I practically curtseyed to Ken Barlow – Jodie Prengers Coronation Street debut

I practically curtseyed to Ken Barlow – Jodie Prengers Coronation Street debut

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But there’s now a new barmaid on the block who’s planning to give them all a run for their £2.90 – or whatever a pint of mild costs in Weatherfield these days. Enter Glenda Shuttleworth played, in what looks like an inspired piece of casting, by singer and actress Jodie Prenger.

She may be best known for winning Andrew Lloyd Webber’s BBC talent show I’d Do Anything in 2008 but Jodie’s a Lancashire lass through and through, and for her the Corrie role really is a dream come true.

“Yes, it’s a cliché and, yes, I sound like a competition winner but I really am having to pinch myself about joining Coronation Street,” she says, beaming over Zoom from the soap opera’s Media City Studios in Manchester.

“I was brought up watching it and it’s in my genes. I was born in Blackpool but my family are all from Manchester. My nan, who ran a launderette, worshipped Elsie Tanner, and her brother even delivered Pat Phoenix’s groceries back in the day.”

“I know I sound soppy, but it’s been on my bucket list to be in Corrie since I was little. I was in tears when I found myself in the Rovers and practically curtseyed to Bill Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, the first time I met him on set!”

Jodie also caused a bit of a scene in a certain well-known Swedish chain store when the call came through that she’d landed the part of Glenda. 

“My agent rang me while I was at the check-out and I just couldn’t help it!” Jodie laughs. “I must have terrified everyone. I was so loud, one woman almost dropped the plant she was holding.

“My mum was with me and we both started crying. She rushed off to get me some meatless meatballs to calm me down! I wanted to tell everyone. It was so hard having to keep it secret for a while.”

In fact, if Jodie hadn’t got the role then it wouldn’t have gone to anyone else. It was created especially for her, so the only issue was whether the producers of the ITV show wanted to go ahead with it.

“It all came about after I was in a play in Manchester written by Jonathan Harvey who also writes for Corrie,” she says.

“That’s when the Corrie producers first got in touch. It was very flattering but also a relief that I didn’t have to audition. I’m not great at auditions. I get very nervous when I really want a part and have a tendency to mess them up!”

Not all of them. After all, it was by coming out on top in the very protracted audition for I’d Do Anything that she landed the role of Nancy in a West End production of Oliver which set her on the road to stardom. But back to

Glenda, who will make her first appearance in Weatherfield tomorrow.

What’s she like? “A force of nature,” laughs Jodie. “She’s the sister of Weatherfield’s undertaker, George (played by Tony Maudsley) and is a woman to be reckoned with. She reminds me a lot of my mum. She’s fun, sassy and a bundle of energy.

“She has a real vibrancy – both outwardly and inwardly. She loves wearing bright colours and novelty earrings. She’s a bit of a magpie where earrings and bangles are concerned, actually!”

“Like Elsie Tanner, Glenda is a redhead which is a first for me. I’m naturally brunette and I’ve been blonde, too, but never auburn. Anyway, I love it – even if my bathroom towels don’t. The dye gets everywhere!”

Glenda has been singing on a cruise ship – a case of art imitating life, as Jodie’s also served her time as an onboard entertainer.

“I have indeed!” she confirms with a grin.

“In 2001 I was one of four main entertainers in a team of 19 aboard the Disney Wonder. It was great fun and we were at sea for several months.”

“So, I know where Glenda is coming from, you see – although unlike her, I didn’t have to scarper because I’d been having a messy affair with one of the percussionists in the orchestra!”

“It looks like I will be doing a bit of singing in Corrie at some point. Glenda may well entertain the Rovers’ regulars with a bit of a sing-song.”

It would almost be a crime if she didn’t. Jodie, 43, started out by singing to residents in the bar of her family’s Blackpool B&B when she was just a teen – “although I didn’t serve behind the bar,” she adds, “so pulling pints as Glenda has been a first for me.”

She graduated to the cabaret circuit and performed in theatres – especially in her native North West – before, on the brink of giving up a career in show business, she decided on one last throw of the dice and entered the TV competition to find a new leading lady.

Since then, her working life has been mostly in the theatre, and her long-held television ambitions remained on the back burner.

“I could never commit to a TV thing because I’ve been on the road so much, touring in amazing plays and musicals like Shirley Valentine, A Taste Of Honey, Abigail’s Party, Calamity Jane and Annie.”

“I wouldn’t have wanted to miss those experiences for the world. When you’re in a touring theatre production, you usually sign up for a year.”

“I didn’t have another tour planned and then Corrie came along. It was obviously meant to be!

“There’s also the fact that now I’m older and have more life experience. I can bring that to the character and the show.”

There’s yet another advantage to not being on the road. She gets to go home every night rather than stay in a succession of hotels.

“My fella, Simon, like me being at home and so do my animals,” she explains. “My passion is looking after rescued animals.To be honest, I prefer animals to people! If I didn’t do what I do, I’d devote my life to rescuing animals.”

Even though it’s just a part-time operation, Jodie’s little menagerie is a lot of work, she says.

“Fortunately, we have enough room at our place, which is near Preston, for the three rescue cows, three rescue ducks, three cats and three dogs we have at the moment.

“I also have about 17 rescue chickens including my cockerel, Harry. My poor Harry… he’s not very well at the moment and he just loves having me home every day. I think I’m going to have to get him a little chicken wheelchair if there is such a thing!

“I’d love more animals so if anyone knows of a one-eyed goat or three-legged-pig, I’m just putting that out there…”

“By the way, I need to add that Simon likes animals as much as I do! I’m very hands-on with my animals. You wouldn’t recognise me at home! There’s no big hair or false eyelashes when I’m out with the animals.No heels or fancy clothes.”

“There I am in my wellies and, to be honest, I’m feral. I love it! My mum bought me one of those massive sweater/ blanket things for Christmas – a ‘slanket’, I think they’re called.”

“I said to her, ‘Mam, you’ll never catch me wearing that!’ You know what? It’s barely been off my back!”

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