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FROM TORCHWOOD TO TORCH SINGER...
John Barrowman is taking over the lead role of
Albin and his drag alter-ego in La Cage Aux Folles
Sunday September 13,2009
By Mark Shenton
A LOT of people say I should take six months off
but I'm in this business to work," says John
Barrowman, sitting in the stalls bar of the West
End's Playhouse Theatre. Here, tomorrow night,
he'll take over the lead role of Albin in the hit
musical La Cage Aux Folles and don a wig and
frock for his drag alter-ego Zaza. "No actor
wants to be resting. If someone is in the
corporate world, you wouldn't say to them, 'Why don't you take a year off?'."
He seems to work nonstop. This is his first West
End appearance since he starred in the play A Few
Good Men four years ago at the Theatre Royal,
Haymarket but he seldom seems to be off our TV
screens. He's starred as Captain Jack Harkness in
Doctor Who since 2005; three series of the
character's own spin-off series Torchwood since
2006; been one of the judges on the Andrew Lloyd
Webber-led star searches for West End musicals
The Sound Of Music, Joseph and Oliver!; skated on
Dancing On Ice and hosted his own Saturday night
show, Tonight's The Night, on BBC1 earlier this
year. "Its motto is wish fulfilment through
performance," he says of a show that provided
ordinary people with the opportunity to realise
their performing dreams. Barrowman's own life
story is proof positive of living his dreams as a performer.
Glasgow-born but raised in America from the age
of eight, he returned to Britain in his early 20s
and made his professional West End debut as a
complete unknown, taking over the lead role in
Anything Goes opposite Elaine Paige in 1990. He
quickly proceeded to ascend through the ranks of
leading men, starring in the musicals Miss
Saigon, The Phantom Of The Opera, Beauty And The
Beast and Sunset Boulevard (reprising the latter
on Broadway) and earning a nomination for an
Olivier Award for a 1998 musical The Fix at the Donmar Warehouse.
"I would have been perfectly content to still be
doing what I was doing, which was playing leading
roles in musicals, and would have been happy to
watch my career change as I became the father and
older man and then the granddad in musicals as I
got into my 60s and hopefully beyond! But then,
Doctor Who came along, and because I'm not one to
let opportunities pass me by, I jumped at it, and
it took me down a completely different path."
BARROWMAN has had a foothold in the theatre world
in the four years since by doing an annual (and
highly lucrative) stint in pantomime, which this
December will see him appearing in Robin Hood in
Cardiff. "People sneer at it but I ask them why
are they behaving like this? It's a great
introduction to theatre for children. I don't buy
into the whole snobbery of the entertainment
world, where something is beneath you. That's not
the work ethic I was raised with."
Yet he says it's simply been difficult, until
now, to fit in a longer-term return to the
theatre. "I haven't had the time to commit to any
West End productions. That's not to say I wasn't
still being offered them. Last year I was offered
six shows on Broadway, and there was talk of
doing a production of Barnum here, all of which I seriously considered.
"I'm talking as a businessman also because John
Barrowman is a business, and I want to have a
career that is diverse and has longevity. At that
point the BBC was giving me my dream of my own
Saturday night entertainment show and I couldn't
take off a Saturday night from the theatre to do
it. I've grown up in the theatre and you just
can't, unless you're really sick. Audiences are
paying to see you, and you've got to be there."
His increased profile also helps to bring in those audiences.
"I remember when I started out in this business,
there were big theatre names that people knew they wanted to see."
Now fame, in a reality TV age, is more fleeting,
and part of his desire is to put theatre names
back into popular currency, which is partly what
the reality TV castings for musicals have achieved.
"I want to be part of the resurgence where it's
not the shows that are famous but the people in
them who are. It's the people who actually make
those shows work, who sing those numbers every
night and deliver the dialogue eight times a
week, and they need that recognition."
Barrowman, 42, has also openly spoken out for the
recognition of gay relationships, making no
secret of his 16-and-a-half years with his
partner, architect Scott Gill. "He has a desk
job, then goes on site and wears construction
hats and workmen's belts and brings them home!"
It gives him a special understanding of his role
in La Cage Aux Folles, where he plays a man who
has been in a long-term relationship with another man.
"Albin and Georges have been together for 20
years, so I can relate to an awful lot of it.
It's a show about hitting a bump and moving on
from it, and it happens to us all."
