TAKING to the stage at the age of nine, Maureen Nolan would be forgiven for enjoying an early retirement.

Instead, 48 years after her first appearance as one of The Nolans, the singer-turned-actress will be gracing Stevenage’s Gordon Craig Theatre in Over The Rainbow: The Eva Cassidy Story later this month.

Joined on stage by Sarah Jane Buckley, who played Kathy Barnes in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks, as Eva Cassidy, and Strictly Coming Dancing star Brian Fortuna as Eva’s brother Danny Cassidy, the 57-year-old will be playing Eva’s mother Barbara.

The Comet caught up with Maureen during rehearsals to find out more about the musical play, which tells the story of Washington-born singer Eva Cassidy up until her death in 1996.

“Nobody really knows much about Eva’s life,” said Maureen, who had eight UK hit records as part of The Nolans.

“Obviously it was a tragedy she died when she was 33, she had such a fantastic voice. But the play looks at how it all started and her relationship with her parents, family and the man in her life.

“Most of the singing is by Sarah Jane but I’ve got much more singing than I thought I’d have so that’s all been a bit of a shock.

“Sarah Jayne’s voice is gorgeous and the songs are sung so beautifully by her. She’s known for acting in Hollyoaks but she did musicals before that. She’s fabulous.”

Maureen, who was joined by sisters Coleen, Bernie and Linda for a reunion tour in 2009, 30 years after the release of their most famous hit I’m In the Mood for Dancing, described the experience as “the most amazing fun we’ve ever had, we’re hoping that maybe we can do it again”.

About branching out into acting in her later career, which has seen her receive critical acclaim for her portrayal of Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, she said: “I’ve been so busy for a good few years and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing at the moment. The actors that I’ve worked with I’ve really learnt a lot from them.

“I’m really enjoying the acting at this point in my life and with musical theatre it’s given me a chance to sing so it couldn’t be better really.”

Maureen returns to the theatre in Lytton Way following an appearance in The Naked Truth in March.

“I’ve always enjoyed going there, it’s a really nice little theatre with a good audience,” she added.

Over The Rainbow: The Eva Cassidy Story comes to the Gordon Craig on Thursday and Friday, September 22 and 23, with both performances starting at 7.45pm.

To book a ticket, which costs �19.50, call 01438 894802 or visit www.gordon-craig.co.uk