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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2008, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
High School Musical gets new star
Former EastEnders actress Letitia Dean is to play a role in the stage version of High School Musical this summer.

Letitia Dean

The star of Strictly Come Dancing will play eccentric drama teacher Mrs Darbus in the production at London's Hammersmith Apollo.

She said: "It's a lovely opportunity for me, I haven't done a musical since I was 13 - many moons ago!

"It's something completely different to anything I've ever done - doing an American accent and playing this kind of character."

She admits she hasn't seen the films yet but has watched a few clips on YouTube.

She said: "I didn't realise what a phenomenon it was. So when my friend's children found out I was doing it, my kudos went through the roof.

"They're like 'I can't believe you're doing it'. They're well excited. Finally I've got a bit of street cred!"

A scene from High School Musical
The third edition of the High School Musical movie is out in October

The first High School Musical film debuted on the Disney Channel in 2006 and went on to became a surprise worldwide hit.

When the second movie came out in 2007 the premiere broke cable TV records with an audience of 18.6m in the US.

The film follows basketball captain Troy as he falls in love with maths genius Gabriella during rehearsals for the school musical.

Dean shouldn't find the subject matter hard as she is a big fan of musicals and went to the famous Sylvia Young Theatre School.

She said: "I came out of the womb with Calamity Jane on the iPod. I've always loved musicals, since I was a little girl.

"And I started dance classes when I was like 7 years-old, so it was always in the blood."

Letitia Dean
The Strictly star has just finished touring with her fellow dancers

Of course, she's had plenty of practice recently after reaching the quarter final stage on Strictly Come Dancing with partner Darren Bennett.

She said: "I loved it. It was terrifying, it was exhausting and it was overwhelmingly fantastic. I loved every minute of it."

Dean played Sharon Watts in EastEnders for over 20 years and admits to watching it recently since Ricky and Bianca have come back.

She said: "They're fabulous aren't they?"

She doesn't rule out returning: "I always say 'never say never' - I don't think I've been killed off yet, have I?"

Dean starts rehearsing in May and High School Musical runs at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, from 1 July to 31 August.

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