STRIPPING off on stage would be a nervewracking experience for most of us.

But Jennifer Ellison had to summon more courage than most before taking on the role of Celia in hit show Calendar Girls, which comes to the Cliffs Pavilion, Westcliff, next week.

The blonde bombshell, from Liverpool, had given birth to baby Bobby just five months before the curtain went up on her first performance, but it hasn’t stopped her loving every moment of appearing in the wildly popular show.

“It’s been going fantastically,” says the mum-of-one, who is now on her second touring run of Calendar Girls.

“I can’t believe it because I did it three months ago and it’s still as busy, the audience still love it just as much.”

Jennifer, best known for her role in TV soap Brookside, puts the show’s success down to the poignant storyline. It is based on a true story, which sees members of a local WI group agree to strip off for a charity calendar after one of their husbands loses his battle with leukaemia.

“I don’t think in the whole theatre you’d be able to find anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way,” Jennifer says.

“It’s a love story. What these ladies did for this man, who they loved very dearly, really does touch everyone.

“It makes them laugh, it makes them cry, it really takes them on such a fantastic journey and it’s wonderful to be a part of it.”

Jennifer’s joined by an all-star cast including Lynda Bellingham, Bernie Nolan, Danielle Lineker and Lisa Riley. She says she loves her character, trophy wife Celia.

She says: “I love the play and Celia’s a great part. She’s so funny. She’s not the typical WI member. She’s a lot younger and she’s more glamorous. I think it’s nice to have someone a bit different for the audience. They really seem to warm to her.”

But it didn’t make the scene where Celia disrobes for her photoshoot as Miss September any easier, especially as she’d given birth.

She says: “When I did the photoshoot I’d just had him a few weeks before. I was still breastfeeding and everything. It was kind of crazy.

“I did the performance when he was five months old. It wasn’t too bad. I had a good few months at home with him and he’s on tour with me now, so I’m very lucky.”

Both of Jennifer’s leading men, baby Bobby and her husband, boxer Robbie Tickle, have joined her for the tour.

She says: “Taking my clothes off was terrifying. But I met the director and realised they only wanted what we were happy with. It was so tastefully done, so well choreographed, you can’t really see anything.

“I just stand up with the buns in front of my chest and now I’m fine. It’s so great when the audience see the shoot because they’re just screaming and clapping.

“I’ve lost a lot of weight since the first tour, so I feel more comfortable and confident on this one.”

Jennifer wanted to be a performer from an early age.

Taking ballet classes from the age of three she trained at the Royal Ballet School and was an international ballet champion for four years. She’s taken on-high-profile West End roles including Roxie Hart in Chicago and appeared in the film version of Phantom of the Opera in 2004.

“Since the age of three I’ve wanted to perform,” she says. “The first time I watched Annie was what started it.

“I just love to dance. I’ve always had a passion for it. Since I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to be in the industry.”

Now she’s looking to give something back with the Jennifer Ellison Fame Academy, a performing arts academy in Liverpool opening this summer.

She’s been working on the project for six years and can’t wait to get started with workshops and classes.

“I’ve always had a love for the industry and I wanted to give something back,” she explains.

“I’ve had some amazing experiences but a lot of teachers don’t teach you about the business itself.

“It’s going to be a longer running project than anything else I’ve done in the rest of my life, which is exciting. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, it’s been six years in the making and it’s all coming together.”

But in the meantime, there’s one job Jennifer is loving more than any other – being a proud mum.

“I used to say being a mum was the one thing left that I wanted to do,” she says. “But now I am one and I’m loving it.”

Calendar Girls Feb 28 to Mar 5 £18.50-£30.50 8pm.

Wednesday and Saturday matinee, 2.30pm, The Cliffs Pavilion, Station Road, Westcliff 01702 351135