens and animals.”
The mental picture conjured is one of the actress up to her ankles in slurry in the middle of a pig sty.
“I don’t have any pigs, but I want them,” she says. “I actually want an animal sanctuary because I’m the happiest person when I’m surrounded by my animals.”
Prenger is equally happy on stage, she assures, and having come through the reality TV ranks is candid as she admits that almost a decade on, she is still carving a career for herself in the business she loves.
“It does shock me, especially when I get asked back to Edinburgh. I don’t get invited many places twice,” she laughs. “So I’m thrilled and shocked and I still really enjoy it.
“I hold my hands up and say I’m really lucky, but I also hold my hands up and say I do work really hard.
“When you love something so much, you have to work hard... another reason is that I’ve got all the animals to feed so I’ve got to keep working.”
She laughs again.
Prenger returns to the Playhouse on Monday in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s classic musical Tell Me On A Sunday.
The piece charts the romantic misadventures of a young English girl in New York in the heady days of the 1980s.
Brimming with optimism, she seeks success and love. But as she weaves her way through the maze of the city and her own anxieties, frustrations and heartaches, she begins to wonder whether she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places.
“It is really different from what people are used to seeing me in,” she says. “There’s definitely no buckskin or whip in this. It’s lovely and has the greatest songs, numbers like Tell Me On A Sunday and Take That Look Off Your Face, all Don Black and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest hits.”
She continues, “If I am being brutally honest, I grew up loving those songs, I just didn’t realise until I started on the project what a little gem of a musical it is.
“I love Don Black’s writing and there’s a song called Capped Teeth and Caesar Salad that always just makes me smile when I sing it.
“I don’t really know any other musicals that is as real as this. Because it is about what one woman goes through, people really relate to it. “It can be awful, though, because I often hear people crying in the audience and I want to go, ‘It’s alright, she’s going to be fine. She’s going to be okay. She’ll pull through’.
“That’s what people love about Tell Me On A Sunday; it is a very personal musical, a little chocolate box of a show.”
Unlike other musicals that have brought Prenger to the city, Tell Me On A Sunday comes to town for just one night, Prenger is also the only performer.
“It’s like a full on rock ’n’ roll tour full of one-nighters,” she says, adding with a laugh, “I say rock ’n’ roll but I’m not throwing TVs out of hotel windows or anything like that.
“It’s nice to do one-nighters but also a shame because, apart from when I visited with John Barrowman in concert, we’ve always done a week run at the Playhouse and I just love Edinburgh. I’m just not going to get to see enough of it this time.”
Tell Me On A Sunday, Playhouse, Greenside Place, Monday, 7.30pm, £27.40-£33.90, 0844-871 3014