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Disco diva back for girls' night

The temperature will be hot, hot, hot and notching up at least Three Degrees at the Theatre Royal this week, as Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr finds out

The temperature will be hot, hot, hot and notching up at least Three Degrees at the Theatre Royal this week, as Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr finds out

Back in the 70s, Sheila Ferguson was the epitome of disco. Her group, The Three Degrees, had a string of chart successes, from the uptempo Giving Up Giving In to the slushy When Will I See You Again and My Simple Heart.

There certainly is no giving up or giving in for Sheila, who is back in the region this week in Hot Flush! at Newcastle's Theatre Royal.

Meet Myra, Helen, Sylvia and Jessica in this new musical billed as the perfect girls' night out. Share in the friendships, the secrets, the laughs, the tears and the ups and downs of four ordinary women living extraordinary lives.

Ferguson stars alongside Rula Lenska, Marti Webb, Rachel Izen and Sam Kane in the production, which features new songs and choreography by Brendan Cole, of TV's Strictly Come Dancing.

Ferguson is no stranger to the North East. She has performed here as one third of The Three Degrees and in hit shows like Soul Train and Oh! What a Night.

An all-round performer, she's never short of a word or two and is just as happy to talk about the good old days as her current endeavours.

"I'm always impressed at these old photos of us," she says. "We always looked pristine and we always looked like we'd just stepped out of a fresh bath.

"If you're feeling dowdy, pamper yourself. Dress up."

It was the height of the disco era - white tuxedos, blue eyeshadow and flares - when The Three Degrees were at the top of the pop pile.

Barely a week went by when the trio were not in the news or the charts. But despite the fame and adulation, there was one thing lead singer Sheila Ferguson lacked.

"I couldn't find me a man," she says on reflection. "Nobody wanted to know. It was terrible."

Why? Because the media made a great play on the fact that Prince Charles said his favourite group was The Three Degrees and his particular favourite was Sheila.

"I'd go to discos at the height of our fame and simply couldn't get a date," reminisces Sheila.

"Because they linked me with Prince Charles, they immediately assumed I was some kind of fuddy-duddy with not much get up and go.

"And that was unfair to both of us. The whole Prince Charles thing was blown out of proportion.

"But I did find him a lovely man and still do."

Ferguson is indeed a multi-faceted woman who sees no boundaries in the world of entertainment. Incidentally, she lives with her twin daughters in an imposing 19th Century house built by Edward VII for his famous mistress Lily Langtry.

NHot Flush! is at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, until Saturday.

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