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West End’s leading man Dean Chisnall: “I literally get to live my dream every day.”

26 Nov

The first thing you notice when entering Dean Chisnall’s dressing room at Theatre Royal Drury Lane is how unbelievably cozy it is. “I spend so much time in here so I wanted my dressing room to be nice and comfortable.”

Dean has taken over the lead role of Shrek in Shrek the musical in February after understudying the part for just under a year. So how does a regular working day look like for Dean these days? “On a normal day I get up around 10am and then I either play golf with some friends and chill out that way or I just spend time at home, walk the dog and so on. My life has changed so much because of this job.” Dean tells me. “This show is really hard and demanding. It takes everything out of you. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

“I’m in make up at 5 o’clock for an hour and a half. Actually it’s non-stop from 5 o’clock although I don’t do very much. I just sit in a chair. But you have to be quite concentrated because if you’re not you can get irritated. That’s the difficult thing. You have to zone out and concentrate and then do the show. To most people it doesn’t sound like that much of an exciting day but to me it is.”

Dean as Shrek in Shrek the musical

One thing that comes across straight away when you hear Dean talking about his work is how much he enjoys doing what he does.

“I love my job and I’m dedicated to it and I wouldn’t let anything get in the way of it. Some people might think that is wrong. But I’m lucky to be in this position, to have been given this opportunity. Someone’s put their faith in me to do this. And I will do everything I can.”

And this obviously applies to every job Dean has done since he started out as a performer. He tells me: “No sick day since June 2008 and even then I had to be thrown out of the theatre. I got a throat infection in Never Forget and went to see the doctor who told me I needed some time out. I never had a day off sick until then since I started the business in 2005. And I was gutted. Absolutely gutted!”

“This (Shrek the musical) is totally different because – even in the ensemble last year – it is such a huge show to do. It’s very tiring. You’re either dressed up as a pig (Dean’s ensemble part prior to taking over as Shrek) or you’re costume changing into something else. But to take on the part of Shrek and not have had a sick day so far – touch wood! But then I pride myself on my attendance and my attitude towards my work and my craft. It’s important. Some people in the business take things very easy so to speak but I’m not one of them and I never will be. Like I said, someone has given me this opportunity so I will do all I can. But to not have had a sick day on this show I’m really proud of because if you’re not feeling well and you get the make-up on it’s hard. You really don’t want to do this and you have to be sensible.”

After playing this part full-time for several months Dean still remembers the first time he ever went on as an understudy quite vividly. “It was five minutes into the show. I’ll never forget it because for your first show you want to be prepared. And I was prepared – as prepared as you can be having done my cover runs and all – but it was quite early after we’d done press night. We did five minutes of the show then the fire alarm went off. It was a strange evening. Nigel had no voice anyway to start with. So we all went outside and I remember standing at stage door hearing them call my name and then the company manager came and told me I was on. The make-up normally takes an hour and a half, that night it took 25 minutes. They plastered something on my face and they did a great job and made it look absolutely fine. But by the end of the show it was literally falling off my face.”

With Shrek coming to an end in February next year it’s time to start thinking about the future. So what’s next for Dean then?

“There’s so much I want to achieve but you never know what’s going to happen, do you? But one thing I’m very proud of: No one can ever take this away from me. If no one ever gives me work again I can always say I’ve sat in this dressing room and I’ve stood on that stage at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. I literally get to live my dream every day.” And he continues “I think this is my favourite job so far. It doesn’t get any bigger than this really. In the realms of musical theatre at present there aren’t many bigger shows and bigger parts in town.”

But then this is not Dean’s first experience at playing a leading role in a West End show. “I loved Never Forget. I was a leading man in it at quite a young age. And it’s funny because I grew up listening to two shows I always wanted to do and still want to do: Les Mis and especially Phantom. That’s where I see my vocal strength. So when I got a call saying ‘They’d like to see you for the Take That musical’ I genuinely thought it was a joke. And if I’m totally honest I went in expecting nothing. Of course, at every audition you try your best even if your heart is not totally in it. And mine probably wasn’t because I thought I had no chance. I went in and sang a Barry Manilow song – and I had a blast. The director and I had a really nice chemistry. But I thought that was it. So when I got told they were really interested in me for the Gary Barlow part I thought my agent was taking the mickey out of me. But six weeks later I got the part and I have to say I had a really good time. I miss it in a way. It was a fun show and I think it could have turned into another Mamma Mia. It just wasn’t the right time. It deserved to have a much longer life.”

