The singer and actor is reprising his role as Pharoah for the third time in the new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical at Blackpool Winter Gardens’ Opera House from Monday July 25 to Saturday July 30, 2022.
He performed the role at the London Palladium in 2019 and 2021 and he will be sharing the stage again with Linzi Hateley as the narrator and Jac Yarrow as he prepares to don the famous coat in the titular role as Joseph on tour.
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Linzi is an Olivier Award nominee and Theatre World Award winner who has starred on Broadway, in the West End, with the RSC, and at the National Theatre. She now returns to the role of the Narrator, having first starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1991 opposite Jason Donovan and Phillip Schofield at the London Palladium – for which she received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
Jac made his professional stage debut playing Joseph, following in the footsteps of a line of stars who have previously played the title character. His portrayal of Joseph won him unanimous acclaim and an Olivier Award nomination, with his rendition of ‘Close Every Door To Me’ regularly stopping the show with standing ovations.
Producer Michael Harrison said: "Our ‘dream team’ casting will enchant newcomers and longstanding fans alike; Jac Yarrow has wowed audiences and critics with his spectacular debut and attendees should be prepared for the roof to be raised when Jason Donovan steps on stage.”
We spoke to three of the show’s stars.
Jason Donovan as Pharaoh
Is Joseph as much fun to perform in as it is to watch?
Absolutely. It’s such an uplifting show and it feels relevant to the world we’re living in right now to a certain degree, since it’s about overcoming adversity and having self-belief. It’s part of this country’s DNA in a way and this tour is the West End production put into local theatres so it’s a version of the show many people won’t have seen before.
This is your third go-round as Pharaoh. What keeps pulling you back in?
There’s so much history with Joseph for me and I was originally asked about recreating the role of Joseph himself. That didn’t come to fruition for a number of reasons and trying to recreate what I’d done in 1991 all these years later with me in my 50s was a bit of a non-starter anyway. But I was keen to be part of it and when the opportunity to play Pharaoh came along I took it without thinking too much about it. It sort of works, you know? The song comes in Act Two and it’s a bit of a show- stealer. Because of my
association with the show I think it only increases the value of that moment and makes it more powerful.
You’re still in fantastic shape. What’s your regime?
I wouldn’t say I’m in top physical condition but if I’m going into town I’ll ride my bike and I try and get in a swim and a steam each day. I’m also a bit OCD so I’m always cleaning the house. Going up and down the stairs is enough to keep the fitness levels up to a certain degree.
A lot of people are introduced to Joseph through school productions. Was that the case with you?
I knew the piece but I wasn’t aware of the currency of the show in the UK until I was in it. It’s not really a big title in Australia. It’s known and I hear it may be heading there in
the next year or so but it wasn’t big in schools, at least not when I was growing up.
It’s been going strong over here since the early 70s. Why do you think audiences still love it?
It’s a very simple show with a very clear message. It was Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s first real outing as writers and it’s quite unique because that sort of greatness is often born out of raw talent. [Laughs] When I first heard Any Dream Will Do I thought it was a cheesy lullaby but everyone told me if I recorded it it would be a massive hit. I didn’t believe them but to this day I can go out and sing it at one of those retro festivals like Rewind and Let’s Rock and the place goes nuts. And it’s not kids who are going nuts, it’s adults.
Jac Yarrow plays Joseph now. Having originally played the role yourself, how do you rate him as a performer?
He’s a very well-polished performer. He’s incredibly talented and he’s a great singer, and he’s got a lot of energy. It’s a different show to the one I did back in the 90s. It’s hard to compare the two and it’s hard to compare the two of us as performers, but he’s a great guy and I think the innocence and the spirit of Joseph is not only in the character but also in the person who is playing him.
How do you feel about the demise of Neighbours?
I think it’s sad but it’s time to celebrate its success. It’s sad that it’s coming to an end but we should be grateful for the life it’s had and the opportunities it’s given all of us.
Did you ever imagine you’d become a national treasure in the UK? No because in Australia America is a bigger part of our entertainment sphere. Coming to Britain
was never part of the plan as such but it quickly became the plan. The opportunity was enormous here and I took it.
Linzi Hateley as The Narrator
Joseph is such a fun, upbeat musical. Are audiences craving that right now?
Absolutely. We’ve had a dreadful few years and the news at the moment is depressing as well so we all need escapism, a bit of fun and a bit of light relief. This show has all of that.
You first played The Narrator in 1991, then at the London Palladium last year, and now you’re on the tour. What do you most enjoy about playing her and what keeps bringing you back?
I never dreamt that all these years later that I’d be back. It’s a very different production to the one we did in the early 90s and when I saw it on opening night in 2019 I thought it was brilliant how they’d reinvented it and given it a new lease of life. Then when the call came in last summer saying Alexandra Burke wasn’t available for certain performances and how would I feel about doing those dates myself, to be honest I had to sit down for a second and think ‘Can I really do this 30 years later?’ But because it was a very different version I thought ‘You know what, let’s just give it a go’.
