INTERVIEW: Joe McFadden

A brand-new production of the much-loved glittering hit musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert the Musical, produced by Mark Goucher and first-time producer Jason Donovan, will be hitting theatres across the UK later this year including Leicester’s Curve Theatre this October.

Strictly Come Dancing winner and Holby City Star Joe McFadden will be starring in the iconic hit musical as Tick/Mitzi.

Dluxe’s Francesca Arculeo caught up with the Holby City star to find out more about the glitz and glam of being a Strictly winner, touring the country and what we can expect from this new production.

So you’re on tour currently with House on Cold Hill? How is that going?

Yeah, it’s going really well. We’re half way through, we go through until the middle of June and yeah the end is in sight. We’re have a really nice time. After sort of four years of doing Holby City, It’s quite nice to get out and about and not be locked in to a pretend hospital ward all day and everyday. It’s really good and we’re trying to get out and about and actually seeing the places that we’re visiting. We’re getting a great reaction from the audience.

It must be really weird to go through that transition from going on to set everyday to the same place and same people to then go out across the country and see people in the flesh rather than just a camera and actually get a live reaction.

Absolutely and I think that is why it’s really good for you as an actor to not leave it too long to get back on stage because I think it’s really good training for you just about not getting to do it again if it goes wrong. Especially kind of playing the same character for such a long time it can become not easy but..

You get comfortable.

Yeah, it’s not as challenging as perhaps it might be. Getting to go out, it’s a bit of a cliche but getting to see the reaction of the audience every night – it’s fantastic. It’s a real buzz and it’s really rewarding when it goes well.

Last year must have been a really busy year for you, so winning Strictly Come Dancing and lifting the glitter ball trophy with Katya. How did that change your life? Did you learn a bit more about yourself? Did it give you more confidence as a performer?

I suppose it just sort of taught me about saying Yes to things. I was really quite hesistant about doing it, just because you know, when I started out all those years ago, you didn’t really do reality television, it was sort of looked down upon almost. So It was a big decision to make going in to something like that. I took lots of advice from various different people and I think the thing that really stuck in my mind was a good friend of mine said to me – it’s good way to show people that you don’t take yourself too seriously. I think that’s a really good thing in life is to not overthink things and I think maybe that is the biggest lesson is that when you say yes to things, the possibilities are endless. And look how brilliantly it turned out and If I has said No and not have gotten to experience that it would have been a waste

What an great show to go on, I can’t think of a better one and to have a partner as lovely as Katya as well.

Yeah and as hard-working as Kat. She was a brilliant partner in that she wasn’t one for heaping praise and I think perhaps that’s why it’s such a surprise that we actually won because we never once rested our laurels. Even when we were getting tens towards the end and it kept going really well we were always moving forward and it was a big shock when it was over, having all that energy and nothing to do with it. It’s kind of like a bereavement really. You’re like, oh god it is all over. But it was amazing and having the glitter ball on my shelf has sort of cheered me up.

So do you have a glance it every morning.

Yeah whenever I’m feeling a bit down, it’s there to cheer me up.

It reflects back at you.

Yeah and just to think, even not, not just the winning, it’s just the doing of it, the learning of those dances in such a short space of time. It was a brilliant experience, I mean it was a really intense and it was really difficult but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I really wouldn’t.

I would love to do that but I’m not going to have the opportunity to be on Strictly.

Go and join a ballroom class!

Yes, good idea. Have you been keeping up with the dancing, do you still whip out a salsa on a Saturday night or when you’re out?

Not really! There is a little bit of dancing in the show that like at one point my character, someone catches me dancing a way, Alexa starts playing this music and I’m kind of dancing and this guy goes oh you should go on Strictly mate. Which funnily enough that was in the script before I got the job, people assume that it was put in. I haven’t really kept up the dancing, it’s quite difficult turning up at a dance class when you’ve won something like Strictly because people expect you to be amazing. Even getting up in clubs and stuff, I can see people sort of checking me out and what my dancing is like so there is a pressure on you. I would have been nothing without my partner and her breaking it all down for me and that intense one on one tuition and perhaps that’s why I haven’t done any classes.

