TELEVISION personality and choreographer Arlene Phillips is heading to Brighton in September, telling tales from her 40 years in showbiz.

The 74-year-old is taking part in a question and answer session with past student and now friend Jacquie Storey. Phillips says: “I keep getting asked to write a book and when I was asked to do a tour I thought, ‘yes that’s a nice way to do it, to tell the story and just try to enjoy it’. I love an audience – everyone does – and the show hopefully will give an insight into the different aspects of my life.”

Phillips recently set up a Gala for Grenfell which took place at the Adelphi Theatre, London. Hundreds of dancers joined together such as Akram Khan, who Phillips was a little starstruck to meet having only watched him dance from afar. Of the event she says: “It went very well, it was very special. It was just such a horrendous cause to raise money for but with the very, very best of dancers spending their evening making it all happen. Dancers are always the first to turn out for any cause and show their love of dance to an audience to raise money.”

The idea for the UK tour came from a conversation with a past student of Arlene’s, Jacquie Storey. The two met when Arlene was teaching at Arts Educational in London. Phillips says: “We bumped into each other and Jacquie said she would love to tell stories on stage. So that’s really where it all started.

“Jacquie was a student of mine when I created Hot Gossip,” adds Phillips, referencing the risque dance troupe she founded in 1974. “After three years I tried so hard to get the group on television but I was told they were too sexy for it.”

She adds that money was running out and she had to tell the members Hot Gossip to go and find other jobs. But then a director for ITV said he wanted the group on his channel. In a few weeks, Hot Gossip were one of the most talked about performance troupes in the country.

The list of shows Arlene has been a part of during her career spans for miles. She has choreographed shows such as Starlight Express, The Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, Flashdance, Saturday Night Fever. She says she is most proud of choreographing Starlight Express, the first West End show on roller-skates.

Phillips is also one of the crew behind the UK tour of Grease coming to Theatre Royal Brighton this Christmas. “We’ve got an amazing cast,” she says. “It’s one of the most well-bonded casts I’ve ever worked with and that’s quite unusual. They have become such firm friends – there’s none of the rivalry.”

Phillips says she will be coming to see the show in Brighton, a city close to her heart. “I’m really looking forward to Brighton,” she says. “It’s a lovely place to escape and get away for a day out.” Phillips remembers taking her children on a daytrip to Brighton when they were were little. Her favourite place is The Lanes for vintage shopping.

The touring lifestyle is nothing new for Phillips, who took one of her children with her to Los Angeles once while she was working Stateside. “I’ve alway been on the move, so I’m used to hopping on and off planes, trains and cars.”

Phillips has worked with everyone who matters in showbusiness and says that two of the most professional were Elton John and Freddie Mercury. The two had very different ways of working, she adds, but the professionalism was most important to her. Phillips says it was a challenge fitting in a lifetime into one show, and it has taken a lot of editing.

“It’s just my own story, really, which is of a girl that went from nothing to someone and who has succeeded against all odds. There is so much to tell.”

Emily Hennings

Arlene! The Glitz. The Glamour. The Gossip.
Theatre Royal Brighton, September 5, 7.45pm. For more information and tickets call 08448 717650