How exciting is it to be doing Ghost – The Musical?
So exciting! I did a few things just after I left college but nothing of note so this is my first treading of the boards since then. I’m so excited but it’s also a bit nerve-wracking – not the idea of performing in front of an audience but because it’s such an iconic role. Patrick Swayze’s shoes are big shoes to fill, for sure, and my mate Richard Fleeshman did Sam in the original West End production and he was amazing too. So there’s a bit of pressure but we’ve not gone for a carbon copy of either the West End or Broadway versions.
What was it about this particular show that made you say yes?
Number one, I’m a massive fan of the movie. Number two, I’ve been dying to get back on stage for a while now. I love TV and stuff but there’s nothing so gratifying as doing a live show. Obviously you can see reactions on Twitter, but to go out there and perform in front of a live audience for immediate feedback is the most exciting part of the job. As performers it’s what we’ve trained to do. Then number three, there’s the music. It’s by Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics and Glen Ballard who has produced loads of albums that I love as well. When I heard the songs I could hear all their influences in it so the whole package of having those guys on board, this iconic movie and the fact it’s a nice three-month tour sold it to me straight away.
You’ve done TV but what challenges does a stage show present?
The main challenge for me is to make sure my voice can sustain it every day. There are some big numbers in it and I’ve been in bands over the years so I can sing, but doing it every night across eight or nine shows a week is a tough prospect. You have to know when to belt it out and when to hold back and save your voice. Also everything has to be cued to a sound cue or a music cue or somebody else’s line or a lighting cue. I’m not used to that in TV. If we move the lines around a little bit because it seems more truthful they’ll usually buy it, but with this you have to be word-perfect. So it’s about trying to hit the marks for everyone else and trying to make it sound like you’re doing it for the first time.
You’ve also done rock concerts but is a musical a different discipline?
It’s so different. I like musicals, don’t get me wrong, but I’d never seen one and gone ‘My God, that’s amazing, I want to be in it’ whereas with this one when I heard the music I thought ‘That’s well good’. They told me they didn’t want a musical theatre singer and a musical theatre voice, they wanted one with a bit of something different to his voice – and hopefully that’s what I’ve been able to add to Dave and Glen’s music. I’m kind of mixing and matching both. I’m singing it so I don’t ruin my voice every night, so I’m being careful in that respect, but I can rock it up a bit with a rasp in my voice for the big, emotional songs. Finding the balance has been kind of fun.
What’s your take on Sam?
He’s deeply in love with his girlfriend Molly [Carolyn Maitland] but like any guy at that age he’s scared of commitment and stuff. He knows she’s the love of his life and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her but it’s hard for him to say three words like ‘I love you’ or ‘Let’s get married’ out loud. He’s a lovely guy and he loves her, then when he dies his thing is about connecting back to Molly and seeking vengeance from his best mate who ultimately killed him. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, then there are all the comedy scenes with Oda Mae Brown [Jacqui Dubois] as well, so I have to thread through the journey of him being a lovable character at the beginning, then it goes dark after he dies, he’s seeking vengeance and trying to tell Molly he loves her whilst having a bit of fun with Oda Mae as well. He’s a tricky character [laughs] especially playing him dead.
Is he someone you can relate to?
I’d like to hope I’m a loveable, nice guy. I hope there’s a bit of me in that and I hope if somebody killed me I’d seek vengeance. [Laughs] So he’s just like me. He’s a general nice guy who wants a wife, friends, a nice place and a good job. He’s striving to do the best he can in life without hurting anyone, even if he does work as a banker.
Why do you think this particular story means so much to so many people?
It’s the everlasting love thing, plus it came out at the beginning of the 90s and there hadn’t been many amazing stories like this. It has a bit of something for everyone in it. There’s the life-everlasting love story and everyone knows someone who has passed on and has that longing to see them again. Also it was when Whoopi Goldberg was at her peak as were Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. It had a stellar cast and the culmination of that with the fact everyone can relate to the story, because something similar has happened to them at some point in their lives, is why it resonates so strongly. That’s why people love the film and why they come and see the stage show, plus it’s almost nostalgic now, isn’t it?
Have you had to learn any new skills for the show? Pottery perhaps?
I can play the guitar a bit but they asked me to play Unchained Melody on the guitar and I was up for doing that. In this version we’ve incorporated the pottery wheel a lot more than in the original stage show but it’s mainly Carolyn’s character who gets to use it. The thing I’ve most had to learn is stamina and also that you have to keep going. If we mess up or there’s a sound cue that doesn’t come when it should we have to keep going whereas on TV you can go ‘Sorry, that was rubbish, can we do it again?’ [Laughs] Also if something does go awry I can’t help dig anyone out of it because Sam is dead and no-one can see or hear me.
How easy has it been mastering an American accent?
That’s fine. That’s what I said to them: ‘Acting I can do all day long, I can do accents, whatever you want, what I’m worried about is singing these big songs eight or nine times a week’. What they did, which is lovely, is give me a lot of help with the songs and the music and it’s all come together now. I’ve nailed them.
Can you recall when you first saw the movie and what effect did it have on you?
I watched it with my mum and dad. It was like a Sunday family movie and it affected me because it’s when I started getting interested in ghosts and stuff. It was the first time I’d seen it in a film and it’s not there to be scary, it’s there for another reason that you don’t understand as a kid. So that’s the first time I started thinking about ghosts. Nowadays the shadow ghosts that come at the end of the movie to get the baddies aren’t that scary, but they used to scare me senseless.
What are you most looking forward to about the tour?
I’m looking forward to visiting towns and cities I’ve never been to. That’s going to be exciting, but I’m quite a homebody. If I go out partying or with friends I like to go home at the end of the night so it’s going to be a bit weird being away, but it’s part and parcel of the job and hopefully it will lead to other things like this. It’s got me so excited about acting again and it doesn’t just have to be on TV or in a film, I can go on tour and I go do it in another country. Hopefully this will be the gateway to other things. It’s a great show and a great part and I hope I manage to do it justice.