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Sunday, 26 December, 1999, 15:40 GMT
Barbara's bonanza year
Dickson has success as both an actress and recording artist
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

If anyone deserves a hearty celebration to end the year, it's singer and actress Barbara Dickson.

After six years away from West End musicals, this year saw her triumphant return in the highly acclaimed Spend, Spend, Spend.

Dickson plays the older, wiser Viv
A week into its run, Spend, Spend, Spend - the show about the infamous Sixties pools winner Viv Nicholson, who won and lost a fortune - was a sell-out.

Just two months later it took the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical - beating none other than The Lion King.

Dickson is no stranger to success. After all, she has a string of successes to her name, including another hit stage show, Blood Brothers, numerous singles, albums and tours, plus acclaimed roles in ITV dramas Taggart and Band of Gold.

But there's nothing self-congratulatory about Dickson herself. The 51-year-old star calls herself one of life's "late-starters" - she found mainstream fame in her late 20s.

Great entertainment

And, as she talks about Spend, Spend, Spend, the lilting voice that sang hits such as January, February and The Caravan Song, oozes with the enthusiasm of a showbiz novice.

Dickson has made several best-selling albums
"Spend, Spend, Spend is fantastic and is the most exciting thing I have been involved with since Blood Brothers," she gushes.

Dickson was awarded The Society of West End Theatres' Best Actress in a Musical award in 1984 for her role as Mrs Johnston in Blood Brothers, so Dickson's not a bad judge.

In Spend, Spend, Spend, she plays Viv as she is now looking back on her misspent youth. Dickson reckons the basis for her admiration is the production's intelligence.

"There's a kind of surge of emotion at the end and that's how I feel it should be," she explains.

Morality tale

Spend, Spend, Spend is about 25-year-old working class pools winner Viv Nicholson, who squandered today's equivalent of 3m in search of what she believed to be the happiness of the champagne lifestyle.

Ultimately she was left with nothing but heartache and, in this lottery-led time, Dickson says we should all take note.

"I think it's absolutely necessary and it was there on the page for me when I read the script. Okay, dream about all the stuff that comes with winning money but don't expect it to be fine, although it might be.

The show's young Viv and true-love Keith
"When Viv says at the end, looking back at her simple life - before her big win - 'That's when I had everything' that says it all for me."

As for managing her own money, Dickson says she is nothing like the young Viv. Instead, her philosophy is to "just earn money and put it in the bank".

Nonetheless, she says she wouldn't have accepted the part if she hadn't felt sympathy for her character.

"Viv has really suffered. I describe her story as somebody driving at 60 miles an hour into a brick wall because that's what it seemed like to me.

"You can't believe that she learned so little from her mistakes. But she just needed to make them in a way and I think she is now a steadier character.

"I met her at rehearsals and at the opening night. She's a great girl, very strong, a survivor and I really admire her."

Life off-stage

Dickson has been a devoted mother for 13 years
It's not the first time Dickson has felt empathy for one of her parts. She talks just as lyrically about her role as Anita Braithwaite in the two series of the hit ITV series Band of Gold in 1995 and 1996.

"Anita was so wacky and common, that playing her was fantastic. It was also very challenging and interesting but she was just so lovely and dotty - I loved it," she enthuses.

Such feisty parts as Viv and Anita do, however, seem worlds away from Dickson's real existence.

A devoted mother of three, she spends as much time as possible at home in Lincolnshire with her three boys and her husband Oliver, who works in TV.

Barbara Dickson
Explains the appeal of Spend, Spend, Spend
See also:

13 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Pools winner Viv in tears at premire
22 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Lion King's awards triumph
29 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Game's up for Pajama show
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