We use cookies on this website to improve how it works and how it’s used. For more information on our cookie policy please read our Privacy Policy

Accept & Continue

Waterloo Road and former Coronation Street favourite Kym Marsh talks about playing the ever-so-evil Cruella de Vil in a touring musical version of 101 Dalmatians, coming to Birmingham theatre The Alexandra next month...   

Actress and singer Kym Marsh is perhaps best known for her roles as feisty Michelle Connor in Coronation Street and the doughty school dinner lady Nicky Walters in Waterloo Road.

But this summer Kym takes on a very different character when she dons a black & white wig to become arch evildoer Cruella de Vil in the touring musical version of the classic children’s tale 101 Dalmatians.

Based on the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith, the show tells the story of Dalmation dog couple Pongo and Perdi, who have a perfect life with their 15 puppies - until, that is, the puppies are stolen to order for Cruella. 

As if stealing Pongo and Perdi’s puppies isn’t bad enough, Cruella adds the 15 to a larger collection at her mansion and prepares to kill them all so that their black & white spots can be turned into a designer fur coat for her...

First staged at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London in 2022, 101 Dalmatians The Musical embarks on its first UK & Ireland tour this summer, coming to Birmingham theatre The Alexandra early next month.

So why was Kym keen to take on the role?

“Cruella de Vil is the most iconic villain of all time,” she explains, “so I just knew it would be so much fun - and judging by rehearsals, I was right! I love everything about playing Cruella. Playing a villain is always so much fun because you get to play someone so far removed from yourself, so you can play around. Cruella, though - I mean, she’s everything; she’s evil, she’s unhinged - she’s also funny and witty and so camp. She’s the ultimate baddy - the costumes, the hair, the make-up; it’s like playing dress-up!”

For many people, Cruella is the fashionista with a heart of stone, as depicted in the 1961 Walt Disney animation in which she is a caricature of wickedness. Kym is determined that her portrayal will be more nuanced.

“She is evil, yes, but she’s also so many other things. For a start, she’s so, so funny. And then there are many places to go within the script, many things to pull out in terms of her traits; there’s even a bit of vulnerability about her, actually, which is very interesting. I and the brilliant team I’m working with share ideas, and I think that helps the process of showing who Cruella is.

“I hope audiences love my portrayal of Cruella. I want people to be intrigued by her, be humoured - and also a little bit afraid. I’m sure there will be lots of boos from children!”

Kym first rose to fame as a member of pop group Hear’Say, which was created through the ITV reality television show Popstars in 2001. Also featuring Myleene Klass, Suzanne Shaw, Noel Sullivan and Danny Foster, Hear’Say’s first release, Pure And Simple, charted at number one. But after three top-10 singles and two albums, Kym announced that she was leaving the band to pursue a solo career. She quickly moved into television, gaining parts in Holby City and Doctors as well as being a regular panellist on Loose Women. In 2006 she joined Coronation Street, and in the following 13 years saw her character experience a series of tragedies, including the stillbirth of her child - a storyline for which Kym won the 2017 British Soap Award for Best Female Dramatic Performance.

Kym has also been a regular on stage, with lead roles in shows including Saturday Night Fever, Fatal Attraction and the Take That musical Greatest Days.

And she knows Birmingham well.

“I’ve been to Birmingham before with various shows and I always love coming here. I’ve also hosted the Pride of Birmingham Awards for the last few years and have met some extraordinary people doing that.

The people in Birmingham are always very friendly and make you feel welcome. The theatre audiences are fabulous, and I just can’t wait to come back.”

Kym is sharing the Cruella role with former Steps singer Faye Tozer, with each playing different venues during the six-month tour. While Kym plays Cruella at the Alex, Faye takes on the role when the show plays the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in August. Kym explains the cast change is due to television commitments.

“I have to return to Manchester for a few weeks to film Waterloo Road, which is when Faye takes over. Faye is a pro, and I’m certain she will be fabulous. I don’t foresee any challenges for either of us - we’ll both bring our own unique take on the Cruella character, and I hope people will love both of our portrayals.” 

The musical has been adapted for the stage by Zinnie Harris, with music & lyrics by Douglas Hodge and book by Johnny Knight. The dogs and puppies are designed by Jimmy Grimes, who has worked on War Horse, and a previous version of 101 Dalmatians at Birmingham Rep. 

Kym says children and adults alike will enjoy the production.

“People will love everything about the show. It’s fun for all the family. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s thoroughly entertaining - the whole cast is just exceptional, and I just know everyone will not want it to end. It’s a show that the whole family can come to. Bring the kids, bring the parents, grandparents - the whole family will love it. People should come for that reason. 

“There are a lot of layers to the story, but I think the main messages you take away are that working as part of a team is always better than going it alone. That, and of course that real baddies always get their comeuppance!”

By Diane Parkes

Kym Marsh stars in 101 Dalmatians at The Alexandra, Birmingham, from Tuesday 2 to Saturday 6 July.  The production then stops off at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton from Tuesday 20 to Saturday 24 August, with Faye Tozer starring in the role of Cruella de Vil.