Matlock actress Ava’s star turn

Ava Hunt playing Connie Francis
Ava Hunt playing Connie Francis

Professional actress Ava Hunt has undergone a dramatic transformation to play the world’s first female pop star.

Ava, who lives in Matlock, is playing the role of Connie Francis in a touring show which looks at the life of the woman behind hits such as Lipstick On Your Collar, Who’s Sorry Now and Stupid Cupid.

She said: “Connie’s hair and make-up is very different from mine and although I am not doing an impersonation as such it’s important to authenticate Connie’s appearance as it was in the 1980s which is when the play is set.”

Ava researched the highs and lows of Connie’s life by reading articles, trawling the internet and watching interviews with her on YouTube.

“I also worked with a professional voice/dialect coach in order to sustain a New Jersey accent, and have been very pleased with the results,” she said.

Currently touring, The Music and Memories of Connie Francis comes to Wirksworth Town Hall tonight (Friday, May 11) and tomorrow (Saturday, May 12), at 7.30pm.

Ava, 52, said: “It’s a great show with all the big hits that she sung, but also the ‘older’ Connie takes the audience on a journey through the highs and lows of this amazing woman’s life.

“There are a couple of scenes that are particularly challenging emotionally, and it is very upsetting - particularly when she talks about what happened to her when she was brutally raped. The scene doesn’t go into too much detail, but audiences are witness to the upset that it causes Connie to recall the story. Portraying this is not easy, but the emotion comes naturally during the scene. Often audiences are stunned into silence, sometimes they applaud, I think taken aback at the depth of the experience.”

Ava, who has worked professionally for 30 years, is no stranger to emotionally-challenging productions. She played the lead character in Channel 4 drama Ben’s Patient, about Multiple Sclerosis and a mother contemplating euthanasia. She said: “During the research and preparation for the role, I met with several women who were at different stages of the illness, those interviews were incredibly helpful of course, but also very moving and upsetting too.”

Her other television roles include appearing as a consultant for eight episodes of Emmerdale and character leads in The Royal Today, Heartbeat, Touch of Frost and Dangerfield.