Dean (on the right) as Ash in Never Forget

With a chuckle he adds “Doing that show I thought I was going to die. The choreography was tough! I can move but I’m not a dancer and in this one I had to somehow get away with it. But then Gary Barlow isn’t a dancer either so I guess I might have been perfectly cast.”

Never Forget certainly attracted a special audience and the five leads got a lot of attention – female attention in particular. Is this something Dean misses these days? “No! I’m not interested in attention to be honest. I like to say I’m ambitious and I love my job and it’s very kind when people want to support me and I see that as a real privilege. But I’m not yearning for the attention. I have no desire to be famous. I like to continue to be a success in my job but the attention and the fame thing really isn’t important to me. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to want that but I’m just not that kind of person. And Never Forget was something I’d never seen in my life. It was mental sometimes. We literally got assaulted – in the nice sense of the word.”

“It’s been four years since Never Forget closed. I still think it’s a shame. But I made some good friends in the show especially the director and the producer – they both play cricket with me!”

Sport is a huge part of Dean’s life. Besides playing cricket he is also a keen golfer. “Obviously I love my cricket. I grew up playing it. But a few years ago I discovered my love for golf. It’s so addictive! Other people will go to the pub to relax or they go for a night out. My relaxation and my release of any stress that I’ve had throughout the week is to play golf. You get some fresh air, get to socialise with your friends and you get to play a very highly skilled sport. My dad always played golf and I didn’t really see the attraction back then but five or six years ago I started to take it quite seriously. It really is such a lovely way to relax.”

Dean is eligible for “Best Takeover in a role” in the upcoming 2013 Whatsonstage Awards. With nominations being open for voting right now one does wonder how important awards are to him.

“I’m so competitive! And everyone wants to win, of course they do. But I feel like the show deserves a bit more recognition than it’s had. And it would feel like such a triumph not just for me but for anyone who’s ever understudied. I’m sure there are other people in the category who will get shortlisted who won’t have done the route that I’ve done. I’ve been an understudy for so many years and then to get the part of Shrek – it would be a triumph for everyone who has ever covered anything. That’s my main reason for wanting to win. Obviously personal pride comes into it as well but I’d rather win it for everybody else to be honest.”

You can catch Dean as Shrek at Theatre Royal Drury Lane until the 24th of February 2013. For more info about the show and to book tickets visit http://www.shrekthemusical.co.uk.

And if you feel like nominating Dean for the 2013 Whatsonstage Awards you can do so here: http://awards.whatsonstage.com/awards/nominations/best-takeover-in-a-role.

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10 Questions with Amy Beadel

8 Oct

Amy Beadel trained at the London School of Musical Theatre. She made her professional and West End debut in the Original London Cast of Shrek the musical playing the parts of Tweedle Dum and Teen Fiona.

This Christmas you can catch her as Wendy in Peter Pan at the Camberley Theatre in Surrey.

What was the first role you ever played (school, drama class…) and how old were you?
A fairy in the village church nativity. I then went on to play Mary at school when I was 6 – this was the highly sought after role as the class heart throb was playing Joseph! But aside from nativity roles when I was 8 I played Josephine in HMS Pinafore (I know Gilbert and Sullivan at Primary School) and Toad in Toad of Toad Hall when I was 10.

Who was your inspiration when you were younger?
I was constantly looking up to the year 6 girls when I was younger and was completely influenced by pop culture so I guess I grew up being inspired by the likes of the Spice Girls (!).

What was the first show (play or musical) you saw on stage? And out of all shows you’ve seen which ones are your favourites?
I was very lucky that my parents took my sister and me to the theatre quite a lot. My parents think they took me to see a ballet at the Theatre Royal Plymouth when I was 2 or 3. I remember watching Sesame Street on stage and Cats both when I was quite young – I wanted to be Mister Mistoffelees as I knew all the words!

