Little Miss Sensible Kimberley Walsh shows the Girls how to behave as she prepares for her role in Shrek the Musical

Little Miss Sensible Kimberley Walsh shows the Girls how to behave as she prepares for her role in Shrek the Musical

Kimberley Walsh is preparing for tonight’s performance of Shrek the Musical, in which she stars as Princess Fiona having taken over from a pregnant Amanda Holden.

We meet in her dressing room which is several flights of stairs up and done up like a fairytale princess’s boudoir in lilac paint and garlands of flowers.

‘This is all Amanda’s taste,’ says Kimberley, in a floppy jumper and jeans, boiling the kettle for a cup of tea. ‘I’ve got rid of the lilac chaise longue and a big pink thing that was over there.’ She points to where I’m sitting.

Giant role: Kimberley is preparing to take on an exciting new job on the stage Giant role: Kimberley as Princess Fiona with Nigel Lindsay as Shrek

Giant role: Kimberley is preparing to tread the boards as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical, which also stars Nigel Lindsay as Shrek (right)

‘I thought, “I like the Princess Tower vibe but I’m going to tone it down slightly because it might give me a bit of headache.”’

A no-nonsense Northerner, Kimberley was at a family barbecue in Bradford when she heard she’d got the role of Princess Fiona, but a planned two months of rehearsals were cut short by Amanda’s pregnancy following the desperately sad loss of her baby son just weeks before his birth.

‘I found out I had the part one week and the next Monday I was in rehearsals because Amanda was pregnant. It was such a secret the show’s producers didn’t even tell me but I kind of guessed being a woman,’ she says. ‘You think, “Why else would she have to leave early” I was so pleased for her.

‘One day when I was rehearsing and she was still in the show I popped up here to have a chat. She said she’d love to have fulfilled her full run in the show but, at the end of the day, getting pregnant again was all she wanted.

Replacement: Kimblery has taken over from Amanda Holden (pictured) following the announcement of her pregnancy

Replacement: Kimblery has taken over from Amanda Holden (pictured) following the announcement of her pregnancy

‘It worked for both of us. It’s meant I’ve been able to have a longer run. All I’ve ever wanted to do is get on a stage and sing. It’s the magic of performing that matters to me, not the celebrity stuff.’

Itis two years since Kimberley found herself a free spirit when she and the other members of the group — Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding and Nicola Roberts — decided to take a temporary break.

There is talk of a reunion early next year to mark the decade since they emerged triumphant from the TV talent show Popstars: The Rivals. They went on to achieve 20 consecutive Top Ten singles, including four No.  1s.

They have been nominated for five Brit Awards and are estimated to have earned 25  million between them.

When they decided to take a break, amid rumours of personality clashes and disagreements over their career direction, which they denied, they said they’d be back together after a year because any longer, they’d miss each other too much.

The hiatus has lasted twice as long as they had intended, and apart from their mooted 10th anniversary plans — ‘we’ll definitely do something,’ Nadine has said — there is little sign of Girls Aloud picking up where they left off.

So where do they stand now When Kimberley threw a casino-themed party for 150 guests in London’s Mayfair to celebrate her 30th birthday last month, the only Girls Aloud member able to join her was Nicola.

Cheryl was ill at home with a throat infection, Nadine was in the States where she’s hell-bent upon forging a solo career and Sarah, well, Sarah was somewhere overseas in a rehabilitation centre being treated for depression and alcohol addiction.

‘It was strange not to have all the girls there,’ says Kimberley. ‘But Nicola, bless her, did a lovely speech on behalf of all of them. Cheryl was really ill. She’d had to pull out of Children In Need as well because of it. I was a bit gutted about that.

‘She said, “Of all the weeks I had to be ill I wish it hadn’t been this one.” I felt so bad for her. She was texting me right through the night. Nicola was tweeting pictures to her too.

‘I was thinking, “Oh God, don’t. She’s going to be devastated.”

Heyday: Kimberley with rest of Girls Aloud at the peak of their success

Heyday: Kimberley with rest of Girls Aloud at the peak of their success

‘Sarah was still away in rehab which was a shame but she was texting as well and Nadine was in New York. She couldn’t get back.’

Since the band started their break Cheryl has endured divorce from footballer Ashley Cole, the humiliating axing from X Factor USA and a terrifying bout of malaria.

Nadine wasbriefly engaged to American footballer Jason Bell from whom she separated as her solo career bombed when her debut album Insatiable scraped into the charts at No. 47.

Happily settled: Kimberley is looking forward to babies this decade with longtime boyfriend Justin Scott

Happily settled: Kimberley is looking forward to babies this decade with longtime boyfriend Justin Scott

Sarah,who earned herself a reputation as ‘caner of the band’ after repeatedlyfalling out of clubs drunk in the early hours, hit rock bottom after ending her engagement to DJ Tom Crane.

‘Tough times are harder to deal with when you’re not around each other,’ says Kimberley.

Indeed, throughout Cheryl’s ups and downs, Kimberley has been a constant support. Born the second of four children in Bradford, music, she says, has always been part of her world.

‘I’m always singing even when I’m at home. I never thought, “I want to be a pop star”, or “I want to be famous and have my name in lights.” I just wanted to sing. I suppose it’s an escapism. We didn’t have the easiest of upbringings.’

Kimberley was five years old when her parents divorced. Her mother, a school music teacher, gave extra piano lessons and made clothes to sell.

Performing, she says, took her to an imaginary place she, her two sisters and brother could escape to during the tough times.

‘When anybody’s parents are going through a breakup, it’s not a nice atmosphere to be around in the home,’ she says.

‘We had money problems too. It was hard. My mum broke her back to make sure we could stay in our home and go to stage school which was all any of us wanted. Nothing was handed to us on a plate. So, we appreciated everything we had.’

Now happily settled with longtime boyfriend and former boy band member Justin Scott, she counts her blessings she’s kept her head throughout ten years in a mad, mind-altering industry.

Indeed, Kimberley and Justin are so close that friends fully expected him to pop the question at her birthday party. He didn’t. Will they marry

‘Marriage and more. So babies are something I’m looking forward to in this decade,’ she says.

Kimberley Walsh stars as Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. For tickets visit: ShrekThe Musical.co.uk or call: 0844 871 8810.

Best of friends: Despite their careers taking different paths, Kimberley and her former band mates still support each other

Best of friends: Despite their careers taking different paths, Kimberley and her former band mates still support each other