AS he prepares to bring Footloose to audiences at Manchester Opera House next week, Darren Day is quick to champion the show.

“I’ve always defended the feelgood musical,” he said. “Sometimes they do get criticised but having been part of many of them, I’ve always been a fan. There’s nothing like sending an audience out of the theatre singing the songs and having had a great time.

“And let’s face it, there’s never been a time where we are all in more need of a bit of feelgood.”Bury Times:

Darren plays the Rev Moore, the uptight father of a teenage daughter growing up in a rural backwater where rock music and dancing are banned. The arrival of a new kid from the city starts to cause chaos.

Based loosely on the movie starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose features Eighties’ classics such as Let’s Hear It For the Boy and Holding Out for a Hero plus the unforgettable title track.

“I don’t think Footloose is what you’d call a typical jukebox musical,” said Daren. “With those there is usually a catalogue of songs and the plot is added to fit them all in but with Footloose, the story came first. Yes there are the big songs people know but Dean Pitchford who wrote it made sure the story came first.

“There is really beautiful story going with a great plot.”

The storyline has certainly struck a chord with Darren.

“It’s all about the relationship between the Rev Moore and his teenage daughter. I can use a bit of method acting for this,” he laughed. “My daughter is 15 and she’s dating boys and she’ll send my pictures of clothes she’s seen asking me to buy them for her, There’s a site all teenage girls seem to love called Pretty Little Thing and the skirts are too short and the shorts are too tight. When I got my script against certain lines I just wrote Pretty Little Thing next to them

“There are similarities with certain scenes and stuff I go through with my daughter and I’m sure most dads in the audience will relate to them.”

Darren has come into Footloose virtually straight from a national tour of Chicago in which he played Billy Flynn.

“We as actors always appreciate being on that stage but I think we do so much more than ever after the pandemic,” he said. “To get two six month contracts on two big shows would make me feel grateful anyway but particularly so post pandemic. I think we all have a greater appreciation of things we took for granted before.”

Darren has lived his life in the spotlight for almost 30 years. He got his first big break taking over from Philip Schofield in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and starring roles in other musicals such as Grease, Summer Holiday and Godspell followed. He also became one of the most popular figures on TV hosting show prime time shows such as You Bet. As a darling of the tabloids he was rarely out of the papers for his party lifestyle.

But fame wasn’t without its problems and he is very honest about the demons which have affected his career.

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“I am in recovery and I’m very open about that, “ he said. “I’m on so many meds I should rattle but I have a great team around me.

“But you know what? I can honestly say that I feel the most comfortable just being me as I have since 1996. When we started rehearsals for Chicago after that first day I thought ‘I can’t do this any more’ but gradually I started to feel better on stage.

“It’s still very new but I have started to find my feet both on stage and in life over the past few months. That’s such a relief.”

Darren is open, honest and amusing to talk to. He’s self-deprecating and is clearly relishing being back on the stage.

“It’s funny, when I get scripts through I automatically look at the romantic lead and then realise I’m not that, I’m the dad or potentially the granddad now,” he laughed. “But that’s fine. I’ve started to let the silver come through. When I went into the Big Brother House in 2016 - he came third - I went grey. Those 30 days were so stressful it was like a prison sentence.

“But I don’t worry about it. After all I’m 53 now. I’d only colour my hair now if the part needed it.”

Darren uses his own personal experiences to help others.

“I put a picture of all my pills on social media the other day to encourage anyone who felt they needed help to go and get it,” he said. “It changed my life realising I needed help and I do what I can to help point others in the right direction.”

For the next few months Darren is touring with Footloose alongside Jake Quickenden.

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“The cast in Chicago and now Footloose have been brilliant,” he said. “I’m much more comfortable in my own skin and I now know that people like me for who I am rather than for being the party boy.

“This is such a fun show to be part of and you get such feedback from the audiences every night.”

After the run ends Darren is considering a couple of offers to do a straight play.

“I’ll have been in two big musicals so that might be quite a cool diversion,” he said. “I think it’s a good time in life to be challenged and luckily the phone is still ringing for me. It’s all good mate.”

Footloose, Manchester Opera House, Monday, February 28 to Saturday, March 5. Details from