My favourite always changes as I am constantly seeing new pieces of theatre and being inspired. One that I adored recently was Mack and Mabel at the Southwark Playhouse – it was absolutely brilliant with an outstanding cast and the venue couldn’t have been more perfect – I was like a super fan at the end having to go up to the leads to tell them how amazing they were whilst rubbing off my tear streaked mascara – I think it is so important to tell people if you enjoyed something and always give praise where it’s due; so often in life we hear so many negative things and not necessarily the positive. Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow was exceptional and my old time favourites Rent and Wicked and still right up there. I also love Kneehigh as a theatre company and remember being wowed by their version of Brief Encounter at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

If you had not become a performer what profession would you have chosen?
I always wanted to be an ice skater as I wanted to wear the nude ice-skates. I also loved making up games and loved playing school so at one point I wanted to be a teacher as I liked writing on the board and marking in red pen. Else a popstar – I was constantly making up dances to the Spice Girls, All Saints, Steps and S Club 7 songs and was always creating pop groups (I think I was in about 3 at the same time). I remember creating one with our neighbours whilst at primary school called ‘The Fizzies’ (I always made my sister backing singer) we even wrote our own songs and I think if I dug through the depths of my things at home I could find some of them!!

What’s your dream role?
Glinda in Wicked. I was also love to be in a BBC period drama.

What music do you listen to? And what was the last album you bought?
I have quite an eclectic taste in music which is why no-one lets me put my iPod on shuffle as you go from Jack Johnson, to a singing warm up, to a burst of musical theatre, to Beyonce! I love chilled out acoustic music and my all time love is Donavon Frankenreiter and my favourite song storyteller is Carole King. Also Tristan Prettyman is wonderful and I love good old-fashioned cheese like the Jackson 5. The last albums I was given which I think are brilliant and listen to non-stop are Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars.

What was your favourite holiday destination so far and what place would you love to visit for a holiday in the future?
I have been to some beautiful places on holiday and the islands in Croatia are just drop dead gorgeous. I loved Barbados and went there on a school sports tour which was so much fun. Skiing in Val d’isere was one of the funnest family holidays. On my gap year I went to Australia which was incredible with my dream places being Fraser Island and the absolute idyllic Daydream Island. There are so many places that I would love to visit such as Goa, Fiji, America, India, Morocco – the list is endless. We are so lucky that travel nowadays makes it so much easier to visit most places in the world.

What were the last three books you’ve read?
I’m currently reading Fifty Shades of Grey and by it taking me so long to read it, it shows that I can’t understand what all the fuss is about! The Help was a beautiful book as was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I love the author Lesley Pearse and her style of writing as it lets your imagination run wild – also she sets everything in the past and I love history so find it really interesting. Also for readers out there you must read My Sister’s Keeper (the film doesn’t do it justice) and The Kite Runner.

What are your pet peeves?
Rudeness – it takes a second to say please and thank you. Laziness particularly in the workplace. Grammar – why on earth people don’t know how to use things like there, their and they’re; surely it’s still taught in school. People cracking their knuckles it’s just as bad for me as people scratching their nails down a blackboard.

If there was a movie about your life, who should play you? And it can’t be yourself!
Reece Witherspoon or Kristen Chenoweth because they are brilliant and I want to be their friends. Emma Watson because I get told I’m like her a lot…I think they actually mean I’m like Hermione. Else Michelle Francis who was my Tweedle with me in Shrek – she is basically me just the Essex version.

Thank you Amy for taking the time to answer all those questions!

Check out Amy’s blog http://hisandherscene.wordpress.com/ which she runs with her boyfriend Jamie.

For the latest updates on Amy and her career follow her on Twitter @amy_bea .

And don’t forget to book your tickets for Peter Pan here: http://www.camberleytheatre.biz/pantomime/default.htm.
The show runs from 8th December 2012 until 5th January 2013.

10 Questions with Dan Burton

20 Sep

Dan Burton studied at Laine Theatre Arts. His theatre credits include Nikos/Padamadan in Legally Blonde (Savoy Theatre), Bernardo in West Side Story (National Tour), Chicago (Cambridge Theatre) in which he understudied and played the role of Amos Hart, Dirty Dancing (Aldwych Theatre), Miss Saigon (National Tour) and Barraclough and understudy Lockwood and Gilbert in Betty Blue Eyes (Novello Theatre).

