Mica Paris on her love of musical Love Me Tender

Mica Paris as Sylvia in Love Me Tender. Picture: Contributed
Mica Paris as Sylvia in Love Me Tender. Picture: Contributed
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SHOPPING. One of the main reasons singer Mica Paris loves being in the Capital. But when the Celebrity MasterChef semi-finalist is not to be found lost among the clothes rails of the city’s finest boutiques this week, the stage of The Playhouse is where she will be, taking a trip back to 1950s America in the hit musical, Love Me Tender.

“Edinburgh, for me, is always about shopping,” says the bubbly star. “It’s where I find really unique, creative designers.

“I Love it.”

Paris first visited the city when she was just 16, making an appearance at the Fringe in a gospel choir.

“I did a show as a gospel singer and that was before I was even signed to a label,” says the 46-year-old, who also played her first professional concert in Scotland some two years later.

She reflects, “The only other times I have been in Edinburgh were to do Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show - we hung out in Malmaison in Leith - and to go shopping.”

It’s Love Me Tender, from the producers of Hairspray and West Side Story, that brings her back this time, a hilarious, feel-good musical boasting a back catalogue of Elvis Presley classics.

In a small town in 1950s America, a guitar-playing, hip-swivelling stranger rides his motorbike into town.

Is he The Devil in Disguise or a Hound Dog in his Blue Suede Shoes?

The townsfolk are about to be All Shook Up and could be headed for Heartbreak Hotel, but for Natalie, the love-struck, tomboy mechanic, it really is Now or Never.

Paris plays local bar owner Sylvia.

“Everyone looks at Sylvia and goes ‘Don’t mess with her, she’ll take you out!’, which is me in real life,” she laughs. “Actually, people assume that because I’m 5ft 10ins I’m going to bite their head off, but I’m completely the opposite, a gentle giant.

“It’s my sister you’ve got to worry about. She’s only 5ft 1in but she is hard core.

“Anyway, into this bar, in a drab little town, comes a guy who looks like Elvis. He completely changes everyone, suddenly they are all falling in love with each other. It’s hilarious.”

The award-winning and platinum album selling singer co-stars in the piece with ex-EastEnder and Extras favourite Shaun Williamson and admits she is having a blast.

That has come as a bit of a surprise, as her last experience of theatre, a musical called Mama I Want to Sing, left her less than inspired.

“The thing is, I’ve never really seen myself as a thespian and have never had any aspirations of being one,” she explains.

“I did a play on the West End about 20 years ago. It was a gospel musical and through it I kinda fell out of love with the theatre.

“Even though everybody loved me in it, I had a problem. It wasn’t for me. I was way younger then and had been doing albums and touring for so many years that I don’t know if my head was ready for it. It was too monotonous for me....

“Or maybe it was the show, maybe it was just too close to home. I’ve been running from the church ever since,” she laughs. “You know what I mean; I went to the church from the time I was born for 15 years. Not that I regret it, but trust me, I have enough church in me, I don’t need any more.”

Thankfully the singer is having much more fun this time around.

“I’ve always said I don’t mind playing people who are close to me, but I’m never going to try to play somebody else. That’s just not going to happen.

“It would be hard for me to be anyone but me. When I read this script I thought, ‘Oh she is me; I can do this.

“Then when my mother, who is devoted to Elvis, found out, well that was it.

“I think I was seven when Elvis died, and it was just a disaster. She was crying for weeks. I was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ She said, ‘Elvis has died’. I said, ‘But you didn’t even know him!’

“I couldn’t understand it. So when I called her up and said I was going to do this, that was it; I’ve been in the business 28 years but she was like, ‘That’s it, finally you’ve done it. This is it’.”

When Love Me Tender premiered on Broadway in 2005 it had a very different title. Then, it was called All Shook Up - it was been retitled for its UK premiere. The good news, however, is that it is still packed with 25 of The King’s best-loved songs, all fitted around a funny and moving tale of hope, second chances and the healing qualities of rock’n’roll.

“You know, I never felt daunted by these classic songs because Elvis is very gospel,” says Paris. “He was proper church music, so it’s just me doing what I always do really. My voice has always been a gospel voice. I can’t change that no matter what style of music I’m doing.

“But I love these songs because early Elvis is really romantic and has such beautiful lyrics, the kind you don’t really hear anymore.

“In fact, I was just saying to someone the other day, the reason I love this show so much is because it is two and half hours of fun, laughing your head off, and great songs. If other shows are anything like this I’ll certainly do loads more.”

Love Me Tender, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, until Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £14.90-£43.90, 0844-871 3014