Despite the openness with which he has lived his
own life, he was turned down for a role in camp
American sitcom Will And Grace for being "too
straight. It's a total irony isn't it but how
fabulous," he says. What's the secret of his and
Scott's own longevity? "If I had a formula for
it, I'd bottle it and sell it and I'd be really,
really rich, Andrew Lloyd Webber rich! What you
have to remember is that we're two men with very
individual personalities. You have to let those
personalities live. You can't ask the other
person to put it away. And if there's a bump in
the road you're travelling down, is it worth
giving up everything you've worked and believed in for so long?
"We all make mistakes. If you get a little drunk
one night and give someone a snog, it's not the
end of the world. It's silly but it's not going
to destroy who I go home to at night, or the actual person I am in love with."
Home for Scott and John, plus two spaniels and a
Jack Russell called, not surprisingly, Captain
Jack ("He's a thug!") is a London house and
another just outside Cardiff, where Doctor Who and Torchwood are both filmed.
"We have a house on the beach there. Scott always
said it was his dream to have a house where you
look out the back window and it's like Peter
Grimes. I said that's fine, as long as he didn't
expect me to be a fishwife drowning herself in the middle of the water!"
The supremely self-confident Barrowman doesn't
seem to be out of his depth wherever he is. He is
currently in discussions for a fourth series of
Torchwood and doesn't rule out a return to Doctor Who.
"All I can say is that if and when the Doctor
needs the assistance of Captain Jack, he will be there."
And Barrowman himself will be anywhere else he is
asked to be, too: "Celebrity has come with what I
do and I welcome it and embrace it but I'm here
to work. If I'm asked to do a gig, I'll do it!"
John Barrowman is appearing in La Cage Aux Folles
at the Playhouse Theatre from tomorrow until
November 28. For tickets, call 0870 060 6631 or visit www.lacagelondon.com
Andrew Lloyd Webber Confirms Search For WIZARD OF OZ Cast
Friday, September 11, 2009; Posted: 07:09 AM - by BWW News Desk
The BBC have confirmed that the next talent
search programme led by Andrew Lloyd-Webber will
be based around The Wizard Of Oz, seeking a girl
to play Dorothy and a dog to play Toto.
The new show, also called The Wizard Of Oz, will
be presented by Graham Norton, who also presented
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, which
cast Connie Fisher as Maria, Any Dream Will Do?,
which cast Lee Mead as Joseph, and I'd Do
Anything, which cast Jodie Prenger as Nancy in Oliver!
John Barrowman told BWW:UK earlier this week that
he too would be involved in the judging panel.
The show will begin auditions in early 2010 and will air later in the year.
John and the Marias
John and fellow judges for 'Any Dream Will Do'
John and fellow judges Solve the Maria problem for Canada
John and fellow judges searching for Nancy in "I'd Do Anything"
13th-Sep-2009 08:12 am
jb listening for the train
BWW INTERVIEWS: Actor, Singer, TV Presenter John Barrowman
Wednesday, September 9, 2009; Posted: 08:09 AM - by Carrie Dunn
Hello, John, and welcome to BWW:UK. You're a very
busy man and we've got lots to talk about, so let's make a list first!
Yes, OK! In particular and most importantly is La
Cage, and then while I'm in La Cage, I'm also
releasing my second book, which is not an
autobiography, it's more memoirs over the last
three years, and also a reflection on letters and
things that have been sent to me by people and
the questions they've asked regarding the first
book, regarding my opinions on stuff, so it's my
insight into things. And then in November the DVD
of my concert tour comes out, so that's something
to look forward to. I'll start recording my new
album for release on Mothers' Day next year, and
that begins recording while I'm still doing the show.
I talked to Daniel Boys a few weeks ago and he
said what an amazing time he'd had on your tour,
where he supported you. I take it you enjoyed it as well!
I loved doing the tour because it's a time for me
to be able to go out on the road and connect with
the people who are supporting me in all aspects,
because my audience ranges from young kids to
teenagers all the way through to nans, poppas and
grandmas. So it's a way for me to connect. And I
have fun because I let them into my life and my
world even more, more so than anything you see on
television. It's completely different than when
I'm on a talk show. I have family pictures that
come up, and I really give them a special night. I think. I hope!
You write your books with your sister, is that right?
