Globe columnist Peter Grant meets Mark Moraghan - star of Holby City, Coronation Street, Brookside and Thomas the Tank Engine who is coming to the Liverpool Playhouse in the musical Little Miss Sunshine.

MARK Moraghan is enjoying being a grandpa twice over ... playing one on stage and being one in real life.

The 56-year old Liverpool-born actor and singer is currently on a roll, actually a road movie with a difference, since it's in a theatre and a venue he has never played before.

It is the stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning film Little Miss Sunshine and Mark is loving every minute.

He is best known for a wide variety of TV roles and that includes being one of Harry Enfield's "calm down, calm down" Scousers.

But he is equally at home on the boards, where he loves the immediacy and audience reaction.

The Toxteth-born actor also continues a labour of love supplying voices for the classic Thomas the Tank Engine global franchise, following in the tracks of fellow Scousers Michael Angelis and Ringo Starr.

Michael is no stranger to music either having made an album of Swing songs called Moonlight's Back in Style, penned by TV presenter Nicki Campbell.

"We hope to work together again because the first collection of songs was so well received.

"We have to find out when our diaries allow it."

But his latest job demands real acting away from any comfort zone as he is playing Grandpa Hoover - a rude, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll-fuelled senior citizen with attitude. A hippie.

Laughs Mark: "He's not like me at all.

"I am a reformed character. I don't drink and don't smoke."

He left the sex bit out.

Mark gets to sing two songs in the show currently on a UK tour and ending in his home town, he tells me proudly.

First he sings a risqué number to his grandson and then a totally different kind of song to Olive the grand daughter and Little Miss Sunshine of the title.

Olive has her heart set on winning a beauty contest 800 miles away from New Mexico to California accompanied by her dysfunctional family in this voyage of discovery.

A rickety yellow Volkswagen camper van is a supporting star - so how do they get that on the stage?

Says Mark in his familiar accent: "I am not giving it away. Come and see it - it's very clever and surprising too."

When the tour is over Mark will join the cast of Rob Fennah's stage play By the Waters of Liverpool.

And he says the time is right to re-visit the hit show dedicated to the history and legacy of Liverpool Football Club, You'll Never Walk Alone.

"We've won another European Cup since the last performances," says the passionate Reds fan

Mark, who looks forwards to visiting his daughter in Wirral, says he still keeps in touch with former Brookside stars Michael Starke and Louis Emerick who will come and see his home-coming performance.

In the past he has appeared with Eithne Browne in the hit tour of Twopence to Cross the Mersey.

The versatile star is celebrating 40 years in his beloved profession which saw him appear in an early Willy Russell play and then later in his career he came full circle starring in the Russell musical Our Day Out at the Royal Court.

He has one major ambition.

A crusade, of sorts

"I want to play the evil Sir Brian de Bois Guilbert in Ivanhoe. The armour ... the horse ... the lot."

For now he has make do with playing the baddie in Aladdin at Basingstoke this Christmas.

He is enjoying being the rudest grandpa in America.

"It's a show that will go down well in Liverpool," he says.

"I am sure of that - though it's not for those of a prudish nature.

"But I promise there’s plenty of sunshine on stage."

Little Miss Sunshine is at the Liverpool Playhouse from September 24 to 28.

Tickets from the box office on 0151 709 4776.