At the moment Dan is playing the part of Joey Pesci in the West End hit musical Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre. He is first understudy for the lead part of Frankie Valli and has played the part to rave reviews on numerous occasions.

What was the first role you ever played (school, drama class…) and how old were you?
The first role I ever played when I was training was the Cat in Honk, lovely piece. I was 16.

What was the first show (play or musical) you saw on stage? And what show have you seen recently?
The first show I ever saw was Starlight Express at the Apollo Victoria. That’s what inspired me to want to perform. I recently watched Sweeney Todd, a classy lovely production. Theatre at its best.

If you had not become a performer what profession would you have chosen?
My career adviser in my G.C.S.E year laughed at me when I told her what I wanted to do as a career and I was told to get a proper job,  as no one can earn a living in theatre… interesting how that turned out …! So I’ve never had any aspirations to do any other profession.

Out of all parts you’ve played so far which one has been your favourite and why?
I’ve been very lucky to have played so many different parts so far in my career. I would have to say playing Bernardo in West Side Story. To dance Jerome Robbins original choreography at least once in my career was a real high – amazing piece, and different. (followed by a close second by Frankie Valli but I’m biased as it’s current )

What’s your dream role?
My Dream Role… well, I had two. I wanted to play Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. So one down one to go!

Who would you love to work with?
I have and would love to work with Steven Mear again. He is, apart from being a lovely man, a great choreographer and dancer and everyone in their career should work with this man at some point if they are serious about wanting to dance a quality and skillful level!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Wow, in 10 years… I have always said I would love to play the Phantom when I’m older. But who knows, I love seeing what new adventures pop up from year to year . Who knows…

What music do you listen to?
I love all sorts of music. I listen to classical usually before going on for Frankie Valli. It chills me out. But I love 80’s music, bands like Bon Jovi, Whitesnake , Foreigner , Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, Motown, Soul… I appreciate all music as long as it’s crafted well.

What are your pet peeves?
I don’t like rude people in general. If you haven’t got anything nice to say about someone say nothing. I have no time for fools. It actually takes more time and effort to be unpleasant about someone than to be or nice or even neutral. I always let people treat me how they want. If they are rude I’ve given them a chance to be how they want with me. And I don’t need negative people in my life. Life’s too short !

If there was a movie about your life, who should play you? And it can’t be yourself!
It would have to be Al Pacino!! He’s a legend!!

Thank you Dan for taking the time to answer the questions!

To find out more about Jersey Boys and to book tickets go to http://www.jerseyboyslondon.com/. You can find the current Frankie Valli schedule in the cast section. Dan’s scheduled dates as Frankie are posted there.

Follow Dan on Twitter @danburton22

10 Questions with Jason Winter

9 Aug

Jason Winter studied at Laine Theatre Arts. His theatre credits include Chicago (Cambridge Theatre), Flashdance (UK tour), 42nd Street (Chichester Festival),  Cats (German tour), Top Hat (UK tour) and Gypsy (The Curve Theatre, Leicester) to name a few.
His next job will take him to the land of Oz. You can catch Jason on stage in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre from 29th October.

But first Jason is taking part in this year’s West End Bares at Cafe de Paris on 2nd September 2012. In preparation for this fantastic event he is fundraising for The Make A Difference Trust. Personally I have been a supporter of this great charity for several years. I know times are tough but if you have a few pennies to spare please consider a donation. Every pound can make a difference. You can find Jason’s fundraising page here:
http://www.justgiving.com/Jason-Winter

What was the first role you ever played (school, drama class…) and how old were you?
The first role I ever played was Peter Pan, which I did when I was 15. Before that all I ever wanted to do was to be in the ensemble and dance. I hated singing and I hated the thought of speaking on my own on stage. Randomly at about 13 or 14 I started singing (around the house and with my brother etc) and realised that I actually enjoyed it, and it wasn’t as dreadful as I’d previously thought, so I started to embrace the idea of parts. And when Peter Pan was coming up at my local theatre I jumped at the chance, mainly because i wanted to fly, and I was lucky enough to get the part. It was a great first experience at a lead and gave me the thirst I have today to play parts.

