Big night with Barrowman

Samantha Horsfield has barely come back down to earth after being surprised by her hero John Barrowman.

James Marston

Samantha Horsfield has barely come back down to earth after being surprised by her hero John Barrowman. Today with her performance on BBC One's prime time show Tonight's the Night just days away, the mother-of-two chats to JAMES MARSTON.

SAMANTHA knew something was odd about that night but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

The member of the Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society had been asked to audition a latecomer to join in with their current show The Producers.

Samantha said: “I walked in to the rehearsal room and thought it was odd, the stage had been cleared, and for some reason I started to feel a bit nervous.

“I was told we were auditioning three people and one of them was called Benny. Everyone was acting really strange but they were all playing so straight I didn't like to ask what was going on.

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“All of a sudden this thing with long wayward hair, big flares and a moustache walked on the stage in silver platform shoes and a tank top.

“He said 'I'm Benny and I'm from Sweden' in this awful accent and I just laughed but everyone else didn't laugh. It was really weird.

“He sang his song and it was absolutely dreadful but everyone else was deadpan. I didn't really know what was happening. He asked me if he'd got the part and I said something like 'you have to do your dialog first', and then he came over and asked me if I thought I could do better. He was quite aggressive and I was a bit frightened.

“All of a sudden this camera appeared and he ripped off his wig. I had this thought in my head that I recognised his face and it was John Barrowman but the rest of me was telling me 'Samantha you're in Ipswich Labour Club. What would John Barrowman be doing here?' It was like a row going on in my brain. I was in shock and then he put his arm around me and I said 'I love you'.”

Once she stopped shaking, the enormity of what John Barrowman was doing at an IODS rehearsal began to sink in.

Samantha, 39, said: “He asked me if I'd like to sing in front of the nation. I said hell yes.”

Musical theatre and performing has been a life-long passion for Samantha and it was no wonder she jumped at the chance to perform on national television.

She said: “Ever since I can remember I have loved performing, I've always sung and loved being on stage.

“When I was at school I was always the first in the queue to be on stage. It wasn't even a conscious decision; it is just something I need to do.”

Deciding she needed to get a “proper job” Samantha pursued a career in business.

She said: “I had a career in PR and marketing and I ended up with business qualifications in something I hated. Then I got pregnant.”

Samantha and her husband Pete, a call centre consultant, decided she should give up work for the first five years to enjoy her children growing up and spend time with her family.

She said: “We had even talked about me doing something in the theatre for a living.”

But when her twins were two and a half years old they were diagnosed with autism - it was an event which would change Samantha's life and outlook forever.

She said: “I love my kids and live for my family but they are very hard work. Autism affects three different areas - communication socialisation and imagination. We are hard wired to pick up verbal speech but the children have no concept of speech and it is difficult for them. I have been able to get through to them through music and music holds their concentration.”

As a full-time carer to Sam and Kate, now 11, Samantha said autism requires stringent routines and structures.

She said: “I love the children to death and I find their condition really interesting and fascinating. They have no concept of behaviour and they have obsessions, for example Sam is totally obsessed by videos, not the films themselves but the opening credits. They are very hard work and you have to be their interpreter for them and watch their behaviour, especially in public, constantly.”

Samantha's escape is performing and singing.

She said: “Doing shows is brilliant. I can be someone else and forget all my problems and stresses. I don't know what I would have done without the friends I have made in the society over the years. IODS is a huge support network, it is like having another family. I don't know what I would have done without them.”

Samantha admits she would have loved to have performed for a living but it was never meant to be - she put her family first.

Her husband Pete, 42, wrote to the BBC after seeing a trailer for Tonight's The Night on television.

He said: “Setting up Samantha's surprise was a way of giving something back to her. She does so much for the family and I knew she'd love to perform on television. I cried my eyes out when I watched her performing.”

As soon as the initial surprise was over Samantha found herself in London rehearsing for the show with the cast of Mamma Mia and taking singing lessons with West End singer Claire Moore.

She said: “It has always been my ambition to step on a West End stage and thanks to this surprise I've fulfilled that ambition. We had rehearsals at the Prince Of Wales Theatre. It was just amazing. I loved every minute.”

On Easter Sunday Samantha and Pete were driven to the studio for the recoding of the show where she performed Dancing Queen with the West End cast of Mamma Mia.

Samantha said: “I wasn't really nervous, it was so far away from my normal life. It was a very emotional experience but it was wonderful.

“I had a brilliant time. It was absolutely fabulous. It was like being on Top of the Pops.”

So how does Samantha think she did?

“I am not looking forward to watching myself. I haven't seen a recording but I don't think I was in fine voice. There's nothing I can do now. I've been coming down to earth and now it's all sunk in I've begun to realise I'm going to be on prime time Saturday night television. in yellow Lycra”

The show's host does not share Samantha's concerns.

John Barrowman said: “Sam's story was such a great one and it was a real thrill to see her get her chance to perform with the West End cast of Mamma Mia.

“Not only did she give it her all, she shone like a true West End leading lady.”

Samantha Horsfield will feature in Tonight's The Night on BBC One on Saturday, May 9.

The Producers will be performed at the Regent from June 17 to 20. Tickets are �16 and �14 and are available from the Ipswich Regent box office on 01473 433100.

What do you think of Tonight's The Night? Are you a fan of John Barrowman? Have you seen Samantha perform? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

John featured in the 2005 film version of Mel Brooks' The Producers.

John was born in Glasgow on March 11, 1967.

When he was eight years old, the Barrowman family moved to America.

He became interested in acting and performing as a teenager.

John was cast as Billy Crocker in Cole Porter's Anything Goes, opposite Elaine Paige - it was his big break.

In 2005, John appeared in the role of Captain Jack Harkness in the BBC show Doctor Who - a role which expanded to become the lead in the spin-off show Torchwood.

John Barrowman is due to appear at Ipswich's Regent Theatre on May 20.