IT has been nearly a decade since we last spoke. Back then Melanie C was into her second solo album since the Spice Girls ceased activities and she was angry. It was anger directed at the red top tabloids mostly for highlighting her apparent weight gain. It led to a period of depression and an eating disorder.
She was railing against the treatment she was getting and even threatening to high-kick anyone who dared to call her Sporty Spice (she’d always hated that).
So, has she settled down?
“Yeah, definitely,” says the 38-year-old.
“I think it’s really hard when you’re young. Especially when you’ve not been in the business for a long time and it’s all new to you; reading people’s opinions of you or reading lies printed about you.
“If you’re lucky enough to be successful and have a lot of interest in you from the tabloid media, it’s something you have to learn to deal with.
“I’m really cool about it now because I understand it a bit more. I understand that nobody cares really,” she laughs.
“And they’ll move onto someone else before long.”
Becoming a mum three years ago to Scarlet helped put the negative attention into perspective.
“I’ve changed in so many ways and I didn’t realise I would becoming a mum,” says Melanie, who lives in Hampstead with her long-term partner Tom Starr.
“She’s definitely made me a better person.”
We’re talking because it has been announced this week that Melanie will be joining the cast for the first UK arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its opening in the West End and includes a date at the Capital FM Arena on October 19.
She’ll be playing Mary Magdalene and Chris Moyles will be King Herod.
Hang on, Chris Moyles!?
“I know, it’s a very interesting cast choice, isn’t it?”
I’ll say. I mean, you’ve proved yourself because you can sing and wotnot..
But Chris Moyles?
“Chris Moyles has got a good voice,” she insists.
“You have to trust Andrew Lloyd Webber and his casting director. They’re very successful people. But yeah, I think it is quite a surprise to see Chris Moyles in this role.
“But are you aware of the role of King Herod?”
“Ah you see, people are judging when they don’t know what the role entails. King Herod is a really fun part. It’s one song, which is a big comedy number and he’ll be perfect.”
Then she adds: “The thing is, he can sing. I’ve known Chris for a very long time, obviously being on and off Radio 1 over the years, and he has got a good voice. I think he’s going to shock people. I’ve heard him sing. I think most of his listeners have heard him sing, just messing about but you can hear he’s got a voice.”
Tim Minchin, the musical comedian who has played the Capital FM Arena, and co-wrote the award-winning West End musical Matilda, plays Judas Iscariot.
“What an amazing talent,” says Melanie.
“He’s wanted to play Judas forever and a day.”
The lead will be chosen by the public through the ITV show Superstar, which is due to start next month.
Melanie has been on the judging panel, led by Lloyd Webber, alongside Jason Donovan for the heats that have been going on around the UK since March.
“I followed musical theatre all through my childhood and I’m a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work so it sounded like a really fun thing to do Superstar,” she says.
“Working with Jason has been a scream and I’ve got to know Andrew a little bit. He asked me if I’d like to play Mary and I jumped at the chance.”
The live shows begin in July on ITV1 featuring the ten finalists.
“There are so many shows on TV showcasing British talent but this is something specific.
A lot of the people in the show have had musical theatre experience. Some of the guys have played leads in the West End. That’s what sets it apart from X Factor and other shows of that type.”
Although she is best known as Spice Girl, theatre was Melanie C’s first ambition.
“I started dance classes when I was eight. I started taking it really seriously in my teens and I went away to performing arts college when I was 16, so I’ve done a bit of training - albeit quite a while ago.”
She’s also familiar with musical theatre, having played Mrs Johnson in a West End production of Blood Brothers for six months during 2009. It earned her an Olivier nomination which she classes as a post-Spice Girls career highlight alongside topping the UK album chart.
“Acting is something quite new to me,” she says.
Does she prefer playing a character than being herself?
“No, I prefer being myself actually. When I was doing Blood Brothers I really missed being as solo artist and being myself on stage. I’m lucky that I can do both.”
After Blood Brothers she released her fifth solo album, The Sea. Her post-Spice Girls output has now topped 12 million sales.
Her next album will be a little different.
“It’s an album of musical theatre songs.”
You’re the new Michael Ball.
“Kind of,” she laughs.
“There’s other stuff on there as well; there’s a Dusty Springfield cover and a Joni Mitchell cover. So it’s an album of great songs that I’ve always wanted to do.
She adds: “It’s fun to keep mixing things up.”
The Spice Girls reunion six years has put to bed talk of the girls getting back together. Well, not really. How about a 20th anniversary reunion in 2016?
“Let’s see if I can still pull out a backflip by then,” she jokes.
“Who knows? We’ve got the musical opening later this year or the beginning of next, so that’s where we’re putting all of our energies at the moment.”
They’re currently casting for the musical, which will open in the West End.
“Then hopefully Broadway and internationally - that’s the dream,” beams Melanie.
Emma Bunton is the one she sees most, this week tweeting a photo of them together on a night out with Louis Spence.
“We see quite a lot of each other. Emma doesn’t live too far from me and our kids are a similar age and they enjoy playing.
“But I’m seeing Geri this weekend and I’ll hopefully see Victoria soon, although she’s in and out of the country a lot.
“Melanie (B) we don’t get to see that often because she’s on the other side of the world, she’s in Australia now.”
Sporty Spice... sorry, Melanie C... still enjoys keeping fit.
“I love going to the gym,” she admits.
“That’s kind of like my down time, my me time.” I did my first triathlon last year so I’ve been getting more competitive.”
And will Scarlet be travelling with her on the tour?
“It depends really. I try to fit in with what’s best for her. Obviously I want to have her around all the time but if she’s missing out on school I don’t want to disrupt her too much. But we do some fun stuff together. I’m taking her to the Isle of Wight Festival this year because I’m taking her to see Jessie J. She’s her favourite artist.”
Tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar at the Capital FM Arena on Friday October 19 went on sale today, priced from £45 to £65. They are available from the venue, call 08444 124624 or go to www.jesuschristsuperstar.com.