Who was your inspiration when you were younger?
My main inspiration was my Mum. She was the one who started me dancing and supported me the whole way. Without her I wouldn’t be either the performer or the person I am today. Other than that the usual dance icons: Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. I was obsessed with any musical video I could get my hands on and from as early as I can remember spent afternoons copying their dance moves.

What was the first show (play or musical) you saw on stage? And out of all shows you’ve seen which ones are your favourites?
The first professional show I ever saw on stage was Grease at the Dominion Theatre, and I have to say honestly….I hated it. I still remember leaving the theatre and feeling so upset that I hadn’t enjoyed it. I was only 7. I guess being brought up on the old classic MGM musical movies had made me a bit of a theatre snob. Luckily not long after this my parents took me to see Les Mis at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Despite their reservations at the show maybe being a little bit too heavy for a 7-year-old I sat motionless, glued to the action on stage and sobbed through the entire show, even refusing to get up at the interval for an ice cream out of fear I’d miss something. I always say that Les Mis restored my faith in theatre and is the reason I wanted to be a performer from that day on. Stagey child!! So I guess I’d have to say Les Mis was one of my favourite shows. Also on my top list are Cats, Saturday Night Fever and Wicked.

If you had not become a performer what profession would you have chosen?
For about 2 weeks at the age of 15 I decided I didn’t want to perform and for some reason wanted to be a physiotherapist. Apart from that theatre is all I’ve ever wanted to do for a job. If I had to choose another job it’d be something with animals… maybe a zoo keeper?!

Out of all parts you’ve played so far which one has been your favourite and why?
I don’t think I can choose just one favourite role because I’ve been so lucky in my career so far but I can give a top 3. Firstly going on for my cover of Jerry Travers in Top Hat was amazing. It was a massive role to play and my first experience of being a professional leading man. The audience reaction was such a buzz and I got to play opposite the beautiful Miss Summer Strallen, who is a great friend of mine, so that was such an honour. Secondly being in Cats was a dream come true. I’d wanted to be in the show for as long as I could remember so just to be a part of it was amazing, let alone getting to play four different characters. Lastly Tulsa in Gypsy has to be the pinnacle of my career to date. It was the first time I wasn’t a cover… the part was mine! It was such a new and exciting thing for me to get to find and develop my own character. I was on cloud 9 every day of that contract and felt like I grew so much as a performer on the job. Again I got to work with an amazing cast and played opposite the beautiful Miss Victoria Hamilton-Barritt which was just incredible. I was so spoilt with the feedback I got from audience members and reviews and I know it will always be a job I cherish and remember forever.

What’s your dream role?
Dream role… hmmm… can I narrow it down to 3 again? In case you hadn’t realised I’m extremely indecisive. My dream roles would have to be Bert in Mary Poppins, Tarzan (in Tarzan obviously) and Fiyero in Wicked.

Who would you love to work with?
I’d love to work with Mia Micheals. She is my favourite choreographer, her work is so different and theatrical. I can’t watch it without wanting to get up and join in.

What music do you listen to? And what was the last album you bought?
I’ll listen to pretty much anything to be honest. My iPod is pretty stagey, musicals galore, but also Pop, 80’s Rock, Motown, R&B, Jazz… whatever really. The last thing I brought was an EP by my friends band Parnell Page called Porcelain Moon.

What are your pet peeves?
Rude people. Manners don’t cost anything and it doesn’t hurt to be polite to people. That really frustrates me. Also rain… haha.

If there was a movie about your life, who should play you? And it can’t be yourself!
I’d have to probably say my brother James should play me in a movie of my life. He knows me the best and would make sure the movie made me look good… haha. Although he’d have to take a few dance classes before filming unless we can hire a body double for the dance scenes.

Thank you Jason for taking the time to answer all those questions!

For more info about Wicked and to book tickets go to http://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk/.

To find out more about West End Bares visit http://www.madtrust.org.uk/west-end-bares.php.

Follow Jason on Twitter @jaseleigh

10 Questions with Jon Boydon

1 Aug

Jon Boydon is currently in his third year in the West End Smash Jersey Boys in which he is playing the part of Tommy DeVito to rave reviews. His previous theatre credits include Brad Majors (UK) and Frank N Furter (Europe) in the Rocky Horror Show, Kenickie in Grease, Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar (Europe and UK) and alternate Galileo and understudy for Khashoggi and Britney Spears in We will rock you to name just a few.

