Kate Robbins remembers the 1980s ahead of Norwich trip
PUBLISHED: 12:43 04 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:05 04 January 2019
From Spitting Image to Crossroads via impressions of some of the biggest names in TV, Kate Robbins has been a mainstay of the small screen but now - after some time in the celebrity jungle with daughter Emily Atack - she's heading to Norwich.
From Spitting Image to Crossroads via impressions of some of the biggest names in TV, Kate Robbins has been a mainstay of the small screen.
Now she is preparing to head to the stage in the hilarious 1980s musical Club Tropicana - but first she had to make an important plane journey to be reunited with her daughter who had been exiled to the jungle...in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
And her time watching daughter Emily Atack take on the jungle challenges in the ITV reality show means that Kate has been bitten by the bug (as it were).
”I’m up for anything like that, me,” said Kate Robbins. But before the ITV invite arrives in the post, it’s a trip back to the 1980s and in particular the music which made the decade beckons.
The Eighties were good to Kate. She represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest, scored a Top 10 single, landed a role in Crossroads, starred in her own TV series, married and gave birth to her first child. She also provided many of the voices for ITV’s satirical puppet show, Spitting Image.
“The 1980s was the most important decade of my life,” agrees the actress and singer, perhaps still best known for her impressions of the rich and famous.
Consequently, it’s safe to say she feels at home in Club Tropicana The Musical, in which she gives a show-stealing performance as Consuela, the grumpy Spanish hotel chamber-maid.
The show, which comes to Norwich Theatre Royal from February 25 to March 2, takes audiences on a trip back to the electric 80s for a summer of love and smash-hit classics to a time when hair was big, shoulders were padded, and mobiles weighed a tonne.
Set to a soundtrack of some of the most iconic, chart-topping hits of the decade, the story unfolds in the vibrant Club Tropicana Hotel. When a budding bride and groom get cold feet, they decide to jet off to sunnier climes and feel the heat anyway - but little do they realise they’ve checked into the same hotel... a hotel about to get a visit from the hotel inspectors. Can Consuela help save the day?
Robbins is joined by a stellar cast including X Factor winner Joe McElderry, ex-EastEnder Neil McDermott and former Sugababe Amelle Berrabah, making her musical theatre debut.
“When they said I could do some impressions as Consuela I thought, ‘What a great opportunity to do a sort of Mrs Overall meets Manuel from Fawlty Towers, so that’s what I did. I thought, ‘I’ll just be very silly with it,” explains Robbins.
“It’s exciting creating a new role and they gave me a free rein which is very special because I don’t really like to step into somebody else’s boots. I like to do my own thing.”
Having had a holiday home in Spain for the last 20 years certainly seems to have given Robbins an extra insight into the role.
“I know the way the Spanish people speak and I decided to make her bad-tempered, based on a lady I know in Spain who always tells me ‘...grand pantalones para mi papa’,” she says, slipping effortlessly into character. “’I have to buy big trousers for my father’,” she explains.
“She always used to tell me that her father was fat, so I based the gruff voice on her but I also bring all those years going to Spain to the character and, as I said, it’s lovely because I get to do impressions throughout the show.”
Those impressions include the late Cilla Black, and although Consuela doesn’t get to sing it, Cilla’s theme song from Surprise Surprise features in the show which only seems fitting because Robbins wrote it for the Liverpool singer.
“I’m thrilled my song is being used,” she says, recalling, “Cilla had been to my house with Paul McCartney, who is my cousin, when I was a tiny little girl but I only really met her when I got commissioned to do that song.
“Paul had written a theme tune for her earlier series, Step Inside Love...” Robbins bursts into song and suddenly there’s a lorra lorra Cilla in the room.
She continues, “When Paul wrote that for her they asked for a similar song for Surprise Surprise so that Cilla could walk towards the camera and start sing to everyone at home...So I sang the demo slightly in her voice. I think that’s why I got the job.”
She laughs, “I never thought I’d get a theme tune recorded by Cilla Black simply because I did a pretty good impression of her on the demo. It wasn’t a mickey-take but when she heard it she must have thought, ‘Oh, I could sing that’.
“I did it with her vibrato and softness. I didn’t do the hard Cilla voice because Cilla had two voices, the soft one and the hard one,”
Robbins slides between both as she gives a blast of the chorus, before adding, “I do miss her, she went too soon really, didn’t she?”
That was just one highlight that made the Eighties very special for Kate. With a nostalgic smile she recalls, “1980 was very important to me because it was the year I did my first television. I represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. I was in a group called Prima Donna, there were six of us, and we went to The Hague and came third.”
She laughs, “Then, we thought ‘Huh, third!’ but these days I think we’d be pleased if the UK came ninth.
A year later, while playing Kate Loring in the soap Crossroads, Robbins released More Than In Love and found herself racing up the charts. She got to number two.
“Michael Jackson beat me to No 1 with One Day In Your Life and although I sold half a million records, I was a one hit wonder so I went back into doing backing vocals for other people.”
By 1985, however, Robbins was back on top with not one but three TV series in succession. “In 1985/6 I did The Kate Robbins Show, then The Kate and Ted Show with my brother, and Saturday Gang with Gary Wilmot.” They each highlighted her natural ability to mimic people with hilarious results, which resulted in a spell providing the voices for Spitting Image. “You know, the 1980s were everything to me,” she says wistfully.
* Club Tropicana The Musical, Monday 25 February-Thursday 28 February at 7.30pm, Friday 1 March at 5pm and 8.15pm, and Saturday 2 March at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets £10-£39.50. Discounts for Groups. Signed and audio-described performance on Saturday 2 March at 2.30pm.
To book, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.