What I actually do is I dictate the stories and
tell all the facts. I basically do it all into an
iPod, and then I send her the files. She then
takes that voice and puts it into word form. For
some reason she's able to do it, she captures my
voice incredibly. She picks it up and gets my
rhythm and everything right. Each book we've
done, she's lived with me and Scott for three and
a half months. She goes to all my meetings, all
my rehearsals, all my shows - everything I do
during that time, she lives that with me, so she
understands how my life is. She's not a ghost
writer. It's with my sister rather than being a
ghost writer - she doesn't do it without me giving her any information.
That must be nice for you, because I imagine you
can't get to see your family as much as you'd like.
Even though I'm so busy, I'm not unrealistic. I
make time for my family. As I've said before,
family is extremely important to me. In this
current book, what I do is take the phrase
"family values" back from all those conservative
jerks, people who are looking at my life and
other people I know as being wrong. I do have
family values, they're just not exactly the same
as everybody else's. That's what makes a family
unique. I see my parents every three months, and
they're coming back over for La Cage. They're
coming over in November, I think it is. My best
friend and her husband are coming over, my
friends from the States, so I do get to see my
close friends and myfamily quite often.
Your parents had a starring role in the documentary you did - they seem lovely!
My parents are great! In fact, we were just
talking with a TV company about doing a TV show
involving the entire Barrowman family.
Like the Osbournes?
Yeah! [realises what he's said, laughs] Well,
hopefully not! Yeah. We said no. I like them having their anonymity.
Are you entirely relocated to London for the run in La Cage?
No, no, we have a house in London. We've never
given up our house here, but we also have a house
in Wales. It depends. Now, I'm here for most of
the week so we go back for the weekend in Wales.
When I'm filming Doctor Who or Torchwood, I'm in
Wales so we come back here for the weekend.
And is your QVC addiction still going on?
Yes, it is! I don't know if it's so much a QVC
addiction so much as I just love certain products
on QVC. I'll rattle them off to you. I love
Northern Nights bedding. LOVE that. I absolutely
love Cooks' Essentials for the kitchen. I think
that's absolutely brilliant. And also Joan Rivers
jewellery, because I buy it for my mother. She
thinks it's incredible. Also Butler and Wilson -
listen, if you want really good jewellery and
watches, do the Butler and Wilson on QVC. I've
called in to QVC and been on the air, when
they've been doing shows on products that I like.
It's hysterical you say that. Actually, I'll show
you this RIGHT NOW and you will LAUGH. [He gets
up and begins trawling through his rehearsal bag
and eventually produces a wallet, which he opens,
and then brandishes a small plastic card.] Tell them what it is.
A purple QVC membership card, Mr J Barrowman!
Yep! Thank you very much! [laughs]
What else do you watch on TV apart from QVC?
I don't get to watch television as much I'd like.
I watch it on iTunes or iPlayer after they've
gone out. I love Desperate Housewives, I love
Weeds, I love Dexter, I love movies - the one I
watched most recently on the plane for the third time is Enchanted.
I LOVE that film.
It's brilliant, isn't it? I actually love that
song, So Close, when they start dancing. That
whole sequence is a lift from Beauty and the
Beast, the animated sequence, and it's just brilliant and beautiful.
Let's chat about La Cage. When did you first start talking about it?
They spoke to me when the Cagelles were on
Tonight's The Night [his Saturday night BBC
television programme], which was March, April
time last year. We were trying to find a slot
where I could fit it in. We knew we had to do
three months, it would be silly to do any less,
and also not viable for the production company. I
would like to do it longer, but I just can't. I'm
loving the rehearsal process. I'm excited to see
what it's going to be in another week. We've not
got long left to rehearse. [mock gasp]
Have you seen it before?
I saw it with Graham [Graham Norton], and I saw
it just the other evening, just to go in and
watch it for blocking reasons, just to see the
transitions between the different songs and
different scenes. I don't go and watch shows in
order to see how to do things, because I'm not
that person. It will be completely different -
Simon and I are younger men in comparison to what
people are used to seeing in these roles, but
that's not to say it can't be played by younger
men. I'm in my early forties, so we will look at
things a little bit differently than others have.
I was going to say the age thing has been brought up quite a lot...
Well, of course it has, but the age thing, it's like - can I be honest?
