JOHN Partridge says that everything he has ever learned in his career has gone into his latest role in the award-winning musical La Cage Aux Folles.

The star of TV soaps EastEnders and Doctors, John plays Albin, drag act Zaza the main attraction at the infamous La Cage Aux Folles nightclub.

The musical is currently on its first UK tour and is heading to Manchester later this month.

“I feel really lucky that I get to roll up everything I have learned from my classical career and musical theatre career to TV and pantomime into this,” he said.

“I get to use it all, my sexuality my heritage – it’s one of those rare moments where my personal life and professional life have all joined together in this wonderful life statement for me.”

The role has also got a highly personal connection for John.

“My mother passed away a few weeks ago and such a huge part of her is wrapped up in this role for me,” he said.

John’s mother Bridie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, and John has admitted he took part in last year’s Celebrity Big Brother to help pay for the costs of her care in Warrington.

“La Cage Aux Folles asks questions about what does it mean to be a normal family and what does it mean to be a mother,” he said.

“When I read the very first line of the script I could just hear my mum in the kitchen saying those words. That’s when I decided I wanted to play Albin in my own accent which is what I do.”

Born in Radcliffe, John admits that this northern approach caused a few raised eyebrows initially.

“But Bill Kenwright, the show’s producer, is the most gracious man I think ever worked for, He has been wonderful and he really gave me full reign to do as I pleased in some ways,” said John, whose sister Fiona Woods lives in Great Sankey.

La Cage Aux Folles follows the story of Georges, the manager of a Saint Tropez nightclub, and his partner, Albin.

Georges’ son Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a notorious right-wing politician determined to close down the colourful night-life. A meeting of the parents forces them to cover up their vibrant lifestyle.

Although picking up numerous awards both in the West End and Broadway, this is the show’s first UK tour.

“It’s not your blockbuster 80s musical,” said John.

“It’s not Cats, or Miss Saigon but I quite like the fact it’s a little less known.

“Having said that, there are people who know the show quite well or who have a firm idea of how it should be. But I am quite different to people who have played this role, I’m not your typical Albin and I really wanted to make it my own.

“Most people come and say they had no idea what they were coming to see and they were probably not expecting to enjoy it as much as they did and yet they leave the theatre feeling uplifted.

“You want people to walk out of those doors a little lighter than when they walked in – that’s what makes show business so great!”

Although initially it might seem unlikely that a musical set in a drag club in the South of France would have mass appeal, John believes the universal themes it covers genuinely connect with audiences.

“Virtually every night we have been on the road – and we have done over 100 shows – we have had a standing ovation and that’s very rare.

“The show covers topics that touch us all and crosses all sides of family life from gay to straight, old and young, black and white.

“It is a universal story and in today’s climate, stories that we all can relate to and take a heart-warming message from are so important.”

John’s co-star is Adrian Zmed who plays Georges. A leading Broadway performer, Adrian will probably be best known to UK audiences for his role in the Eighties cop show TJ Hooker.

“TJ Hooker was not really my thing. I was more a Charlie’s Angels kid I have to say,” laughed John.

“But Adrian is a lovely man, he has this old Broadway charm.”

West End leading lady Marti Webb is also in the show.

“My first professional role when I went into Cats when I was 16, Marti Webb was my Grizabella,” said John.

“It’s like I’ve come full circle.”

La Cage Aux Folles is at The Lowry in Salford Quays until Saturday. The production will then be at Liverpool Empire from July 4 to 8. Visit or