Entertainment

Dame Arlene Phillips pays tribute to ‘sweetheart' Tom Parker

The choreographer worked with him on the set of Grease The Musical in London's West End.

Choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Dame Arlene Phillips has described Tom Parker as a “sweetheart”, as she extended her sympathy to his family following his death aged 33.

The Wanted star died on Wednesday surrounded by close friends and family, 17 months after announcing he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Dame Arlene, 78, said: “He worked so hard, he was phenomenal.”

Dame Arlene worked with Parker on the set of Grease The Musical in London’s West End.

Bolton-born Parker was cast as Danny Zuko in the musical’s UK tour in 2017, and Dame Arlene choreographed the show.

She recalled helping Parker after he told her he could not dance.

“I first worked with him on Grease, where he had to do Born To Hand Jive, the biggest dance in the whole musical, and he said ‘No, I don’t dance’, and I said ‘Well you’re going to have to’.

“He said ‘Well I’m strong’, and we had a wonderful partner working with him… And actually what happened, Tom Parker – who really couldn’t dance – I think has probably done the best Danny cha cha dance of anybody I have ever choreographed for.

“He worked so hard, he was phenomenal.

Arlene Phillips
Dame Arlene worked with Tom Parker on Grease The Musical (Yui Mok/PA)

“He absolutely loved performing and he seemed to be able to battle through anything and everything, and he cast it aside in a way that just shocked me.”

She also extended her sympathy to Parker’s widow Kelsey Parker, saying: “His absolutely beautiful wife Kelsey, to lose the dad of her children, her partner, so sweet and kind and loving, the two of them, it would touch your heart just to watch them together and the love for each other.

“It’s a terrible, terrible loss.”

Ben Shephard and Susanna Reid also paid tribute to Parker on Good Morning Britain.

Shephard, 47, said: “You could see he was so full of energy and fun and I think that the band getting back together was very much centred around his illness and his diagnosis and they were still making plans for what was going to happen.

“It was so lovely to have him with them and them all together.”

Reid, 51, added: “It was very noticeable how much they cared for him behind the scenes as well. Even though he still had lots of energy, and he was smiling and laughing, they really had that arm around him the whole time, that they were there.

“We are so sad about this, Tom, tragically young, 33 years old, incredibly cruel what has happened to him.

“We send our love to the band, to the team around them, and especially to Kelsey and the children.”

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