To millions of TV viewers she’s Eileen Grimshaw, one of the most popular characters on long-running TV soap Coronation Street.

But Sue Cleaver is leaving the cobbles of Weatherfield behind her - albeit temporarily - to return to the stage for the first time in almost 30 years.

On Monday, Sue will be part of Sister Act the Musical which arrives at Manchester’s Palace Theatre for two weeks as part of a major UK tour.

Bury Times: Sue Cleaver as Mother Superior (PIcture: Oliver Rosser)

Sue will play Mother Superior in the show about a nightclub singer who witnesses a murder and is given protective custody in a convent. The good-time girl helps the nuns with their struggling choir and in so doing discovers more about herself.

“It’s a great story and a really strong show,” said Sue. “I think it’s just a really accessible, good fun night out which is what everyone wants isn’t it? It’s just joyous.”

Sue is clearly revelling in her return to the stage.

“It’s very scary and very intensive and I’m exhausted but I’m loving it,” she said. “I was trying to figure it out but it must be close to 30 years that I was last on stage. I remember the production - it was Victoria Wood’s play Talent.

“From there I went on to do Dinnerladies and sort of got swallowed up by TV.

“I started out as an actor at Royal Exchange in Manchester and I always wanted to come back to theatre, it’s always been my first love. This arrived at the right time so I’ve been very lucky.”

It’s one thing to go back to the stage after so long but then there’s the added factor of the show being a musical.

“I’ve never done a musical before now,” said Sue. “I’m not a singer as such, I’m an actor. But this is lovely for me, it’s a real treat.

“I’ve got two numbers I sing in the show and some bits in between so I’m flexing a new muscle in my own way. But the Mother Superior is really a character part and, as an actor, that’s always the great joy - bringing people to life.”

Bury Times: Sister Act company. Photo by Mark Senior

Taking a break from Coronation Street to tour in a musical is just part of a bigger picture for Sue.

“I’m 60 now and I just thought ‘right I’ve got some things on my bucket list that I want to do still so I’m doing it’. Corrie are being very kind and very accommodating so I’m getting to do all these things that I’ve wanted to do for ages including making a return to the stage.

“I’ve got some other things that I’m doing but I can’t speak about them at the moment. I am ticking off a few other things off my list. I’m working my way through it both in a professional and personal way.

“I’m just enjoying my 60s.”

It is fitting that the first major stop for Sister Act the Musical for Sue is Manchester.

“It is quite daunting in a way because all my Coronation Street colleagues will be coming to see me. I just hoping that I don’t let them down,” she said. “But everyone is so supportive of each other.

“We all went to Hope Mill Theatre recently to see Jodie Prenger in a version of Gypsy and I know everyone will be at the Palace to support me.

“But that’s the thing about Coronation Street - it is a huge family environment.

“You know when I joined I said I’d only do it for a year. Now I think I’m in my 23rd year on the show. It really is a great ensemble with a family feeling.

“If anyone asks, I always say my job is to go to work, get the dressing up box out and play with my friends - what a great way to pay your mortgage!”

When it was announced that Sue would be joining Sister Act the Musical it fuelled speculation about her future on Coronation Street. Was this the end for Eileen?

“I’m straight back into Coronation Street when I’ve finished this run of shows I’m doing in May,” Sue said emphatically. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back and I’ll also be doing some more work on Loose Women too.

“I think Eileen will probably be jetting off to see her son for a while but she will be back before you know it.”

Bury Times: Sue Cleaver

As well as Manchester, Sue will be part of the show as it visits Cork, Glasgow and Belfast so is she ready for life on the road?

“The cast have been so lovely,” she said. “ Some of them are a lot younger than me but everyone has been so welcoming and so helpful. We’ve been having a real giggle.

“I think I’ll be all right going out on tour, after all I survived the jungle,” she laughed.

In 2022, Sue was one of the contestants in I’m A Celebrity - the series was won by Lioness Jill Scott - and she revealed that the jungle camp mates still keep in touch.

“We’re always in touch with each other. When we can, we do get together and catch up.”

Sister Act the Musical, is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from Monday, March 18 to Saturday, March 30. Details from