The recently engaged Ballieston belle has had more than her fair share of knocks in the showbiz world, but if medals were given out for being a survivor, then Michelle McManus would surely win gold.
Well over over a decade has passed since winning Pop Idol with a landslide number of votes in 2003, and Reality: The Musical charts McManus’ roller coaster ride with fame. From her Pop Idol win and her relationship with Simon Cowell, to weight battles (an hilarious tale of ten months with healthy eating guru Gillian McKeith), being dumped by both her record company and management team, relationship troubles and the contestant struggle to find work, (she admits she even toyed with the idea of becoming “Britain’s foremost Adele tribute act”, until the global megastar lost weight “that was 80 quid lost to Vistaprint on business cards!”), her redemption as a presenter on radio and TV, and her new career in this one woman show.
For all her comedy prowess, and boy is she hysterically funny, it’s her mega-decibel voice that shines. The repartee is punctuated with matching songs from the musical theatre world: the story of her relationship with Cowell accompanied by Calamity Jane’s Secret Love and tales of relationship woes with Les Mis’ On My Own and Grease’s There Are Worse Things I Could Do, you get the idea. There are some gems among the power ballads, in particular a roof-raising rendition of When You’re Good to Mama from Chicago and Tell Me It’s Not True from Blood Brothers, a musical she wishes she had been in (getting down to the last two to play Mrs Johnston in a touring production). There’s even some audience participation in a ‘duet’ of Chess’ I Know Him So Well.
After all she’s been through, (just Google her name to experience a slice of the vitriol she’s had to put up with) you want to root for her. She’s incredibly humble about what she has achieved and genuinely moved by the audience’s response to her, and when it comes, the rendition of her Pop Idol number one hit All This Time is unexpectedly emotional.
It would seem that McManus’ life and work are now in happy harmony, hopefully this makes for more comedy and more one-woman shows.
Currently touring the country and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.