Beside being a regular on West End stages Jon is also working as a vocalist outside the word of musical theatre and has performed in concerts throughout the UK. He released his debut album “Three Four” earlier this year and is currently preparing for a solo gig at 100 Club in London on 27th August.

What was the first role you ever played (school, drama class…) and how old were you?
The first time I ever performed onstage was when I was 4 years old. There was a kids talent show at the hotel I was staying at for my summer holiday. I sang “Green Door” which had been a hit for Shakin Stevens not long before. It was with a band and I just got up and got on with it. Growing up in a musical family I just assumed everyone did it. My first real stage role was aged 7 in an amateur production of “The King and I” at the Hippodrome in Birmingham.

Who was your inspiration when you were younger?
A big inspiration for me as a young child was Michael Jackson. I think he was to all the kids of the 80s. I used to watch his videos and try to learn the dances, and I even did a rendition of “Bad” in full costume and wig at a school assembly! Your parents are naturally people you look up to, and my dad and I are so similar, I would have to say that he was too. We share exactly the same taste in music. I learned to play guitar and sing, just like him!

What was the first show (play or musical) you saw on stage?
The first West End show I saw was “Blood Brothers” when I was 16. It blew me away. I then saw “Les Miserables” and didn’t really enjoy it. “Miss Saigon” came shortly after. By this time I was about 20 and hardly knew anything about professional musical theatre.

If you had not become a performer what profession would you have chosen?
This is a tough one. I’m not sure I know. I never intended to do this as a job. I just thought I’d try it out after I finished my university degree. And I’m not sure what I’d do if I had to stop! I would probably have ended up doing something with a creative side but also corporate – like advertising.

What was your career highlight so far?
I would say it’s between performing with Brian May (although not as Galileo) and performing with the Jersey Boys on my birthday at the BBC Proms in Hyde Park to about 80.000 people.

What’s your dream role?
I’ve been lucky enough to play some of my dream roles: Kenickie, Frank N Furter, Judas, Galileo… I would have liked to try Rum Tum Tugger but that wasn’t to be. I’m not sure I have any left that REALLY speak to me. I’d be honoured to have Phantom or Valjean on my CV but I’m not sure that they’re quite right for me. A nice movie role would be next on my hit list.

What music do you listen to?
I literally listen to everything:  Jazz, rock, classical, pop, soul, dance, R&B, rap, funk. I would say my head is a jazzer and my heart is a rocker!

What was the last book you read?
I love to read. Lately I got about a third of the way through “50 Shades of Grey” but it was so poorly written I lost interest! Before that was the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, and I’ve just started Stephen Fry’s first autobiography “Moab is my Washpot”.

What are your pet peeves?
At work: Anyone who films, records or photographs the show – they think if the flash is off we can’t see them, and I ALWAYS do!
In life: Bad/inconsiderate/dangerous driving, miserable people, bad manners.

If there was a movie about your life, who should play you? And it can’t be yourself!
If there was a movie about my life up to this point, then Mark Warren can play me. When I’m an older man perhaps Robert Redford could take over!

Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions Jon!

To all of you reading this, you can order Jon’s album “Three Four” here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Four-Jon-Boydon/dp/B006BZ6YCG/ref=as_li_wdgt_fl_ex?&linkCode=waf&tag=makingrecords-21

and here:
http://www.dresscircle.co.uk/9656-Product-CD-Jon%20Boydon-Three%20Four-38230

Or just download it from iTunes!

Tickets for Jon’s gig at 100 Club are selling fast so make sure you book yours soon:
http://www.wegottickets.com/event/175689

Find Jon on Twitter @JonBoydon and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/jonboydon.

http://www.jonboydon.com/

Interview with Michael Conway

29 Apr

Michael Conway has just started his third year in the West End smash Jersey Boys as a swing and cover for Frankie Valli. I met up with the 26 years old performer from Wales for a chat about being a Jersey Boy, growing up watching your famous cousin on stage and thoughts of what the future might hold.

Tell me a bit about how you got into performing.

I’ve got a cousin, Michael Sheen, who is a big Hollywood actor now. I watched him and my other cousin Caroline (Sheen) on stage as a kid. That’s what started it really. I’ve always been into acting. Then when I was 16/17 I started classical singing lessons and I think that just worked for me and that’s it really. I went to Gorseinon College and then went to London to Arts Ed to do a degree in musical theatre. And here I am!

