John Barrowman Gets a Leg Up!
John Barrowman Gets a Leg Up!
The British stage and television favorite steps
into the role of Albin in La Cage Aux Folles
By: Carrie Dunn · Sep 8, 2009 · London
(© Dan Halliman)
As John Barrowman walks into the bar at the
Playhouse Theatre, where he will begin his run as
Albin in the acclaimed West End revival of the
musical La Cage Aux Folles on September 14, it is
obvious that the man has been working very, very
hard. "I'm just a bit tired," he admits. "I'm in
rehearsals at the moment from 10 o'clock until
about 5, and then I usually do press until 6."
All the press attention is not surprising.
Although Barrowman began his career in musical
theater, in shows including Anything Goes, Miss
Saigon and Phantom Of The Opera, he has become
known to a wider audience thanks to his starring
role in the BBC series Doctor Who and Torchwood
and his place on the judging panel of
talent-search shows such as How Do You Solve A
Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do.
However, since his casting in La Cage was
announced, there have been certain criticisms
levelled, in part because the lead roles of Albin
and his lover Georges have traditionally been
played men a good decade older than Barrowman,
who will be 43 in March, and his co-star Simon
Burke, who turns 48 this year. Unsurprisingly,
this sort of sniping makes Barrowman extremely
angry. "The purists think that because I'm a
celebrity now, that makes me less of an artist,"
he says, adding that the age issue is no issue at
all. "But Simon is slightly older than I am, so
Georges could conceivably have had a grown child,
and I could have been the stepmom. We have an
answer for all of it! We've got it all worked out."
The role of Albin is coveted by many actors
because of its alter ego -- the drag queen Zaza
-- and while previous actors have donned
glamorous floor-length gowns, Barrowman has had
the skirts slashed. "All my dresses are
different. They're styled for a younger and a
slimmer man," he notes, before hastily adding:
"That's not to say I don't have my muffin top and
my love handles!" Indeed, he grabs a small roll
of flesh from his midriff to demonstrate his
point -- and reminisces about the six-pack abs he
had a few years ago -- but then snaps back to the
present to enthuse about his dresses. "I love
wearing them. I think it's really liberating to
walk around in high heels and a frock."
John Barrowman as Zaza
(© Simon Turtle)
The stilettos may not scare him, but the make-up
does. "I don't put false eyelashes on normally,
and I have to set them on my eye at a particular
point in the song. 'I Put A Little More Mascara
On'," he explains. "I don't have any problem
doing the blush and the eye make-up, it's the
false eyelashes that worry me. If you miss them,
then they're on your cheek. It's not going to
look good, is it? I think if it goes wrong, I'll
just take them off and have them put on afterwards. We'll have to see."
Much in demand for his multiple skills,
Barrowman's calendar for 2010 is already booked
up, with engagements including another concert
tour and his now-traditional Yuletide panto. He
is clearly very proud of having been able to
switch between stage and screen -- what he calls
"the crossover thing" -- and promises that there
will be more television appearances to come from
him. "If another judging show happens, I will be
involved," he says. "I've already had a
conversation with the BBC about it. And there's
going to be hopefully a fourth season of
Torchwood. Frankly and bluntly, I would say
they'd be stupid not to. It's so massive everywhere."
For now, though, he'll be in sparkly sequins in
the West End every night, and not worrying about
the harsh words of doom-mongers. "I'm doing it
for the audience that's sitting there enjoying
themselves and watching and listening to a love
story that's told on stage and a family story that's told on stage," he says.
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