IN THE days leading up to his five night run of smash hit Annie in Llandudno, Craig Revel Horwood discusses his love of musicals as well as working with children - and animals!

The Strictly Come Dancing judge will reprise the role of the oppressive orphanage owner Miss Hannigan when the show comes from the West End to Venue Cymru from Tuesday, May 14.

What made you want to return to Annie, and what is so appealing about the role of Miss Hannigan?

"I just love this character so much; I am deeply in love with her. I think she is absolutely fantastic and an extremely misunderstood woman. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to take her from the West End out on tour, and to play her in theatres I have never performed Annie in before. Playing her is like an actors playground, she is a tyrant and a villain, and those are always the most fun characters to play.

"I couldn’t believe that they wanted me to play Miss Hannigan at first, but I thought it would be great, and a real challenge for me. I play her for real – she’s not a pantomime dame, there’s no mucking about or breaking the fourth wall, she’s a very real character in a beautifully written show."

Do you find playing a woman fun, or does it come with any particular challenges?

"Well the challenges are that you need to be honest and real with it. Obviously body language has a lot to do with that, also the placement of the voice, and the accent of course – which I spent six months perfecting.

"As Annie is set in 1930s New York, it’s really nice to play a part who speaks differently than almost anyone does these days. It was a really enjoyable challenge."

North Wales Pioneer:

Craig Revel Horwood with fellow Strictly Come Dancing judges Shirley Ballas, Bruno Tonioli, Dame Darcey Bussell. Picture: BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston

Audiences probably know you best as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, do you enjoy performing and dancing on the stage as opposed to judging others?

"Well, I grew up on musicals. I did West Side Story in Australia and then went into Me and My Girl and La Cage Aux Folles. I joined the famous Lido de Paris and the Moulin Rouge and then that led into being part of West End shows.

2The last musical I appeared in in the West End was Crazy For You which opened in 1993. I had a really fun year that year. I then left to become a director and choreographer, and subsequently a judge on Strictly.

"My first hoorah back onto the boards was when I was asked to do panto ten years ago, and that reignited my passion for performing again really. When I was then asked to do Annie a few years ago I couldn’t believe it, but it’s such a talented cast, I couldn’t say no!"

With the news that there’s a vacancy on the Strictly judging panel, do you have a dream judge you’d like to sit alongside or perhaps a fantasy contestant you’d love to see take part?

"I always think it’s got to be someone who knows about dance and comes from a dance world. I’m certainly going to miss Darcy a lot, she’s a class act. There are a lot of people who could do it, and I want them to choose someone who is right for the job and has an opinion which is the most important thing!"

North Wales Pioneer:

Revel Horwood will break the cardinal rule of theatre and work with three sets of children in Annie

It’s long been said never work with children or animals, but in Annie you do both! Are there any challenges that come with this or do they bring something extra to the show?

"We have three sets of children on Annie, so they bring something really organic to the show. You’ll never get the same show twice. You have to play it differently with each set of children and they are so talented and doing incredible work on the stage and are all fantastic young actors. They will come up with stuff and you’ve got to react to it live on stage which is a bit of a challenge!"

What was your first experience of musical theatre?

"The first show that I ever went to see was Jesus Christ Superstar in Sydney back in the 1970s. I just fell in love with theatre right there and then. I started training when I was 14, and when I saw Cats in London around the same time, I knew that was absolutely what I wanted to do, to train for and study for."

Do you have a role you’d love to play in the future?

"Well, I like to create roles. I did a movie, Nativity Rocks, last year and that was great fun because I hadn’t done a movie before and it was an improvised script so you really had to create the character from scratch. As far as the classics go, I wouldn’t mind playing a boy at some stage. I tend to get lots of female roles which is great because I love playing women but it would be nice to play a bloke so I will aim high and say I’m aiming for the next Bond!"

You’ve toured before with various shows, is it something you enjoy, or do you find it a bit of a challenge?

"I enjoy the difference in the theatres, the public and their relationships with the stage which always change. You find audiences differ around the country and that’s what is so great about live theatre."

Do you have any ‘must-have’ items you take with you?

"Eyelashes and eyelash glue."

You’re busy all year with Strictly, performing and often choreographing and directing shows as well. What do you like to do during any down time you get?

"I like to cook, in my own home. I like sleeping in my own bed and cooking in my own home. There’s nothing better to pass the time – whether to test and make up some new recipes or really get stuck into cooking something. I love it, I could cook for days on end."

Have you ever been given a piece of advice, or some words of wisdom that have stuck with you?

"My teacher used to say, “you need to be like a tiger and fearless”, which is of course very apt for this industry. You must be prepared to fail, and as soon as you get used to that you start learning. Personally, I feel that listening to your inner voice is the most important thing, especially when making decisions in this industry. I don’t often rule with my head; I rule with my heart."

Finally, what can audiences expect when they come to see you as Miss Hannigan in Annie?

"Number one – entertainment, number two – a shock! Number three, some great singing, dancing and acting because we’ve got such a brilliantly talented cast, and of course all of the incredible songs that they know and love."

Annie runs at Venue Cymru from Tuesday, May 14 to Saturday, May 18 at 7.30pm, with matinee showings running at 2.30pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Tickets start at £19 and are available from or from the box office on 01492 872000.