What’s the first professional show you did?

I was just listening to the cast recording of it on the way here: Fiddler on the roof, which was amazing. You can hear me singing on the album – my classical voice. I left college early to do that. I was working with Henry Goodman. It was unbelievable. He’s a great teacher and an amazing guy to work with. That was brilliant, I loved it. Then I went on tour with Flashdance where I met Kerry, my wife. And now I’m here.

You have been in Jersey Boys for a while now.

It’s my third year in Jersey Boys. It has gone so fast, it’s insane. We’ll see what happens next year but I think this could be my last year. But I’ve had such a good time in the show so far. And all that being a swing which I never thought I’d be. I couldn’t swing in anything else. I’m not an amazing dancer. But (in Jersey Boys) you’re not covering ensemble tracks. I’m covering five parts including the lead part of Frankie Valli.

This is quite unique, isn’t it? Usually swings mainly cover the ensemble parts but in Jersey Boys you do get to cover the leads as well.

Yes, exactly. I’m enjoying that. It keeps you busy.

When you start out in a show as a swing, how exactly do you learn your parts during rehearsals?

You have to literally make yourself a bible. You’ve got the whole script and score and each part is highlighted in a different colour. I found my first notes the other day, I used to do notes for myself when I started. Nightmare! I couldn’t understand a word. It was just scribbles, “Going of here”, “Going on here”. Hilarious!

Did / do you watch the show a lot?

Yes, we have to make sure we’re watching once or twice a week just to keep it fresh in our heads. But when you know what you’re doing it becomes an easy job which is one reason I’ve stayed for a few years. And they pay so well, too, so I’ve paid off my debts at last. Plus it’s a lovely company to work with. It will be sad to leave.

But then you’ve only just started your third year so it’s still a while to go.

Yes, exactly. It’s another year. I’ve seen two cast changes and it just gives the show a nice lift. It’s sad to see people leave, like Paul (Iveson). I miss Paul. It’s always been a lovely cast. Brilliant people.

What’s your favourite part to play?

It’s got to be Frankie Valli! But I do love to play Barry as well. Actually I love them all.

So there’s no least favourite part?

You know what, there isn’t one. I love doing all my parts.

I thought it might be Hank because he’s got the least to do compared to your other parts.

Yeah, but then sometimes when they say I’m on for Hank I’m like “That’s nice and easy”. I’ve done Hank so many times I could literally just go on and play him on autopilot. I try not to, of course! It’s one of the smaller parts but it’s fun. And everyone gets their own little highlights in the show, comedy bits and so on.

What about Bob Gaudio? Would you like to play him again?

I’d love to! But I’m the third cover so chances are I won’t get on again. I went on for Bob for a week about 2 years ago which was great. I listened to a recording the other day and, I don’t know, I think I’ve changed a lot since then (vocally).

So what do you do during the show when you’re not on?

I’m sitting backstage going through scenes, learning my lines…. (laughs)…. Ok, most of the time I watch TV or play Playstation. But only when I know what I’m doing. Take the new guys that have just started out in the show: They’re watching the show constantly. But give them two weeks and I’ll get them on the Playstation! The new guys are lovely – Ben and Edd.

A few people have been with the show since the beginning.

There’s Mark Isherwood, Lucinda (Gill), Ben Wheeler, Stuart Milligan, Tee Jaye (with a year away in between) and Ryan Molloy who have been there from the start. This is such a good show to be in. It really will be sad to leave. If they offered me something like first cover Frankie I’d stay. But I don’t think they will. They want the first cover to be Joe Pesci. Last year they changed that and had Tom (Oakley) as first cover but I don’t think they think it worked. And because I know five parts in the show I think I’m a bit too valuable to just have me as Joe Pesci, first cover Frankie when I know all the other parts. So I think that’s the reason why they won’t do it.

As a swing you are basically on standby during the show. Did you ever have to go on mid show?

During my first contract Stephen Ashfield went off as Bob (Gaudio) so James Winter had to go on for him quickly. I got called down in Tommy’s house scene. So I had to come down, get my outfit on and carry on with the show. Luckily I didn’t have to go on during the second half yet. We (the swings) are up in the dressing room and we can hear everything that’s happening on stage. And sometimes we might get called down to go on.

