South Tyneside star shines on stage in hit musical

A South Tyneside star has said it has been a dream come true to have been able to perform on stage back in the North East.
Actor Craig Shepherd stars in new show Fat Friends The Musical.Actor Craig Shepherd stars in new show Fat Friends The Musical.
Actor Craig Shepherd stars in new show Fat Friends The Musical.

Craig Shepherd, from East Boldon, was back on home turf starring in and directing the hit show, ‘Fat Friends The Musical’ at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.

For the 41-year-old - who performs under the stage name Craig Armstrong - the opportunity to perform back in the region has been an incredible experience, after spending more than 20 years working in London.

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Craig tarted out in the profession aged just six after being trained by mum Valerie Shepherd - who runs Valerie Shepherd Dance Academy in South Shields.

Since then he has starred in numerous West End shows and has multiple TV credits to his name.

Craig said: “I have been performing for a long time and have spent 20 years working on the West End.

“I have just left Billy Elliot after 11 years as assistant resident director at Victoria Palace in London and it was amazing to be a part of that from the start to the end.

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“I was asked to audition for Fat Friends by Kay Mellor. I got offered the part of Mickey who is a bit of a lad, but has a heart of gold and I am also the resident director.

“It’s been great to work with all these big names such as Sam Bailey and Natasha Hamilton.

“There has been the most fantastic support cast and ensemble, so it has been great.
“I am so proud to be back home and performing.”

The show spans from hit TV show Fat Friends by Kay Mellor - the creator of Girlfriends, Love, Lies & Records, Band of Gold, The Syndicate and In The Club -and features original music by Nick Lloyd Webber.

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It sees the audience join TV’s most loveable characters as they are put through their Zumba paces at their local branch of Super Slimmers by the lovelorn Lauren, whilst Kelly fantasises about fitting into the wedding dress of her dreams.

In the show Craig stars alongside a cast of famous faces which includes West End favourite and winner of the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, Jodie Prenger, X Factor winner Sam Bailey, Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton, star of Emmerdale and Wicked Natalie Anderson and Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy.

His proud mum Val Shepherd said: “The audience has absolutely loved it and there has been standing ovations.

“The show is so funny and people have been really into it.

“I am very proud to have seen Craig perform, he has done so well with being the director and starring in the show.”

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The show which ran from Tuesday, January 23 to Saturday, January 27, at the Theatre Royal, will now go on to its next venue in Hull as part of its tour which takes in Southhampton, Sheffield and Southend.