I think people are looking for something to pick
about, and I think it's a load of sh*t. Because I
know Jerry Herman, and I know Jerry said when he
wrote the songs and when they were working on it
he had in mind someone in their mid-forties.
Maybe not early forties, but mid-forties. It can
be someone on the cusp of a change in their life.
He also said the reason that older men played it
when they first did it was because a lot of
younger guys didn't want people to think they were gay.
Do you think some of the talk about the casting
has been because it's YOU who's been cast in the role, like a big name?
I'm going to sound a little bit pompous here. I
was a theatre name before I was a TV name. I have
a huge track record in the West End. Why
shouldn't I play a role like this? I am a West
End leading man. That's how I started my career.
I've never given it up. It's just that a show
came along that took me on a different path.
The funny thing is that different demographics
know you for different things. People my age have
always remembered you from The Movie Game and Live And Kicking!
Yes, and you guys wouldn't have known that I did
anything else. That was before this crossover
thing happened, and that was something I wanted to change.
Yes - do you think there is perhaps a demographic
that doesn't actually know about your theatre
background and sees you as a television person?
Yes and no. One thing I have done in my
television shows is that I've made sure people
know I'm an entertainer. I've made sure they know
that I can sing. I've made sure they know that my
roots are in the West End. That's why I got
involved in the judging shows. I think now most
people know. If you'd have asked me five years
ago when I started Doctor Who, for the TV
audience who only knew me as Captain Jack on
Doctor Who, that would have been the case. Now, I don't think so.
I'm just playing devil's advocate!
I know you are! And that's great, because that
gives me a chance to speak out and answer truthfully the way I'd like to.
How are you getting on with the dresses? Are they lovely?
All my dresses are brand new. All my dresses are
different. They're styled differently for a
younger and a slimmer man. That's not to say that
I don't have my muffin top, my love handles. I'll
be 43 in March, and I am aware of it! Things have
changed with me, so I can relate to strapping in
my gut and my arse in a corset. The dresses look
great, though. One thing I do have from my years
of dancing is a good set of pins. [He stretches
out his legs and points his toes.] And the
high-heeled shoes - they look good. I'm just
being totally honest with you - they look pretty damn good. [laughs]
You've sung I Am What I Am before.
I sing it in my own show, my concerts. It's
become my signature song with my audience who
know me from recordings and telly stuff. I've
never sung it in the context of this show, which
is completely different to how I sing it in my
concert. In my concert I sing it as a celebration
of being who I am, whereas in this show it's a
little more angry, it's a little more defiant.
Funnily enough, we've only done it once, because
I already know it. That's the one I probably need
the least amount of work on vocally and
word-wise. What we need to do it meet it up, add
it to the scene, and see where that takes me
emotionally. I'm really looking forward to it
because it'll be nice to sing the song in a
different manner, in a different context.
And how is your "son"?
Gabriel [Gabriel Vick] is calling me "mother"
already, which is really bizarre - I could
conceivably have a son that old. I could. We have
an answer for all of it! We've got it all worked
out. Let anybody come and say, "Meh meh meh meh."
Let them say whatever they want. The bottom line
is I'm not doing it for those people.
You've been involved in the BBC talent search
shows since the very first one, How Do You Solve
A Problem Like Maria?. How did you get involved in that?
I was asked. I was auditioned. I talk about it in
my book, I do a whole chapter on the judging
shows, and answer a lot of questions, even to the
point of discussing some things that happened off
camera. I won't go into depth about that because
I want people to read the book! I'm also honest
and blunt about my opinions on people. I've loved
doing those shows. I feel honoured that I was
asked by the BBC to represent the West End as a
leading man. I feel a lot of pride in that role
because I have been asked to help choose a new
leading lady or a new leading man to possibly have a career in the West End.
So when I'm looking at them, although certain
people are looking for the financial gain and the
aspect of looking at them just for that
particular show, I'm looking at them for their
career. I want to look beyond this one particular
show. I'm there as a leading man; I want to make
sure the leading lady has the gravitas and talent
to carry them through this show and the next. In
the theatre world we very rarely have one-hit
wonders. Do you know what I mean? People like to
build their careers. That's what I'm looking at
when I see them. It's up to the person who wins then to continue that.
One of my favourite bits of I'd Do Anything was
you and Denise Van Outen hugging each other when
the results was announced - it was just such
utter glee. It was real, genuine, investment in it.