Does all this sitting and waiting ever get boring?

It can be if there’s nothing on tv. I’m joking, of course!! No, it doesn’t to be honest. There’s always such good banter going on in the dressing room with Mark, Edd, Ben and Lucinda. We’re all having such a good laugh.

Jersey Boys is a worldwide hit musical. Would you like to see any of the different productions of the show?

I would like to see it around the world. Mark and Lucinda saw it on Broadway. And the audience just gets it over there, all the Joe Pesci stuff and everything. I would love to see another company do the show. It’s in my blood now. I know the show inside out but I’ve just seen it the way we do it. Mark said it’s like a completely different show (on Broadway). All the choreography, the score and such is the same but it’s just tiny little bits that are different. I’d love to see it somewhere else.

As a swing you usually don’t know when and how often you will be on for different parts. But do you have fixed shows in your contract for certain parts, like Frankie for example?

Not anymore for Frankie. When I was a third cover last year I asked for two shows. So then for this year I asked for another two but they said they can’t start doing that because obviously everyone else would start asking as well. So they got me up to second cover Frankie instead which is brilliant. Dan’s on all this week but fingers crossed I’ll be on for Frankie soon.

I saw Dan play Frankie last night and I have to say he is fantastic.

Yes! He’s really warmed into it quickly. It’s good for the company to have a reliable first cover. And he’s a nice and funny guy, good banter.

You’ve been in a few shows so far. But what is your dream role?

Before I did this show it was Frankie Valli. I’d love to do Chris in Miss Saigon. And it’s coming back next year! So maybe if I can grow a few inches I might be able to be seen for it (laughs). Miss Saigon is more my style of singing anyway. But then I’d love to have a go as Marius or Enjolras in Les Miserables… with Caroline (Sheen). I’d generally love to work with Caroline.

What was the first musical you watched?

It was Starlight Express which is the show Kerry is doing now.

It’s funny how most people’s first musical was either Starlight Express or Cats. Mine was Cats.

I fell asleep in Cats! I was up in the gods and my head just couldn’t take it.
But yes, Starlight Express was my first show and I loved it. But then that was when I was about 14 years old and I wasn’t really into singing then so I didn’t think that was what I would end up doing. I thought it was going to be plays or tv. When I was 15 years old I got a part in a Welsh tv series and that was a great experience. So I always thought I was going to be an actor.

So you’ve always wanted to be an actor even when you were a kid?

Well, when I was a kid I wanted to be a fireman or a lawyer. But afterwards I was always torn between rugby, football, karate and drama. When you get to GCSE you have to choose what you want to focus on. And I think I chose the right thing. I hope so at least.
I saw my cousin Michael Sheen play Caligula at the Donmar, Henry V and Jimmy in Look back in anger. And I saw him as Amadeus (in Mozart at the Old Vic in 1998/1999). I loved it. I didn’t really understand what was going on at that time. But I loved seeing him do so well.

Imagine there was going to be a movie about you. Who should play you? And it can’t be yourself because that would be way too easy.

Who would play me? I’m not sure there’s anyone that is weird enough to play me. It could be James Corden maybe. He’s so funny. If he loses a few pounds, he can play me. He’s fiery and bubbly so that fits.

Fiery and bubbly is what describes you?

I think so. And a little bit simple as in I am very easily pleased and amused. I’m all about making life easy and enjoying it. You go through some bad times in your life and you should just say “Get over it”. You try not to worry about everything and just try and get over it as quickly as you can and you’ll be alright. That’s my motto.

One last question before I’ll let you go and warm up for the show tonight. What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought apart from a home or a car?

It’s got to be my wife’s engagement ring. Or her camera in fact! I couldn’t believe paying that much for a camera. Actually I think the ring was a bit more expensive. And my piano was expensive as well. Wait, now I’ve got it: My Apple iMac! Definitely worth the money though. It’s amazing. My toy!

Thank you Michael for taking the time to answer all those questions!

For more info on Jersey Boys and to book tickets visit http://www.jerseyboyslondon.com.

Follow Michael on Twitter @mikconway .