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Talented Nikki's single aim for the West End stage

Whichever way you look at her, Nikki Cross presents the image of a strong, independent young woman. There’s Nikki the house-proud, single-handedly tackling the job of painting and decorating her home at Warwick. There’s Nikki the formidable, hauling boxes of flatpack furniture upstairs and ready to do the assembly work. ‘I’m not bad at it,’ she smiles. And there’s Nikki the office administrator, handling a wide range of business matters for the Playbox young people’s professional theatre company.

But most significant of all is Nikki the singer, dancer and actress who, over the past few years, has become a leading light on a showbusiness scene ranging all over Warwickshire. She has wowed audiences with vibrantly performed leading roles in shows including Little Shop of Horrors, Singin’ in the Rain and Legally Blonde.

Now, at just 34, Nikki has decided it’s really time to get serious about a career. She has been making some notable efforts, being picked by London workshop companies to perform at try-out sessions and record songs for concept albums. Accompanied by her musical director and friend Matt Flint, she recently did a song from a musical she loves, Heathers, which is based on a film starring Winona Ryder.

‘I really enjoy the experience of recording, though it can be a bit scary being shut away in a soundproof room and not knowing what sort of reaction you’re going to get on the outside,’ she says. As with the painting and decorating and furniture building, she is unswervingly determined. ‘I remind myself : You are a strong, independent woman. You don’t need anyone else.’ She is a loner by choice. Apart from her musical director and a wide circle of friends, she wants and needs to devote all her spare hours to singing and acting. ‘I came out of a long-term relationship a couple of years ago and now I am relishing the freedom of being able to stay out and rehearse until all hours if I want to, see friends whenever I like, and go to London shows.’ Like everyone else, she’s staggered by London theatre prices. 'But I managed to see 42nd Street recently and it just blew me away. It was worth every penny!’

Nikki chooses to perform under her full name, Nikki Claire Cross – ‘it’s just a little more substantial.’ She hails originally from Bristol where her parents still live. ‘I had absolutely no family background in theatre and although I was always performing as a child, putting on my own shows and things, my parents were a little puzzled about my wanting to carry it on in later years.

‘I never went to drama school or university and I had a big blow-up with my mum when she asked why I didn’t get some shop work. I couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck in retail all my life.’

She learned a lot from moving to Warwick and working for Playbox for many years and performing with the Spa Theatre company. ‘Acting was my first love, then came the singing and then the dancing. And they all began to fit together.’ Now she’s in huge demand with local theatres, sometimes rehearsing for two different shows over the same period. And Nikki is about to take another plunge by showcasing her talents in a special entertainment at the Stagey Fox venue in Regent Street, Leamington, on September 21. While presenting a selection of her own favourite numbers, she has assembled a team of other singers and musicians to take part in the event. Admission is free and the show starts at 7.30pm. ‘We’re been having some great rehearsals and I’m really looking forward to it,’ she says.

This will be Nikki Claire Cross in her chosen showbusiness world. ‘I never want to do anything else, I love every minute of it.’ She adds happily: ‘If I had to, I would do it all for nothing.’

Peter McGarry, Elementary Whats On

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