Eugene McCoy trained at ArtsEd. He has appeared in shows like Mamma Mia, American Psycho, The Pajama Game, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma, They’re Playing Our Song and Little Shop of Horrors. Eugene played the part of Nick Massi in the West End production of Jersey Boys from 2010 to 2013. At the moment you can catch him at the Old Vic Theatre in the world premiere of Groundhog Day.
Eugene kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about his musical theatre journey so far, Groundhog Day, annoying audience behaviour and what the future might hold.
How did you get into musical theatre and did you always want to be a performer?
I started performing when I was three years old – not professionally, of course. I left drama school when I was 21 so that’s when I started professionally. But I started singing, dancing and acting when I was 3. I danced until I was 12, four times a week, did lots of competitions and festivals but then I got really bad knees and had to stop. So I did more acting and singing from then on. I went to drama school when I was 18 for three years. I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to perform. I always said as a kid: “I’m going to be on the stage or on tv – this is what I want to do.”
What has been your favourite performing job so far and why?
I don’t have a single favourite one. Jersey Boys was amazing because it was my first big lead (role). The prestige of wearing that red jacket was so huge and I came in at the big first cast change for the Seasons. And I got to rehearse in New York, learn the show out there and then we came back and we were constantly doing PR, tv gigs, press and exciting events outside of work. The theatre was the best theatre and it was an amazing character to play and the audiences were crazy (in a good way). That was brilliant. But equally I loved The Pajama Game in Chichester in the small Minerva Theatre: I was very free on stage performing a character as extravagant as he was and got to sing, dance and act more than I’d done for a while. And then American Psycho at the Almeida was amazing. That show felt incredibly unique. So I have to say those three are the ones I remember most really.
How does it feel to be a part of Groundhog Day, working with people like Tim Minchin, Matthew Warchus and Peter Darling?
It feels so great to be part of Groundhog Day. I first auditioned last August and it was for the workshop. We did this big workshop in October and November last year for four weeks. So I auditioned for that originally with a view to doing the show. It was a case of if you did well in the workshop and they liked you then you got to do the show. I remember hearing about the project and I told my agent “I want to be in that show.” And when I knew I was going to be in it all just felt great and I was so excited. The prospect of working with this team was incredible – and in that theatre – it was a no brainer! It’s proved to be brilliant. It’s a hard show but it’s worth it. The team is lovely and they are making groundbreaking new theatre and not “just” old revivals. That’s what so exciting. It’s new theatre that will last.
Do you think people watch the show with very specific expectations (having seen the film)? How is the show different from the film?
I’ve never seen the film! Ha! But yes, people have expectations and most people I know who have seen the show and the movie actually say they prefer the show. Interesting! I will be watching the film in a week’s time (when the show is done).
What’s it like working with Andy Karl?
Horrendous! He stinks, he never washes…. No, joking! He is lovely, a very nice man, very hard working and brilliantly talented. I think he is going to become quite famous. And I think he is going to win every award for this show and he deserves to.
You’ve been in various shows over the past years. If you had to choose one show to go back into which one would it be?
I would like to do lots of my shows for maybe a week and no more. I’d love to do Mamma Mia for a week because I did it when I was much younger and it was really fun. I’d love to go and do Guys and Dolls again because the Donmar production at the Piccadilly Theatre was so special. It was a brilliant production and I’d like to go back and do that now that I’m a bit older. And I’d like to go back and do the big three and “Who loves you” at Jersey Boys because I never got bored of those. They were amazing to do every night.
Do you have a dream role or a show you would love to be in someday?
I’m not sure I do. It’s difficult for me being a bass singer. There are not many roles for me especially in new musicals so I’m often limited in what I can do in that sense. I always wanted to play Bert in Mary Poppins but I wouldn’t be able to dance it because my knees would concave and I would never be able to walk again. I would maybe like to be Miss Trunchbull in Matilda. I saw Jesus Christ Superstar recently and I’d like to sing Caiaphas because it’s a really low bass but it’s not a very exciting part to play if I’m honest. And I always wanted to be in The Producers because it’s amongst my favourite shows. In fact, I’d like to play any of the knights in the original big West End production of Spamalot as well. And playing Geoffrey in Stepping Out would be great.
What are the last musicals and/or plays you watched and which ones are on your “to see” list at the moment?
I’ve not seen anything because Groundhog Day has basically taken over my life for five months (apart from Jesus Christ Superstar as mentioned above!). The last thing I saw was People, Places and Things with Denise Gough which was the most amazing performance I’ve seen for so long and she was just outrageous and incredible. And that inspired me and had me buzzing for days and weeks. I want to go and see Yerma with Billie Pieper but I won’t get the chance unfortunately. She’s supposed to be incredible. And I’d like to see Funny Girl but I’m not sure I will get round to. I’d also liked to have seen Deep Blue Sea at the National with Helen McCrory because I think she’s brilliant. What else? I want to see Hamilton.
What are your top three pet peeves when it comes to (bad) audience behaviour?
I guess one is people who don’t throw flowers at me at the end because everyone really should…. Haha.
People who have their phones on and you can see the light when you’re looking out into the audience. That is really, really annoying. In a way, latecomers: If you are doing a scene and it’s really quiet and latecomers come in it’s really frustrating. And when I’m in the audience and people are eating sweets (those with the noisy wrappers). That drives me insane.
Why should people go and see Groundhog Day?
Because I don’t think you will see a better new musical for quite a while. And that might sound biased but I think it’s the best new musical for a long time. And it’s inspiring and it’s funny, it will make you cry, it will make you laugh and it’s clever. It’s really, really, really clever and witty. And the ensemble are the hardest working ensemble – I keep saying this but we really do work so hard. And if you want to see people sweat and you want to see me tap dancing in winter boots, a parka jacket and a woolly hat with a big smile – come and see Groundhog Day!
Groundhog Day is playing at the Old Vic Theatre until 19th September. Public booking for the last performance on 19th September opens this Thursday.
Follow Eugene on Twitter @McCoyEugene .