Singing, dancing, acting, rapping - why new dad Louis Smith can’t wait to be back performing in his home city
Peterborough’s Olympic hero Louis Smith has never been one to shirk a challenge.
The 32-year-old took on the world’s best gymnasts for more than a decade - winning medals at the World Championships, Europeans, Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
He has since reinvented himself as a successful performer - winning the Strictly Come Dancing and more recently The Masked Dancer series on TV - as well as taking to the stage in a series of dance-themed Rip It Up shows.
Now though,having come through the pandemic, virtually renovated a house and become a dad for the first time, he is facing his biggest challenge - the next step in his stage career.
Later this year hit stage musical Bring It On opens at Peterborough New Theatre with him in a starring role - dancing, singing, acting and rapping - before heading for London’s Southbank and a six month UK tour.
The show should have opened last year, before coronavirus restrictions put paid to that, but Louis is just happy to have his opportunity once more.
“I wouldn’t say I was disappointed at the time,” he said looking back. “ I was quite nervous because none of us had seen anything happen like this before in terms of a pandemic and lockdowns.
“So if it had got cancelled for any other reason then I might have been a bit disappointed but at the time there was so much craziness happening in the world I wasn’t really thinking about the show. It was just like going to the shop and all the pasta and toilet rolls had gone, I was not thinking about Bring It On.
“I am happy now that the performing arts industry is opening up and we can get the ball rolling, it has been been a long time coming.”
The pandemic brought everything to a grinding halt, but Louis has certainly kept himself busy.
“I had started going to the gym in preparation for Bring It On and then pandemic hit, and that stopped so I started running and working out at home. Then the show kept getting pushed back and I stopped - and then it was just like ‘what is happening?’
“So me and my girlfriend thought about what we were going to do - we are both performers (Charley is a dancer)and both in a situation where we can’t earn money so what do we do?
“So we decided to go into property and invested in a second property. We are renovating that now and hopefully we will get that on the market.
“Then we found out she was pregnant and we ended up having a baby, so it was all systems go raising a baby, renovating a property and now the world going back to normal.”
Needless to say with so much going on he didn’t have much time to watch the Tokyo Olympics on TV - working long hours renovating the property - but he did catch a little of the gymnastic.
Did it make him feel nostalgic?
“A little bit,” he admitted. “But it reminded me just how much I don’t miss it!
“There are aspects of it that I do, wearing the flag and feeling in the best shape of your life and performing for your country is a great feeling but there is so much that I don’t miss - the pressure, the aches and pains, the niggles. It is tough.”
So how is he preparing for the gruelling schedule a show like Bring It On involves - eight shows in Peterborough starting on November 26, six weeks in London then a six month national tour?
“I was hoping that this month I would be able to take time to get fit ready for the task of Bring It On, but unfortunately I am still painting and putting up skirting at the house, trying to get it it finished and give myself a little time to spend with the baby (Marley was born on February 14) and my girlfriend and do a little working out.
“But I am really looking forward to getting back into the entertainment world - it grinded to a halt and I was not really sure what was going to happen. So many people struggled, so I am very grateful to still be a part of Bring It On as it goes forward and to get it going again.”
Louis admits it will be special bringing the show to Peterborough - two years after Rip It Up went down an absolute storm at New Theatre.
“The Rip It Up tour was last time I was on stage (although he did film a panto villain piece for a holiday club).
“Then there was The Masked Dancer (in which Louis performed and won as Carwash). I was on stage but I couldn’t see I was on stage.
“It was so hard I can’t begin to explain. It was so difficult. because the costume was so heavy and it was really baggy so you have to put in even more energy.
“I couldn’t see through the mask , I couldn’t see the other dancers - if you had a blank moment you couldn’t look to your dancers to see where you were so you had to freestyle until you remembered what you were doing again.
“You couldn’t breathe. It was tough but it was brilliant. I mean, I was dancing around the stage dressed as a carwash, who gets to say that ?”
Now he is excited at the prospect of getting back on stage in Bring It On - the original film starring Kirsten Dunst being a firm favourite, he says.
“My character, Cameron, is a college basketball Jock, he’s too cool for school.... he picks up all the ladies.
“They are starting a cheerleading squad and ask my character to get involved and be a part of that . He is reluctant, he wants to be like Michael Jordan. When he is told that Jordan was a cheerleader in his college days he decides to give it a try.”
Rehearsals get underway next month before the tour which runs until next summer kicks off in November .
“I am looking forward to it but at same time I am going to miss being at home with my girlfriend and Marley,” he admitted. “It is going to be difficult spending a lot of time away from them but they are going to come and visit in venues that they can.
“It is going to be a challenge as I have never toured away from my girlfriend or my daughter before so we will see how that goes.
“As for playing my home town... when we performed Rip It Up there was an incredible turn out and being on that stage in front of my home crowd electrified the situation even more. It was an incredible atmosphere - people standing up, jumping around and having a good time. It was just great fun, I loved every second of performing. I saw friends and family in the audience. It was such a great time and I am so looking forward to bringing that back again and performing this time with Bring It On in that theatre.
“And 100 per cent it will be the same. This is a one of a kind show - it is fun, the music and songs are fantastic - and it is a really good laugh.”
The role does bring with it new challenges, he says.
“This will be my first kind of character-driven acting role in a show, as in all the others I have had speaking roles but have just been kind of being myself, speaking to the audience and holding my own on stage.
“But this is the first time I will be playing a character and I have to do an American accent, so I am really diving in to what it takes to perform on stage.
“I will also be rapping - my character has a lot of rapping segments in the show - combined with all the dancing and ensemble singing I will be doing, so it is going to a full on production for me. I can’t wait.
“We have a very big and talented cast, and when I read up on some of the work some of these people have done I realised I have to pay close attention to everyone. I am rubbing shoulders with some of the best.”
For tickets and full details of showtimes go to www.newtheatre-peterborough.com