FOR "X Factor" star Ray Quinn, appearing in "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice" is getting him back to his roots.
Long before he appeared on television’s most popular talent show, he was a familiar face on our screens as a regular cast member of Liverpool set soap "Brookside".
Though he has appeared in many hit musicals since, among them "Dirty Dancing", "Grease" and "Legally Blonde", in this one he is taking on a strictly acting role. The singing is left to Jess Robinson as the eponymous Little Voice, the shy introvert whose uncanny ability to impersonate the great divas of her dad’s record collection is seen as a passport to riches by seedy talent scout Ray Say (Joe McGann).
"I’ve done singing, I’ve done musical theatre, but I’ve not done a play before," he said.
"It’s almost like going back to the old days in ‘Brookside’. I’m really enjoying the acting side and just creating a character."
This does not mean Quinn is turning his back on song and dance, his fans will be delighted to hear, and relishes the variety of his entertainment career.
"I’m just very enthusiastic and creative and no matter what I do and if I’ve chosen it, then I’m quite happy," he said.
"I don’t like to pigeonhole myself because people can shrug their shoulder and say I’m just a singer or just an actor or a dancer. I’m all three And it’s better to work — get some money coming in!"
Quinn acknowledges he is quite a driven character, something demonstrated by his success not just in "The X Factor", where he narrowly finished runner-up to 2006 winner Leona Lewis, but later on "Dancing on Ice", which he won in 2009.
If he does have a competitive streak, he puts that down to having two brothers, though joining them in the family business was never going to be an option for young Ray.
"The family business was carpet-fitting and my dad’s a carpet-fitter, my brothers are carpet-fitters, so are me cousins and uncles. I could have gone into the shop and become another carpet-fitter, but I just wanted something different," he said.
"‘Brookside’ was the real flame that ignited my excitement for what I wanted to do.
"I was a kid when I was an actor. I started when I was nine and I didn’t know it was a career then. I didn’t even realise I was getting paid until I grew up. When I realised it was something I could do and make a living out of, I went to college to train a bit more."
Singing was confined to just a few little gigs now and again — until an unexpected intervention by his mother.
"With the ‘X Factor’, I never went: ‘I want to do it.’ I just sat at home watching it like every other person does, but my mum said: ‘That’s the way forward now. That’s what you need to do to get on the telly.’ I didn’t really want to do it, but unbeknownst to me, my mum sent off for a registration form," Quinn revealed.
"We got one back in the post, but I just ignored it. Then we got another one a week later and I asked my mum if she’d sent off for another one and she said she hadn’t. Even to this day she’s adamant that she didn’t send off for another one.
"Then the next day another one came. Me dad went: ‘Look, there’s three there. It’s got to be fate.’ So that was it really. I went and never looked back.
"It’s been a massive boost to the career that I wanted to shape for myself and kept me in work to this day.
"In the entertainment business, one minute you are on the biggest high you have ever had and the next you’re out of work and wondering what’s going on so just the sheer fact that I absolutely love it keeps me in it. If you are in this game and get a bit of recognition, it’s the best thing in the world, but you can’t ever guarantee it’s going to last forever. Nothing does."
If Quinn is happy to keep working, then he seems especially delighted to be part of "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice", which runs at Eden Court all next week.
Written by Jim Cartwright for actress Jane Horrocks when he discovered her talent for mimicking great stars of the past from Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland to Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey, the play made its debut 20 years ago and became an immediate hit. A film version followed, again starring Horrocks as Little Voice and earning Brenda Blethyn an Oscar nomination as her mother Mari, the part played in this tour by Beverley Callard.
"I’ve done my album, done my own tour of the UK, ‘The X Factor’ tour and the ‘Dancing on Ice’ tour, ‘Grease’ and a few other West End musicials, but this play, I just believe in it so much," Quinn said.
"Jim Cartwright is directing it, the first time he’s ever done it. We’ve got a great cast with Beverley Callard, Jess Robinson and Dougie Brown — some fantastic actors and actresses and a great team of people on and off-stage.
"It’s really exciting for me to be part of a team like that, but the play itself isn’t a bubblegum musical. One minute you are laughing your head off because it is hysterically funny and beautifully written, and then on the flip side you want to cry your eyes out with anger. There’s a real dark undercurrent to the story that remains throughout the play, even though you are laughing.
"That just shows the talent of Jim Cartwight. When I got the call to work with Jim the chance to work with someone like that was something I couldn’t resist."
He may have started dancing lessons when he was three and become a professional performer at nine, but far from feeling like a veteran, at the age of 24 he still feels like a baby.
"They are like dog years," he laughs of his years in showbusiness.
"I hope that I have longevity and it carries on for the rest of my life because I don’t want to do anything else as long as I have variety in what I do, because that’s a way of keeping yourself young and fit too."
• "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice" is at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, from Monday 22nd to Saturday 27th October at 7.30pm with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.