Take one medal-winning gymnast. Add a former Pussycat Doll. Then throw two chart-topping pop singers into the mix. And what have you got? The surefire ingredients for a hit show.
First, there was Rip It Up The 50s. Then The 60s. And now comes the 70s version, which kicks-off a UK tour mid-September and finally finishes at the London Palladium at the beginning of November.
No one knows better what this will entail than Louis Smith. But no need to ask Britain’s greatest gymnast ever whether he’s a fan. He was part of the line-up for the first two Rip It Up shows. And he wouldn’t be joining the 70s line-up, he says, if he didn’t get a real kick out of it.
“This has become quite a significant chapter in my post-gymnastic life. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the industry, dancing, performing, showbiz. I never went to drama school. I wasn’t ever a pop star. It’s been a steep learning curve.”
In the 60s show, he had just one song – Let’s Twist Again – which didn’t require much vocal range. “This time, I’ll be a little bit more exposed singing Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? It’s a beautiful song. I’ll also be dancing technical, new style numbers, as opposed to ballroom or Latin,” says Louis, who won Strictly in 2012 with pro-dancer Flavia Cacace.
Touring the UK isn’t good news, surely, for his social life. He shrugs. “I won’t be missing much – except perhaps for Halloween.” There’s no one significant in his life right now with one exception. The hardest part, he confesses, will be being separated from his dog, Luna, a Siberian huskie.
When ex-Pussycat Doll, Melody Thornton, 34, was approached in the late-spring to join the Rip It Up 70s tour, she didn’t hesitate. “My song-writing style is modelled on the music of the late ‘60s and ‘70s, very much the era of my parents.
“My mum is Mexican and, when she moved to the States and married my Dad – he’s African American – she bought an Afro wig. Then, when my sister and I came along, she was keen for both of us to have Afros so that the whole family fitted together.’
At 19, fresh out of college, Melody auditioned to join the hugely successful all-girl band, Pussycat Dolls. “It was an open audition, staged mostly for the press. But I was the only one chosen.”
Quite quickly, though, her considerable singing skills were sidelined and she was encouraged to learn complicated dance routines, something that didn’t come naturally to her. “I was a singer not a dancer.
“But what was I going to do? This was the opportunity of a lifetime. I had to go along with what they were asking.” It was a tough regime. “We were constantly rehearsing and performing and recording.”
When the group disbanded in 2010, Melody went solo. “I didn’t feel I’d had much support as a singer from that platform so I really relished the idea of making my own music, of getting out in the world and showing them what I’d got.”
That was then. Now she’s looking forward to touring the UK. “I saw Rip It Up The 60s in the West End. I loved its energy, although I could see the hard work that went into it.
“We’ll be featuring Tiny Dancer, perhaps my favourite Elton John song ever, Gladys Knight’s Midnight Train to Georgia and Harry Nilsson’s Without You which I’m going to be singing.”
After appearing on Strictly – she came second with partner Vincent Simone in 2008 – and then touring with a reformed S Club 7 in 2015, Rachel Stevens, 41, had been on the look-out for another dance project.
“There’s a lot of dancing in Rip It Up and that was one of the things that first attracted me to it. I also grew up listening to ‘70s music. Then I went to see Rip It Up The 60s and I understood how the show hangs together. By the end of the evening, I was on my feet.’
Life these days is all about juggling. Rachel is married to former actor-turned-property developer, Alex Bourne, the father of her two daughters: Amelie is eight; Minnie is five.
They’re her priority. “I’m super-organised. They always know where I am. I have a large whiteboard at home which has every detail on it of what I’m doing. I think when kids know what’s going on, they feel reassured.”
The demands of motherhood also mean that she plans her career in a way that never happened when S Club launched. “I was 20 and got swept up in the whole success of it. Originally, I thought I’d be going down the fashion route. I went to fashion college and then worked for various PR companies.”
Does she think S Club will ever reform? “We get asked that a lot. There are seven of us and we’re all so different and we’re all doing our own projects. But it would be amazing. The last tour was such a celebration of what we had and there was clearly an appetite for us.”
In this new show, Rachel is particularly pleased that she’ll be singing We’ve Only Just Begun and hopes she’ll do justice, she says, to Karen Carpenter’s peerless original. “And then, of course, I’ll be part of various medleys and mish-mashes.”
For Lee Ryan, the days of high living interspersed with spells in rehab are behind him. Currently, he lives alone in London. “But I’m thinking of moving to the Cotswolds. I wouldn’t mind commuting into London. I’d write on the train.”
It’s all a far cry from a sometimes misspent youth. He’s been in rehab twice. The last time was four years ago. “It was a mixture of alcohol and drugs. It won’t happen again because I’m happy now.
