‘Is there going to be any sort of official announcement?’
‘I don’t think there needs to be. It’s no big deal,’ says Range. ‘We haven’t released anything for a few years and don’t have any plans to. Maybe one day we’ll fancy doing something. Maybe we won’t.’
No big deal? Perhaps Range herself is too close to the non-stop roller-coaster ride that was the Sugababes to appreciate what they added to the pop firmament. Surely this is a huge deal?
How will the pop world carry on without the ever-changing line-up of its most tumultuous trio to keep it entertained? From the day in 2001 when Siobhán Donaghy flounced out of the band, pop lovers knew they were dealing with a very special three-piece indeed. You have to give it to Donaghy, her exit in the middle of a Japanese promotional trip was a stroke of genius. She said she was going to the toilet but fled to the airport and flew to London. Brilliant. Range replaced her.
The ’babes kept themselves engulfed in a cloud of high drama while simultaneously knocking out a string of top tunes, including No.1s Freak Like Me, Round Round and About You Now.
I was working on a gossip blog back in 2009 when Keisha Buchanan was sacked and replaced with Jade Ewen – it kept us busy all week. First pictures of Ewen in her new Sugababes hot pants, then stories of ‘devastated’ Buchanan being ‘consoled’ by JLS… For the Sugababes to fizz out like this seems uncharacteristically anticlimactic. How does Range feel about this sad demise?
‘Great,’ she chirps. ‘I was in Sugababes for 11 years. It’s amazing for a pop band to last that long but right now it’s time for a break from all that.’
Yes, for plucky Range has swapped the ‘glamour’ of PVC and video shoots in exotic locations for retro 1950s get-up and a rehearsal room in Bromley, Kent, where she is preparing for the role of Pinky Tuscadero in Happy Days: A New Musical. Henry Winkler (The Fonz in the TV series that ran for ten years and spawned the phrase ‘jumping the shark’) is the show’s ‘creative consultant’ (whatever that means).
Range loves it. ‘It sounds cheesy but I enjoy being part of a team and building the show together,’ she says. ‘Rehearsing is something I haven’t done for years – the Sugababes didn’t rehearse, we just did it on stage – and it’s fun to be interacting with the rest of the cast.’
Range’s pug Betty isn’t so keen. ‘She doesn’t like me speaking American,’ she says. ‘It freaks her out and she runs in circles barking. I have to go to my boyfriend’s house to practise my lines.’
The role is a return to Range’s showbiz roots: she started performing with a Liverpool dance school at three. By the time she was a teenager, she’d had lead roles in professional productions including a panto stint as Snow White.
‘I loved singing,’ says Range. ‘I feel empowered when I sing.’
Range looked for auditions in The Stage newspaper every week and at 14 nearly joined pop group Scooch – the short-lived rivals to Steps. ‘I lied about my age,’ she says. ‘You had to be 16 and when I told the truth, the producers said they’d phone me in a couple of years.’
She joined an early incarnation of Atomic Kitten but, to her surprise, when she turned 16, the Scooch producers – Mike Stock and Matt Aitken of Stock, Aitken and Waterman – offered her a solo deal. The Sugababes were next. After years on the periphery of the industry, did pop stardom live up to her expectations?
‘No, you think it’s going to be all fun and games and you get to sing with your mates every day but it’s not like that,’ she says. ‘It’s hard work and you get homesick but I wouldn’t change any of it.
‘There were great days, even up to the end, where we’d perform at amazing places. There’d be other days where you didn’t feel like getting up and fancied a lie-in. But most jobs are like that.’
After stints on Dancing On Ice (where she finished eighth) and Celebrity MasterChef, where she was first to leave (‘they gave me a spider crab. I’ve never prepared a crab in my life. I didn’t have a clue what to do with it’), the musical has re-energised her.
‘I’m up at 6am every day and can’t wait to get in. I haven’t performed for a while and it feels good to be back,’ she says. There are hopes for a West End run when the show finishes its British tour – but what are Range’s plans after that? A solo album?
‘I don’t know, I’ll see what happens when the time comes,’ she says.
You don’t have a load of achievements you’d want to tick off a list, then?
‘I wouldn’t say my career is over and I’m done and satisfied,’ she says. ‘I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far and I’ll keep doing what makes me happy. Music will always be what I do. I’m a singer and that will never change.’
The musical of Happy Days is at Bromley’s the Churchill Theatre as part of a British tour. www.happydaysthemusical.com