Hello, Hadley, and welcome back to London. You were here in February for a concert with Stephanie J Block when you performed a duet with The Pirate Queen, which I never saw when it was on Broadway, but it sounds epic...
It was quite epic, actually. The score I still think stands up, I think it's beautiful. There were a couple of issues, I suppose, with some of the narrative in it. I had such a wonderful time doing it and I would go back and do it again in a heartbeat. It really was a very special group of people. I know people say that about every show, and it's true, more often than not, but for me, going over to do my first gig on Broadway was very, very special. I do feel we were slightly hard-done-by in terms of critical reaction; I think the knives were out. But I suppose you don't do it for that. I really enjoyed doing it, and it certainly broadened my horizons.
How did it come about?
It was slightly bizarre. It was very much right place, right time. I had worked with Claude-Michel and Alain on a couple of concerts they did in Birmingham, and I had also worked with the producers on a play that I had done in Dublin. When those two groups of people came together to do Pirate Queen, it just so happened that I'd worked with them in the past couple of years. They were writing this part that was suitable for me. They flew me out to audition in New York, with no guarantees, and the rest is history. I felt that it was a part that I could do, so to that extent I didn't feel like a fraud or an interloper, which I might otherwise have done! I did feel it was something I could take on.
Obviously Stephanie J Block is a huge Broadway name.
My knowledge of Broadway up until that point was fairly limited, I must admit. I don't really know much about musicals full stop, apart from the ones that I've done. And I don't mean that in a snobbish way! Beforehand, I learned that Stephanie had this reputation, and when I got there I realised just how valid that reputation was. She can literally do everything. I was disappointed that 9 to 5 didn't run longer for her. She's an extraordinarily talented comic actress as well as being able to sing pretty much everything, and on top of it being a really quite lovely person.
You say you don't know much about musicals - do you think of yourself as a musicals actor?
I think of myself as an "actor" predominantly. I've been lucky enough to do plays and in the last few years I've been living in LA doing a couple of films and television shows. Up until that point I'd have been an actor who's worked in musical theatre. I am a real music nerd, but not about musical theatre. I love listening to jazz, classical and folk, I suppose the extent to which some people get nerdy about musical theatre! I'm just as much of a nerd as everyone else!
And now you're doing The Fantasticks - how did that come about?
I was coming back to live back here, and I'd worked with Jason Carr and Tom Deering on A Christmas Carol at Birmingham Rep, directed by Nikolai Foster. I was on my way back, they were quite a long way through auditions for this, and they were finding it relatively difficult to cast the role, and I think I arrived back at the right time. It always seems to be right place, right time for me! Jason and Tom orchestrated my coming in. And a week or so later I got the call. It was most welcome, I had a hankering to get back on the West End stage, I've not done a West End show for five years. I'd purposely not been on stage but it was time to reintroduce myself, for want of a less arrogant term...
Why did you take that break? Was it to start in film?
That's right. I was very conscious that the actors I most admire are the ones who do a broad range of work, and I'd predominantly done musical theatre. After The Pirate Queen wasn't the success I'd hoped it would be, the lustre, the lacquer came off. I wanted to refresh myself. I suppose Los Angeles really is the place to go and try your hand at doing screen work. I'd done a tiny little bit over here but I wanted more of that. I was very glad to go and live abroad for a couple of years. I wasn't amazingly successful, but I did do a couple of films and television shows, but I feel it's rounded me as a performer a lot.
The Fantasticks has been running on Broadway forever, but it's never really caught on here.
It's never really taken off in the West End - I think there's been umpteen regional productions and at Edinburgh. It does feel like that sort of show. The circumstances to do The Fantasticks would have to be right to bring it into the West End. I believe we've found those in terms of coming in to a small venue. The intimacy factor is huge. The audience have to feel that they're invited in. They have to feel a strong connection with the action. There's a reason it's lasted on Broadway - I think its original home held around 150. You really felt like you were on top of the action. The show does allow the performers a certain amount of interaction and involvement with the audience, which is always thrilling for everyone. I think that would be lost if it was in a bigger space in the West End. I'm not sure why it's never caught on. I think it's a hilarious show with an awful lot of heart and a beautiful score. Certainly my parents know Try To Remember as if it's embedded in their collective consciousness. I think my parents' generation would know more of the score than they originally thought. I think a lot of the rest of the songs stand up to scrutiny in terms of standing the test of time. You listen to some musicals from the 1960s and think, oh, they're showing their age now, but most of The Fantasticks you can imagine having been written not too long ago.