“But it made me realise that whether it’s booze or drugs – or both – you’re using them to block out bad stuff in your life. And that’s never going to be the answer.”
He has two children: Bluebell is 11, son Rain is 10. “They come first these days. I’ve only got another four or five years before they’re off doing their own thing. So I’m making memories now in the hope that they’ll last.”
At 36, he’s clearly matured considerably since his days being mobbed as a member of boyband Blue. He really enjoyed the recent series of Celebs Go Dating. “Whatever you may have read, I tried to be chivalrous, tried to act like a gentleman. I had a good time.”
So why did he jump at the chance of appearing in the touring production of Rip It Up The 70s? “Oh, because I love the music. My mum was a big fan. So I grew up with The Supremes, Gladys Knight & The Pips, all of that.
“I’m going to be doing a medley of Queen’s hits. I absolutely adore Freddie Mercury. And then I’ve also got Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.”
So he’s looking forward to the tour? “I am and yes, I know it’s going to be hard work but I’m not frightened of that. I haven’t had a day off in two months what with Celebs Go Dating and doing gigs. Then there’s looking after the kids.”
Does Blue still exist? Blue will always exist, he says. “We’ve never disbanded. I couldn’t tell you what’s going to happen in the future but I don’t rule anything out.
“Right now, I’m releasing a solo single on October 4. I wrote it, based on a really weird experience I had when I was in rehab in Berlin. It’s called Ghost after I saw an apparition in group therapy.”
For now, though, he’s concentrating on the upcoming Rip It Up tour. “I’m very well used to touring after all those years of being on the road with Blue. He Rip It Up The 60s show came into the West End for a run. So, who knows? Maybe the same thing will happen with the ‘70s show.’
And if not? “I’m getting into producing and writing film scripts,” says Lee. “I’m trying to get a couple of my own movies off the ground. That’s my goal, my dream.”
*For tour details: www.RipItUpTheShow.com
From the Producers of ‘Rip it Up The 50s’ and ‘Rip It Up The 60s’ – which sold over 100,000 tickets and received 5 star reviews across the UK, with the latter enjoying a sell-out 4 month run at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End – Rip It Up The 70s will tour the UK with a brand new cast and brand new show. It promises to bring the soundtrack of arguably popular music’s greatest decade to life in another feast of song and dance.
This new show will star Strictly Come Dancing champions Louis Smith MBE, who returns with Strictly finalist Rachel Stevens, Pussycat Doll’s star Melody Thornton and Bluesinger-songwriter and actor Lee Ryan, who will beadding his stunning vocal talents to the latest incarnation of the smash hit show.
From Wednesday, 12th September until Wednesday, 6th November, audiences nationwide will witness Louis, Rachel, Melody and Lee sing and dance to all-time classics from the era that brought the sounds of disco, glam rock, punk, funk, new wave and reggae into the mainstream alongside bold fashion statements such as hot pants, flares, crop tops, jumpsuits, platform shoes, maxi-dresses and tartan suits!
While David Bowie and Marc Bolan gave us out-of-this-world glam rock, New York gave us disco and punk. Philly Soul brought its flared stride to the masses, while the Eurovision Song Contest made its greatest contribution to pop music with the arrival of Abba. But that’s not even close to telling the story of 1970’s music.
Lest we forget that The Beatles decided to Let It Be, John Lennon asked us to Imagine, Led Zeppelin climbed their Stairway to Heaven, Pink Floyd saw The Dark Side Of The Moon, the Eagles checked-out of Hotel California, The Bee Gees went down with a Saturday Night Fever, Carole King wove her Tapestry, Fleetwood Mac shared Rumours, ‘The Boss’ was Born To Run and Michael Jackson went Off The Wall. And we have still yet to mention Queen, Elton John, Don McLean, The Carpenters, Marvin Gaye and Barry White. Oh, and Sandy and Danny in Grease!
Having starred in the UK tours for both Rip it Up The 50s and Rip It Up The 60s, Louis Smith MBE will now star in Rip It Up The 70s. As one of Britain’s sporting superstars, he shot to fame at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by winning a bronze medal in the pommel horse, and silver medals at both the London 2012 and Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
After the London 2012 Olympics, Louis took part in and won that year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing, lifting the coveted Glitterball trophy with his professional dance partner Flavia Cacace. He also won the Strictly Christmas Special in 2014 with his professional dance partner Aliona Vilani.
Louis said: “Every night during the Rip It Up tours I tell people these shows are the hardest thing I have ever done – even harder than competing at the Olympics and Strictly. I’m not sure everyone believes me, but I’m telling the truth. But I love dancing and relish a challenge, so I am so happy to be part of the new Rip It Up The 70s show. I look forward to seeing everybody on the dance floor.”
