SOAP characters come and go, but few leave a long-lasting impact, writes Sammy Jones.
We bet you couldn’t name half of the cast of recent year Eastenders...but you still remember Den & Angie, don’t you?
Of course you do. And it’s not hard to imagine a leopard-print attired, big-hair wearing Bet Lynch still stalking the Rovers Return in the early hours.
Michael Starke is another of soap-land’s most remembered.
It has been 13 years since he walked away from Brookside Close, but the actor is still remembered for his time in the Liverpudlian series.
Another actor might be aggrieved to still attract attention for such an old role, but not Michael, who also enjoyed time at The Royal, ITVs retro hospital drama.
“Brookside set a precedent,” Michael says, “When it was at its peak in the mid-nineties with the body under the patio and all that stuff, we were averaging around seven or eight million viewers.”
“Aside from that time, we stayed around the three or four million viewers mark, and I used to say that I’d met them all!
“Brookside moved everything on, and was the first show to use a helpline during the show, over the rape crisis it portrayed.
“That was tremendous and something we were enormously proud of.”
Since leaving the Close, Michael has also enjoyed a lengthy stint on ‘the Street’ in Corrie, but though he might star in them, he doesn’t watch soaps often.
“It’s all about a ratings war now, and the characters are all the same, but with different names...” he reckons.
When he launched his career in entertainment, Michael held court on the stage, and he has returned to his theatrical roots in recent years.
In 2011 he took on the role of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, sharing the role with Michael Ball and Brian Conley.
Now he is out on the road again, in Sister Act, which arrives in MK next week.
I confess that I’ve never seen the film...
“But that’s ok, because this is a very different show from the film and the West End version,” Michael, right, announces. “We are doing the Broadway version, and the show is far better than the film anyway, with all due respect to Whoopie Goldberg, who was amazing,” he adds, which is just as well seeing as Ms Goldberg is a producer of the tour!
“There are original songs in the production and they imbue the piece with its own feel.
“This time, Sister Act is set in the 1970s, so its the same premise, but a little different.”
While no stranger to the live lounge, this is the longest tour Michael has undertaken: “I was a bit trepidatious, to be honest,” he admits.
“Before this, the longest I’d done was six months, but it has simply flown by, and its a phenomenal cast too.”
Where Michael caught the acting bug from is anyone’s guess.
His dad was a semi-professional footballer and a porter, and Michael was the only one of six children to pursue the acting dream.
His wife is also in the business, and he has two children following suit: “They displayed talent early on and used to sing and act. They had a flair for it, you know?”
And Michael could hardly discourage his kids from the industry, when his own has paid dividends for the chirpy Liverpudlian.
“I’m enjoying my life at the moment,” he confirms, “...and I feel terrific!”
For anyone, who like me, has yet to make a connection with Sister Act, the story centres on disco diva Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses a murder and is put in protective custody in the one place cops are sure she won’t be found – a convent!
Disguised as a nun, she makes fans with her ‘sisters’ but not with the Mother Superior (played by ex-Corrie star Denise Black).
When she turns her attentions to the convent’s out-of-tune choir, she helps them find their true voices and breathes new life into the run down neighbourhood.
But with the gang hot in pursuit, her cover could soon be blown for good...
Is time running out for Deloris, or will her new found Sisterhood come up trumps?
Over to Whoopie for a word: “We were thrilled to open Sister Act in London but I’m even more excited to have the show tour the UK so even more folks can experience those singing nuns,” she said.
“It’s a great show for everyone ... your kids, your granny, even your next door neighbour who you might not like so much!”
Sister Act begins at Milton Keynes Theatre on Tuesday, the start of a two week stint here that will roll through to June 30th.
“If you are after a great, uplifting night out with great choreography and songs, come along,” invites Michael.
“Theatre tickets aren’t cheap these days, but I guarantee if you come to Sister Act, you’ll not regret your decision!”
Tickets are priced between £15 and £45.
Call and book on 0844 871 7652.