Paul Johnson interviews Jane ahead of her London ‘Making Memories’ tour date.
Q. You’re currently touring the UK throughout September and early October – how’s it all going so far?
“It’s fab! The show is just great! I have never ever seen a reaction to any other show I’ve done in the last seventeen years as this one. I’ve got an amazing band of people with me; there are ten of us onstage – it’s not a little shilly-shally show, this – it’s got stage sets, it’s got light shows, it’s got amazing costumes and fabulous dancers in it, and so many great arrangements. It’s such a buzz. Something is just going on that I’ve never seen before.
“I never put on a cheap show because it’s not in my nature, it’s extravagance all the way. But this is the biggest production I’ve ever done for a concert. Everything else I do in my life is to fund this; I do everything myself. I couldn’t put this show on if someone else was doing it. So, for me this is the passion of theatre, the passion and love I that I get from standing on a stage …and just belting!
“It’s the campest thing you’ve ever seen in your life, and it’s just brilliant! It’s got show-biz, disco medleys, a tribute to Cilla Black, a big James Bond section, and lots of my own songs. In fact I’ve never seen a reaction to my own songs like I’m getting now. I’m buzzing – It’s living the dream. Every year I’ve done a concert and I’ve always thought of extra things I could tweak or put in, but this time I’m thinking ‘How the heck am I going to top this?’”
Q. Judging from the title of the tour, Making Memories, there’s obviously a big CATS reference – presumably in recognition of your run as Grizabella in Blackpool last year?
“You know, I’ve never experienced anything in my life like getting a call off Andrew Lloyd Webber. I thought ‘My God! Is this for real?’ I was the oldest to ever play it [Grizabella] and have never had such good fun with a cast – or reviews! It’s weird, like trying to break the mould, because I wouldn’t have got anywhere without being the ‘cruise ship singer’. When you’re pigeon-holed and have to keep proving yourself all the time, when actually this is your job and this is what you do. But finally, when you get to star in an Andrew Lloyd Webber production it sort of changes people’s perception of who you are. And that has been one of the best things to happen in my career.”
“And I do a big production of Cats in the show, with a massive costume change, the light show, and then Memory just brings the house down! Everybody’s been waiting for it and it’s great.”
Q. Although Loose Women undoubtedly raised your profile, did you find that the public came to look on you more as a presenter rather than your passion which is singing and performing?
“That did happen, yes. People forgot who and what I was, and, actually even I had forgotten. It was my backing singer, who’s been with me for seventeen years and is my personal assistant now, who said ‘Don’t wait too long or you might not be able to do it again!’ And that hit me like a mallet to the head and I thought, ‘Blimey, that could be true!’ I could live without everything in my life, apart from music. And I thought, ‘Why am I doing that?’ Sometimes you need a little bit of a jolt to follow the right path. I’ve been living all my life for this particular show.”
Q. You’ve spent a great deal of your career performing live as yourself – is that where you feel most comfortable or would you like to take on more theatre roles in the future?
“I’ll do everything. Just being an actress and a singer is a joy. After all these years of trying and working hard I’m finally at that stage were I’m thinking, ‘How lucky am I to have this job?’ To go out and perform; I mean that’s what we all want to do isn’t it. So every aspect of my job, whether I’m recording, whether I’m producing, whether I’m in a musical… as long as I’m doing what I want to do then I’m happy. But my own show is the ultimate experience.”
Q. You famously came into the public eye during the late 90s in The Cruise – so should we blame you for today’s obsession with reality TV? … and what’s your opinion of how reality TV has completely taken over today’s society?
“I’m so sorry! It’s all my fault. Ha, ha! It has become a bit weird, you switch the TV on and it’s all reality people, but they don’t seem to last very long and that is such a shame. We need to make stars again, don’t you think? I know everything has to change and everything goes in cycles, but it would be brilliant to get a Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones back. It’s a genre that has sadly gone. While I wouldn’t put myself in that bracket at all – I’m probably the first ‘reality’ person, I think that’s why people are quite shocked when they come and see the show we’ve got, because it’s me on a stage, with a band, having a blast, and doing it for real. I think there’s not many of us out there doing that.”
Q. You come across as a very genuine and down to earth person, extremely proud of your Northern roots? Is it these qualities that have endeared the public to you in such a strong way?
“I don’t know what it is, and if I did, I’d bottle it and sell it. I think people can tell when you’re honest and genuine, and I think people also know when you’re grateful – that’s the word that describes me. For having that chance all those years ago, on a cruise ship, to being where I am today; I’ll never ever take that for granted. So you have to be grateful, and enjoy it. You have to create that atmosphere, when you’re on that stage it’s up to you to put a feeling out in that theatre for people to have a flipping good night. They’ve paid good money to come and see a show, so you’ve got to make them feel different when they walk out the door – and that’s my job. Even I’m surprised at the reaction we’re getting, and even the band. I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded people and the buzz spreads right across. They get my show, they get my music, and they want to be on that stage with me. It’s fabulous.”
Q. Looking back, would you say that you’ve been lucky – right place, right time – or is there a always a lot more to it than luck?
“Trust me, I’ve had a lot of luck! But it depends what you do with it. Things happen to you every day and it’s up to you whether you recognise what’s happening. Things are put in our paths all the time that we ignore, whereas I tend to think, ‘That’s brilliant! Look at what we could do with that.’ This interview got me really excited because, among other things, it’s going to get us more bums on seats in Wimbledon. And I want Wimbledon to be the best concert because it’s our only London date.”
Q. Is there anything you’re still desperate to accomplish?
“I’m now writing my own album, which will be all my own songs. I’ve been known as a ‘covers artist’ for seventeen years but I’ve actually been singing my own songs like: The Hand That Leads Me, Winner, I’ll Be There… there are so many songs that I’ve written and kept in the show, but the covers artist is still there too. The title track of the album is Hold the Covers Back and I’m so excited about finally doing it; I’ll be working on that all next year.”
Q. With panto season almost upon us again, do you receive lots of offers to take part?
“Every single year, which is lovely, and I’m thrilled to bits. I did the Birmingham show a few years ago and had the time of my life, but I don’t finish touring until everybody’s in rehearsal. I’m also going straight into something else when I finish – which I can’t talk about – but watch this space… I’m dying to tell you what it is but I can’t. It does mean I won’t be able to do panto this year. It is fabulous though isn’t it.
“You also need a lot of skill to do panto, and a lot of stamina to do twelve shows a week. I know people who say they’re going in but can’t hack it. I did have a taste of it and loved it. It’s one of those things I always wanted to do, and everybody seems to be doing it now, they’re even flying in from the States to take part. It’s great that the Americans get it actually – or do they? ‘Jeez, What are we doing here?’ ”