Former S Club 7 start Rachel Stevens joins the Rip It Up team having also enjoyed success on Strictly Come Dancing. Rachel and her professional dance partner Vincent Simone narrowly missed out lifting the Glitterball Trophy during the 8th series of Strictly, finishing as runners-up in the final. Rachel and Vincent also achieved a then-record of twenty-five perfect 10s during the series.
Rachel said, “I am so excited to be joining the cast for Rip It Up The 70s. Dancing has played such an important role in my life. Like Louis, Strictly was one of the best experiences of my life, so I’m really looking forward to being involved in such an amazing production. And what’s not to love about the music and fashion of the ‘70s? It’s going to so much fun.”
Also making her Rip It Up debut alongside Rachel is Melody Thornton, key member of multiplatinum-selling pop juggernaut Pussycat Dolls, who sold an astonishing 70 million records worldwide.
As the youngest member of the group, Melody was affectionately given the nickname ‘Baby Doll.’ But proving no one puts Baby in a corner, Melody hit the UK in January 2017 to take part in E4’s smash hit Celebs Go Dating, before appearing on other hit shows, including Celebrity Juice, In Bed With Jamie and The Celebrity Island With Bear Grylls. Melody then landed the lead role in the stage version of The Bodyguard to rave reviews, before joining the cast of the ITV1 flagship show Dancing on Ice in 2019, reaching the final three.
Looking forward to starring in Rip It Up The 70s, Melody said, “Singing, dancing, ‘70s pop culture and fashions are lifelong passions of mine, so I jumped at the chance to appear in Rip It Up The 70s. I’m excited to show UK audiences exactly what I can do. I can’t wait to be part of what is going to be the most exhilarating show and an amazing tour with such a mind-blowing soundtrack.”
Lee Ryan first made his name as a member of the multi-platinum-selling British boy band Blue, before enjoying Top 10 success as a solo artist. His credits also include representing the United Kingdom with Blue at the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, and joining the cast of EastEnders in 2017. Lee is also no stranger to the dance floor, having partnered professional dancer Nadyaa Bychkova during the 2018 series of Strictly Come Dancing.
Lee said, “I am truly delighted and excited to be joining this new cast for Rip It Up The 70s. I heard so much about the previous Rip It Up tours, as well as the show’s sell-out West End run, that the chance to sing so many classic ‘70s songs in this amazing new production is something I’m very much looking forward to.”
Tickets are on sale now, available from www.ripituptheshow.com
VIP ticket packages will also be available, offering fans the chance to meet Louis, Rachel, Melody and Lee and receive a VIP tour laminate and a signed photo.
The dates for Rip It Up The 70s are as follows (*indicates additional matinee performances):
Fri 13 Norwich Theatre Royal
Sat 14 Hayes Beck Theatre*
Sun 15 Dartford Orchard Theatre*
Tue 17 Bradford King’s Hall
Wed 18 Leicester De Montfort Hall
Thu 19 Milton Keynes Milton Keynes Theatre
Fri 20 Peterborough New Theatre
Sat 21 Ipswich Regent Theatre
Sun 22 Swindon Wyvern Theatre*
Wed 25 Barnstaple Queen’s Theatre
Thu 26 Bournemouth Pavilion
Fri 27 Chatham Central Theatre
Sat 28 Eastbourne Congress Theatre
Sun 29 Brighton Theatre Royal*
Tue 1 Woking Victoria Theatre
Wed 2 Cambridge Corn Exchange
Thu 3 High Wycombe The Swan Theatre
Fri 4 Basingstoke Anvil Theatre
Sat 5 St Albans Alban Arena*
Sun 6 Northampton Derngate Theatre
Tue 8 Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Wed 9 Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Thu 10 Carlisle Sands Centre
Fri 11 Aberdeen Music Hall
Sat 12 Perth Concert Hall
Sun 13 Glasgow Kings Theatre
Mon 14 Edinburgh Kings Theatre
Wed 16 Billingham Forum Theatre*
Thu 17 Manchester Opera House
Fri 18 Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Sat 19 Birmingham Symphony Hall
Sun 20 Southend Cliffs Pavilion*
Tue 22 Cardiff St David’s
Wed 23 Bath Forum Theatre
Thu 24 Guildford GLive
Fri 25 Worthing Pavilion Theatre*
Sat 26 Yeovil Octagon Theatre*
Sun 27 Bromley Churchill Theatre
Tue 29 York Barbican
Wed 30 Halifax Victoria Theatre
Sat 2 Southport Waterfront Southport
Sun 3 Newcastle Theatre Royal*
Mon 4 Scunthorpe Baths Hall
Wed 6 London Palladium