The great thing about doing something like Priscilla is I’ll get to put it to good use hopefully and it will set me in good stead for the brilliant dances that the Choreographer Tom has got in store. He is a really great choreographer and I was watching some of the boys auditioning and his routines are going to be spectacular, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

I can only imagine. Do you think being on Strictly with all the sparkle, fake tan and sequins has prepared you and given you experience for Priscilla Queen of The Desert?

I think it has really. More than anything else, it brings a sort of confidence in just having to do it even though you don’t feel terribly prepared. Doing a show like Strictly it feels like that nightmare that every actor has where you don’t know your script and they’re pushing you out in front of an audience. To be able to get through that and be able to do some kind of element of the dance you’re supposed to do, it teaches you that you’re capable of so much more than you think you are. So doing something like an opening night, like opening night for this play, it reminded me of all this fear, I remember this fear from Strictly. Fear is manageable you just feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s the big thing that the experience taught me.

So How did this role in Priscilla come about? What made you decide to go for it?

I just went and met with them really. I’d met Jason Donovan bizarrely on Loose Women and I think that’s perhaps where he got the idea. He’s almost solely responsible for me getting the part. I went and met him and Mark Goucher, the producers and had a chat about the script. It was one of those really unusual situations where they pretty much just offered it to me flat out and Jason said the key to this character is his heart. He’s the heart of this story and you have to feel for him and he has to be a sympathetic character as well as all the singing and the dancing and the drag. He said he could see I was the right person for it. To have his seal of approval when he knows the story so well, he’s played the character, I’m hugely indebted to him. Hopefully he was right in thinking.

Knowing the show as much as he does, being on the West End and on tour with the show. Do you feel in safe hands with it?

Absolutely, he knows the writers and the scale of the show. From what he was saying and what I gathered, they’re going back to the film more than perhaps the West End production because it’s all new design, all new choreography, new costumes and new set and the bus is different. It’s a sort of re-imaging of the whole story in which it’s taking it back to its roots. It was a gritty film, these guys were struggling to survive, they didn’t have a lot of money, they had to be inventive with their costumes and make them out of makeshift stuff as the film did as they didn’t have much of a budget.  They were very much having to be inventive and that is sort of the thing that we’re going for. It will be really interesting and be different to the version people will have seen in the West End which is really exciting. And to have someone who knows the show as much as Jason does, I think we are in safe hands.

Have you worked with Jason before or was it just that first time on Loose Women that you met?
Yeah we just bumped in to each other, we had so much in common of course because he had gotten to the final on Strictly so we sort of had a good chat about that. He’s a really good guy, he knows the business and knows the show really well so it’s invaluable the advice that he gives.

It’s an iconic film and show, do you remember your first experience of seeing the film?

Back in the day, back in 1994, I remember. I hadn’t quite gotten in to doing musicals myself yet – I was about to do Rent a couple of years later but I just remember being blown away by it. As well as it being these amazing larger than life characters, there is such a great heart to the story. It so relatable, even if these people might be different from us. They’re really relatable characters, and really entertaining. That’s the thing, they are entertainers, they’re drag queens and just thinking how brave they were going out to the outback in those outfits. Even today that’s a brave thing to do. These guys are warriors and they’re fantastic characters to get your teeth stuck in to and have an attempt at playing.

You’re taking on the role of Mitzi in the show, for people who might not know about the show and the story can you tell us a little bit more about the character?

He goes on a real journey because he starts the show in Sydney, seeing his friends there that are entertainers in the bars in Sydney and how gruelling that can be and bruisy. He gets this call from the past, because he had a wife at one point and we learn that he has this son and it’s him sort of embracing a family life which he’d never done before but perhaps he’s gotten to a part of his life where he wanted to explore that a bit more and connect more with having a family. The wedge that that drives between him and his friends where they’re completely put out by the fact that he had this wife that they knew nothing about and this child. It’s also a road movie where they travel across Australia and the trials and tribulations of that and the colourful bruisy characters that they meet along the way. There is just so much to it and you can see why it won an Oscar and the musical works really well because it takes this brilliant characters, who are real entertainers and has these singing these brilliant songs which aren’t actually in the movie but work really well on stage.