She’s much more involved in the action in the new production, isn’t she?
Back in the day she was telling the story so she was on stage pretty much all of the time. The difference is that in 2019 they geared the role towards Sheridan Smith’s talents, so it was more comedic and actor-based. The Narrator is now involved in different sections of it in different ways to how it was done before, but it’s a massive part however you do it because you’re on there all the time telling the story. There’s no let-up.
The show is a perennial school favourite. Were you in any school productions of it yourself?
You know what, I wasn’t asked to do one school production. I was a terrible reader as a child, and I still am, and it always seemed as though they picked the kids who could read the scripts really quickly. So I never did a single school production of anything.
When did you first see Joseph in a theatre?
I never saw it as a child. The first time I saw it was after I’d done it at the Palladium, with Jason Donovan and then with Phillip Schofield, who was subsequently going on tour with it. I surprised him when I turned up to see the show in somewhere like Edinburgh. I saw the production I’d been involved in but from the other side, and I finally saw what it was that people were getting from it – namely loads of fun.
Joseph has been going strong since the early 70s. Why do you think audiences still love it?
I’ve come to realise that for a lot of people it’s now nostalgia. When I did it last summer the thing that surprised me the most was that there were people saying ‘I saw it as a kid, my grandmother brought me, now I’m bringing my children to see it’. It crosses generations and there’s a broad spectrum of fans who have all seen different versions but who have had Joseph in their lives in some way or another. Nostalgia is a very powerful thing and fans like to introduce people to a show when they love it themselves.
You’ve played opposite both Jason and Phillip (Schofield) as Joseph. What does Jac Yarrow bring to the role?
I think Jac brings theatricality. Jason and Phillip come from different backgrounds altogether, and Jac is the first Joseph I’ve worked with who came to it straight from drama school. He brings something new and fresh to it.
Have you and Jason, who now stars as Pharaoh, been reminiscing about the old days?
We did at first but the thing we both bring to the show now is a lot of life experience. The wonderful thing for me is that my daughter, who is going to be 23 soon, used to say ‘The one show I wanted to see you do Mum was Joseph’ and she was there at the Palladium last summer cheering along with everyone else. But yes, Jason and I have reminisced about that first time round and we’re grateful to be having another crack at sharing the stage together, first in London and now on tour.
Jac Yarrow as Joseph
Joseph is such a fun, upbeat musical. Is that what we all need right now?
Oh my gosh, 100% yes. When we did it at the London Palladium our favourite shows to do would always be the Saturday or Sunday matinees because we’d get the crowds from all over the UK, not just the London crowds. To be able take this show to the regional theatres that have been closed for so long is just the tonic everybody needs. And particularly this incarnation of Joseph, which is the same production you got at the Palladium. It’s lavish and no-expense-sparred, and it’s really going to lift everyone’s spirits.
You first played the title role in 2019. How did that change your life?
It completely changed my life. I was still at drama school when I got the part and it was literally over the course of two or three days that I went from getting the role to it being announced. I went from being a student living in digs dreaming of being in the West End to suddenly living that dream for real.
You returned to the show again last year and now you’re touring in it. What keeps drawing you back?
It’s massively to do with the fans of the show. It has such an amazing fanbase and it’s ingrained in people’s DNA in the UK. Everybody knows the music and everybody’s grown up with it, even if they’re not aware of where it comes from. People come along and see the show all the time and go: ‘I didn’t realise that song was in it. I love that song and I used to sing it in school.’ I’m thrilled to keep coming back to it for that reason, plus to pass up the opportunity to take this incredible, up-to- date production that changed my life to people’s hometowns would have been crazy.
The show is a perennial school favourite. Were you in any school productions yourself?
I wasn’t in a school production as such but when I was around ten I was in a 30-minute condensed version of Joseph at my Saturday drama school. I did play Joseph himself but I don’t think I had a dreamcoat, just a makeshift little jacket or something. That was my only brush with the show as a kid, although I did see it later when it came to my hometown of Cardiff. I remember really enjoying it and it’s going to be a nice full-circle when I go back to the New Theatre and am on that stage myself.
Do you hit the gym to make sure you look good in the shirtless scenes?
Doing eight shows a week where I’m constantly running around keeps me in pretty good shape but I go to the gym, I eat well and I drink a lot of water - but that’s the stuff you have to do anyway when you’re doing such a full-on show as this.
Jason Donovan, who now stars as Pharaoh, played Joseph in 1991. How is it following in his footsteps?
It’s great. From day one Jason has been the most supportive person. I was terrified when I had to sing Close Every Door in front of him at rehearsal but he’s been amazing. He was the first person to throw his arms around me, congratulate me and give me the boost that I needed early on. Now we have such a laugh. He’s such a fun guy and he’s another reason why I wanted to go on tour with the show, because who better to do that with than Jason Donovan?