It was, and again I talk about that final and
where that glee came from. We had watched that
particular person be slashed and demeaned by the
rest of the judging panel in the final, and
Denise and I chose not to do it. I chose not to
do it for a reason. I'd done two other shows
prior. I know how the audience is. I think I
understood the audience well. I said to Denise,
"Look, we give our comments. We are honest. We
say who we like, we say who we don't like, and
when we're asked at the end of the show, we do
the same thing, we say it, and that's it, because
the others are going to try to chomp in their
bits and opinions. You know what I think will
happen? The audience will think that's not very
nice, and they'll do the right thing." And they did.
The British viewing public often does that with
harsh judges on reality TV shows.
Yeah, but also, you know what? They liked Jessie
[Jessie Buckley], but they liked Jodie [Jodie
Prenger] more. They also saw that Jodie was a
talent that was ready for that role. Honestly,
and I'm being truthful, Jessie wasn't. Jessie
didn't have the emotional depth that Jodie had
shown the growth with. That's what you want to
see in a performance. You want to see them start
somewhere and grow to the end, to the 11 o'clock number.
Actually, Liza Minnelli said something similar in
the programme, when she did her masterclass,
saying that Jodie obviously had much more life
experience than Sam and Jessie. Andrew Lloyd Webber's face there was a picture.
Yes! He was mortified! Because they all wanted
Jessie! I can't even comment because I don't
think she could have done it. I really don't. She
could have sung it, but she couldn't have done
it. But then she came in to do the role in A
Little Night Music and was wonderful. It was
right for her, and right for her age. She's a
young ingénue, and that's what she should play.
Are there any more judging shows coming up? There
was talk about The Wizard Of Oz.
Yeah, but I don't have an answer as to if it is
or isn't going to happen. If it does, I'll be
involved. I've already had a conversation with
the BBC. I'd love for there to be another one.
The one thing in musical theatre that we're all
waiting for is Love Never Dies. What can you tell me about that?
I recorded some of it before they decided to go
in a different direction, and so did everybody
else. It's lovely, it's a beautiful score, but I
don't know what's happening - I wish I could tell you more.
So a three-month run here, your book, your DVD -
Of course! Is it Robin Hood this year?
Yes, it's Robin Hood, in Cardiff, because I
wanted to be near my own bed. I've been in
Birmingham for the last two years. The first year
was a massive success for them. The second year
it was the biggest-selling pantomime in the history of the UK.
I spoke to Paul Elliott last week, and we talked about your panto then.
I love Paul! I don't know what he said about me,
but I admire him as someone who's able to take
something like a pantomime and make it open and
genuine for children and adults alike. He's
involved in other productions that are also doing
well. Also, he's great to work with; he lets you
have your ideas and if they work, he lets you use
them; if they don't, he tells you. He's like me,
he's really blunt, which is something I really appreciate about him.
He was saying it's nice to have a team that works so well together.
I'm proud to be in the position where he calls me
up for casting approval and who I want in shows.
When we did the first pantomime, the cast was so
wonderful I said I want the same people back, as
many as you can get. Anybody who's worked with me
in a West End show knows that I treat them like a
family for the period that I'm there. They are,
you're spending upwards of five hours a day with
them, from the moment you come into the theatre
to the moment you leave. If you have a good time
once, you're going to have a good time the second
time, and there's loyalty there. People
appreciate that loyalty to them. First year we
had one cast, second year we had the same cast,
third year we've got the same cast again.
After that, into 2010 - a musical episode of Torchwood, maybe?
Ha! I'd like to say yes, but it's not going to
happen! There's going to be hopefully a series
four of Torchwood. Frankly and bluntly I would
say they'd be stupid not to. It's so massive
everywhere. It's a great representative of
British television around the world, and how
further on we are in television than other
countries. I've got another concert tour planned
- the Albert Hall have already tentatively booked
me for next year again; I had such a great time
there, I'm pleased that they called me and asked
me back. 2010 is actually almost booked up. We're
now looking into 2011 and 2012. I've also got
series three and four of Animals At Work which is
a children's TV programme I do for CBeebies and
Canadian Broadcasting, and I go over to Canada to
do a show for CBC. Yeah, it's just all go!
John Barrowman appears in La Cage Aux Folles at
The Playhouse Theatre from September 14.
Precious and rare all Love is, gender matters not.