Like you say it’s got a fantastic soundtrack, are there any particular numbers you are personally looking forward to getting on stage and doing every night?

Always on My Mind, the song that he sings to his son when he meets him is a really lovely song. Say A Little Prayer, I Love The Nightlife, Don’t Leave Me This Way. There are so many brilliant anthems as well as they’re being some great seventies disco tracks that I remember being in the theatre being so taken away by it. They’re so tuneful and toe-tapping the numbers. It’s lovely to have that element that the songs are real crowd pleasers as well.

You obviously haven’t started rehearsals yet as you’re on tour currently, so have you had any insight in to the show. What little bits do you know already that we can expect?

I know that my back is going to suffer. Jason said also that the heels are a killer, you have to get them on as quickly as possible in rehearsals. There is a real temptation to just do it in my trainers but this is one of the things I learned from Strictly, always do rehearsals in the shoe that you’re going to be doing the show in because it makes such a difference. Jason has told me the costume changes are the thing that really takes a lot of effort in the show. The singing and dancing is the fun part and it’s when you get off stage and you have the massive costume changes to do and you don’t have very much time to do them in, you get a matter of seconds sometimes to do it in. That and to get a good Oesto and to get fit. I’ve been hitting the gym in the mean time, doing a lot of work on my legs trying to strengthen them up because that in itself, even just doing the photo shoot in the heels, my legs were killing me. It gave me such a respect for what women have to go through.

It’s quite a long tour which will see you touring the show across the country for a long period of time, do you have any home comforts to take with you on the road?

I try not to have too many home comforts because you have to carry them around with you. This tour I’ve realised that you need a good pillow, my neck has really suffered because you’re in different beds every week so I am going to take my good pillow with me. When I go back to London next week I will get my pillow. The odd massage now and again if you’re suffering and when the dressing rooms are smelly have a nice candle to burn but other than that.

In every city that you visit do you get anything like a postcard or anything like a keepsake to remember the visit?

Not really, I’ll do an Instagram post from every venue just to let people know that I’m there. That’s pretty much it, the odd tweet but no postcard. I do try and get out and about. In Coventry we went to laser quest and we try and have a group outing every week.

That’s nice for you to do something as a team. It must be like when you were on Holby where the cast and crew become family and you get to know each other.

Yeah and you are all in it together and visiting all these new places together. That is the brilliant thing about it. The really great thing about doing a show lots of different theatres is that the show changes according to what venue you are in. The reaction adds so much. It really can inform what you are doing on stage. Certain places are a lot more ridy than others. This play that we’re doing at the minute, we did it in Brighton a couple of weeks ago and it just worked. It was almost as if it was written for Brighton because there are so many references and areas around there. Peter James is from there, so it comes from the heart than somewhere like Hull that was a little bit more reserved. You can tell at the end that they enjoy it just as much they just don’t get the references quite as much. Obviously in the North they’re always louder which is always fun.

That’s brilliant. You want to have a good time. It’s the same in Scotland, people come out to have a good time. In the South they’re that little bit more reserved they let you come to them but that’s fine as well. They’ve paid their money, they can do what they want.

It’s nice to have that contrast and for it to be a bit more of a challenge sometimes.

Definitely.

You’ve got some down time in before you get stuck in to Priscilla, have you got any plans for the Summer to prepare.

Yeah, I’ll get some singing lessons, some accent lessons, just prepare really. Get a holiday at some point. Get back to normality for a while before I go out on the road again.

Well we can’t wait to come and see the show later on the year!


priscilla queen of the desert RUNS AT CURVE from monday 28th october – saturday 2nd november 2019
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO BUY TICKETS, VISIT WWW.CURVEONLINE.CO.UK, OR CALL 0116 242 3595

Please visit www.priscillauktour.com for details of 2019 touring dates

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