IT’S not every day you get to speak to someone who has just been to the Oscars and it’s fair to say Anita Dobson is still getting over the experience.

The soap legend was in Hollywood to support her husband, Queen guitarist Brian May, who ended up enjoying a spectacular night, with the film based on the band’s career, Bohemian Rhapsody, scooping four awards and Brian himself opening the Academy Awards with rousing versions of We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.

“It was extraordinary and all seems like a dream now,” she laughs. “I keep thinking ‘was I actually there?’ I’ve been going into the cupboard and looking at my dress and assuring myself that yes, I was!

“It was such an amazing night and to win four Oscars, I was just so thrilled for them. I think Brian thought they might come away with two but four was exceptional.”

Anita will be coming to Chester later this moth for the forthcoming UK tour of the smash hit production of the musical Annie, which is heading to Storyhouse from Monday, March 25 to Saturday, March 30, 2019.

Set in 1930’s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, but spiteful Miss Hannigan, played by Anita, has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search.

“I’ve been so lucky because they allowed me to do the first three months of the run so I could also have the rehearsal period and I’ve had such a good time making the character mine,” she says. “We did the wig and changed a few little things but it made it feel like I was coming into a fresh show and a lot of the dancers are also new to the show, so it feels like a completely new production.”

Memorably played by Carol Burnett in the much-loved 1982 film, Anita was determined to look at the orphanage owner in a different way.

“You have to shut that door and start from scratch,” she says. “With everything you do you have to make it you own and start with a blank page. It’s such a great story and she is the sort of character that as soon as the offer came in, I was like ‘please can I do that?’.

“All children seem to love Annie, which is wonderful. It has to because of the story because that is where every good production starts. It’s about a little girl who is lost and lonely and wants her mum and dad and it’s a rags to riches story but you’ve also got a dog and you’ve got baddies and goodies and the music is terrific. It can’t fail really.”

The title role of Annie is shared by Faye Katsande, Ava Smith and Freya Yates, who are joined by three teams of young performers who play the girls in Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.

“I don’t think it’s the case anymore that you can say ‘never work with animals or children’,” says Anita. “I’ve worked with lots of children and dogs and they’ve all been brilliant. What’s wonderful about kids is that they tell you the truth - if you’re doing it wrong or they don’t like you, they’ll let you know and that’s fantastic. It means everything comes from a real place.”

With its unforgettable songs like It’s The Hard-Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You, and Tomorrow, Annie sits comfortably in the pantheon of legendary musicals and it’s a genre Anita, whose West End theatre credits include Madame Morrible in Wicked and Mama Morton in Chicago, feels very comfortable.

“I spent 13 years in the business before I moved into television and it was on stage where I cut my teeth,” she says. “I’ve done quite a broad spectrum of work, from heavy to light and I just love it all. What’s wonderful is that you can go from something like Hamlet to something like Annie, which are both completely different but both wonderful in different ways. I love exploring all sides of people and society and I think that’s what fascinates me most about acting.”

As Angie Watts in EastEnders, Anita created one of the most popular characters in television, winning numerous awards and becoming a true small screen icon. Universally known for her cheeky banter, her huge shaggy perm and turning to alcohol during her stormy marriage to cheating Den (Leslie Grantham), the partnership memorably ended when he handed Angie divorce papers on Christmas Day 1986, in an episode watched by a record-breaking 30.1 million viewers.

“Looking back now I think if you can do anything which people describe as ‘iconic’ you have to be proud of yourself,” she laughs. “Angie was a wonderful character to play and the fact that people still talk about her and still love her makes me incredibly happy.”

Grantham’s death last year brought back many memories of the London-based soap and Anita says her co-star’s death came as a huge shock.

“He wasn’t in the country for a lot of the latter part of his life and so when he did come back and was ill I think it came as a shock to a lot of people,” she says. “It was very sudden really and once we knew he was ill all of a sudden he was gone.”

EastEnders remains the BBC’s number one soap 30 years after Angie took off for a life in Spain but Anita adds she doesn’t get to see it too much these days.

“I don’t watch much TV at all because there’s just not enough time,” she says. “I watched a few reruns just out of interest recently because I thought it would be nice to see the old gang again and it was really nice. Strange but lovely!

“Letitia Dean, who plays my daughter Sharon, came up to see Annie while we were in Manchester and that was lovely. It was so good to see her again - she’s a woman now!”

Annie is showing at Storyhouse, in Chester from Monday, March 25 to Saturday, March 30, 2019. For more information or to book tickets, visit or phone 01244 409 113.