Jason Manford has sung the praises of his new Starstruck co-star Shania Twain – after she replaced Sheridan Smith on the ITV panel.
The comedian, 41, told MailOnline country-pop sensation Shania doesn’t hold back on sharing showbiz anecdotes and name-drops the likes of Sam Smith, Lionel Richie, and Taylor Swift during the Saturday night show’s second series.
In an exclusive chat, Jason revealed he even got to perform with the That Don’t Impress Me Much singer, as well as alongside host Olly Murs, and fellow judges Adam Lambert and Beverly Knight.
Speaking at the Football For Change Fundraising Gala, which was held in partnership with MailOnline, on Thursday, Jason said: ‘We just finished episode seven of eight, so we have the final one next week.
‘I’ve been sat right next to Shania Twain, which was just incredible. She’s a legend. She brings knowledge and a sense of fun, but it must feel like a night off for her in a way because of the pressure she’s under when she performs.
‘She’s there for a laugh – she’s being paid but she’s there because it’s fun. She knows everybody.
‘She’s talking about Lionel Richie and Sam Smith and Taylor Swift like I would talk about Dave or Steve at the gym. She’s not crowbarring anything in – that’s just her world.’
Bafta-winning Sheridan, who recently starred in movie sequel, The Railway Children Return, and TV dramas No Return, Four Lives and The Teacher, quit Starstruck after one series due to ‘scheduling conflicts with a new acting project.’
Father-of-six Jason teased a star-studded opening to the upcoming series and even a solo performance from Shania of her brand new single Waking Up Dreaming.
He added: ‘There are a few performances. We do an opening number, me and the judges and Olly Murs.
‘We all sing together so I got to do a song with Shania Twain, Adam Lambert and Beverly Knight – we should release something.
‘On this series there are solo performances from the guys that have albums coming out, so we got to hear Shania’s new single and everything like that, which was amazing.’
Jason, who wowed as Hedgehog on The Masked Singer, insisted that Starstruck, ITV’s reboot of Stars In Their Eyes, isn’t like other talent shows because the future careers of the contestants aren’t dependent on whether they succeed in the competition.
He said: ‘It’s not like other talent shows where someone’s whole life is resting on whether it goes well. If anything, being on the show is the prize.
‘The talent has stepped up because a lot more people have seen it. We have Beyoncé’s, Meat Loaf, and Shania’s!’
Jason enjoyed a ‘rare night off’ on Thursday to support former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher’s Football For Change Gala.
He was joined by the likes of Coleen Rooney, Coronation Street stars Tina O’Brien and Samia Longchambon, and former Love Islander Scott Thomas, who all attended the glitzy night at Manchester’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground to raise money for charity.
Celebrity guests were treated to intimate performances from Spice Girls star Mel C and former Oasis rocker Noel Gallagher, who delighted the crowd with renditions of Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger.