Showbiz legend Anita Harris tells me that her latest show Last Laugh In Vegas, which sees showbiz legends prepare for the performance of a lifetime in Sin City, is “pure fun ... we had so many great acts with us, from Sue Pollard to Cannon and Ball, but for me having worked there in my youth, it was wonderful to return.
"Not much has changed apart from the floor shows are now more spectacular than ever.” The series runs for five weeks, and as ever, Anita shines like a real star.
Call The Midwife’s Jenny Agutter tells me while the show is a huge success worldwide, she will always be remembered fondly for the hit movie The Railway Children. She said: “I know it’s a classic and people ask about it all the time, which is lovely but I hope the same will happen with ‘Midwife’ one day too.”
Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has produced a new musical based on the hits of 60s icon Dusty Springfield, and tells me that people still appreciate her music as much today as ever. He tells me: “I think the songs have stood the test of time, and people do love them.” The show has been a huge success and stars former Grange Hill actress Michelle Gayle.
Former EastEnders star Joe Absolom has ruled out a return to Albert Square as Matthew Rose, despite the arrival of Steve Owen’s son Hunter. Absolom left EastEnders in 2000 after an eventful time that saw him framed for the murder of Saskia Duncan. He said: “I live in Cornwall now and have no plans for a return to London.”
Prince Harry’s ex Cressida Bonas is now a stage actress, and my spies tell me that many TV dramas are looking to cast her in their productions. I heard: “So far she gets offered period dramas which she loves, but in reality she is looking for that challenging role that will set her apart from her looks, and of course connections to royalty.”
Elf The Musical is to tour the UK, playing three major arenas with a Christmas spectacular. It will star David Essex as Buddy’s grumpy father Walter Hobbs, and Martine McCutcheon. Fans will recall her last stint on stage earned her an Olivier award, and much criticism, but Martine says she is “looking forward to it very much”.
Former EastEnders actress Michelle Ryan is still working. After leaving the show the star almost cracked America by landing the leading role in the re-imagining of popular 70s TV show Bionic Woman, but the show was cancelled in 2007 after just one season. Michelle told a friend: “I don’t get asked back, but if they did I am not sure, as I have moved more into theatre now.”
Ricky Norwood has hinted his EastEnders character Fatboy could come back from the dead and return to Walford. Ricky told me: “I mean, it’s EastEnders and if you’re a fan then you’ll know that there are many characters that have died and come back.” So far soap bosses are yet to take up the offer...
The last great ‘front-cloth’ comic of our times, and the last standing true vaudevillian, the late Sir Ken Dodd, may now have a TV bio based on his life like the recent ones with Eric and Ernie. BBC insiders tell me: “Not much is known about his life in many respects, but what a life it was, and it would make a thrilling story for all to see.”
The live version of the Early Doors sitcom is to tour the UK. Creators Craig Cash and Phil Mealey have written a new story based on their acclaimed BBC comedy and will appear on stage along with original co-star John Henshaw. Craig tells me: “It’s been mooted for some time, and we always liked the idea, so we have made a decision and it’s happening.”
Bradley Walsh has signed up to star in a new sitcom in development for Radio Four. He will play the lead role in The World According To Harry Priest, a comedy about a man who often gets wound up. The full cast list has yet to be announced, but it is known that Kerry Howard and Stephanie Cole will also appear in the pilot that’s due to be recorded soon.
Former Coronation Street actor Ryan Thomas can’t believe he is in Neighbours! He tells me: “I went to Australia for a holiday and only really popped in for a chat. Then they offered me this great role, so the rule is maybe don’t mix work and play when on holiday, but I am so glad that I did on this occasion.”
Sophie Thompson, actress and sister of Oscar-winner Emma, has recently joined the cast of Coronation Street as clairvoyant Rosemary Piper. She will be filming with the soap until the end of April and said her character may return as she has “proved very popular with the fans of the street”.
Emmerdale actor Ryan Hawley, who plays Robert Sugden, reveals: “I think over the past four years there hasn’t been a moment when Robert hasn’t been stressing.” Is this Ryan hinting that he’s ready to take a break from Emmerdale, at least temporarily?