John Barrowman returns to London this week to perform in a series of intimate concerts at Leicester Square Theatre. Alongside radio host and Broadway icon Seth Rudetsky, Barrowman will chat about his life, perform songs that were pivotal in his career and shared embarrassing experiences he's had along the way. We chat to Barrowman about the concerts and his life to date, as well as his hopes for the future.
1) Can you describe what the concert will be like for attendees?
I would say they're more of a cabaret than a concert. Alongside Seth Rudetsky, who oversees the series and is a radio host at Sirius XM, we play through songs, respond to questions and chat about my life and my experiences.
2) What encouraged you to do them?
I could do a cabaret concert, with songs through, whenever I wanted. But what really attracted me was chatting with Seth. I love his show.
3) What excites you about getting up close and personal with audiences?
What really interests me is that we're going to be taking suggestions from audiences, or calling up songs on Seth's iPad, so we'll really be responding to what audiences feel like. It's almost like improv.
4) Why London?
London is where I got my big break, I love the audiences there and it's where I've spent most of my life – I've lived longer in London than I have in the US. I can also get away with a lot more on stage too. I'm always welcomed with open arms. I remember I did a show called Pizza on the Park, on the night of the London bombings. Most of the West End shut down but I made a point of staying open because I didn't want the terrorist groups to win. And the performance was packed. It's an exciting place to come back to.
5) Have you done these sorts of concerts before?
I did cabarets early on in my career, at the Kennedy Centre, in DC and in New York. But never with this level of improv, so this is new for me.
6) Does this show feel like it's you giving back to audiences?
The only reason I'm where I am is because of the audience. So I like being an open book with them on certain things, and audiences really appreciate that. When I went out and ordered my Tesla last week, I let my fans choose the colour – they chose Tardis blue!
7) You've been doing a lot of TV work recently, especially with superhero shows like Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. What draws you to those sorts of shows?
Television gives me a social life. If I'm doing theatre and doing eight nights a week I barely get to see my husband, so I wanted to change my tempo a bit. It's weird, on my first night in Arrow I was seen by more people than I had been in my entire career on stage.
8) Have you spoken to Jodie Whittaker about going into a huge franchise like Doctor Who?
I haven't! But I'm so excited that she's going to be the Doctor. It's about time that there's a female Doctor. It's not about who's playing the Doctor, it's about the journey the Doctor goes on. So if that's someone who's female, male, an alien or whatever, anyone should have the chance to do it. But it's great Jodie's there!
9) Would you return to the franchise?
I'd return to the franchise at the drop of a hat if they asked me.
10) What is your earliest memory in theatre?
I went to the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow and I saw Peter Pan: when Peter lifted up and flew in front of me I was 'hooked'.
11) What do you consider to be your big break?
Anything Goes in 1989 opposite Elaine Paige at the Prince Edward Theatre in the West End. The lead critic Jack Tinker said that I was the biggest thing to burst onto the stage since Michael Crawford.
12) In an alternate reality, what would you do if you weren't a performer?
When I was nine years old I really wanted to be an airline pilot. Then I realised I was just attracted to the men in uniform, so that was the moment I knew I was gay.
13) What would your dream role be?
I'd love to do La Cage once again on a worldwide tour, or I'd love to do a show about a showman, or an entertainer. Or I'd love to be Mack in Mack and Mabel. But not an old Mack, I'd want to be a Mack who is handsome and virile, and allows you to see Mabel's conflict more distinctly.
14) What has been the most embarrassing moment of your career?
I can list a few of them. I've split my pants a number of times on stage, I've s**t myself on stage twice. I'm allergic to shellfish, and I had had something from Wagamama that had shellfish in, and thought I'd pass wind before the show started, but ended up crapping myself.
15) How would you describe your work ethic?
I don't like laziness. I'm a workaholic and I like efficiency and I hate complainers. If there's an issue, fix it, solve it and get on with it. Be the best person at the job you're doing. But also have fun!
16) Who are your idols?
I don't have any idols. I don't look up to people, however I do have huge respect for the likes of Gene Kelly, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alain Boublil or Trevor Nunn. I am always a little bit in awe when I get to work with people of that calibre. A few weeks ago Seth contacted me to ask if I wanted to play Ché opposite Patti LuPone and I had a freak out. I was so sad that I couldn't make it!
17) What have you seen onstage recently?
I am just coming over to the West End this week so aiming to run around and see loads of shows – so stay on the look out for me as I'll be popping up around town! But in Vegas I did see Cirque du Soleil's O, and it was amazing, they were doing things all over dry land and water all within one theatre.
18) If you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be?
Honestly I wouldn't change a thing. I've always been honest about most things. My life is a rollercoaster and I would never want to live in regret.
19) What advice would you give to aspiring musical theatre performers?
I shut up, I watched and I listened. That was what I did and would recommend to anyone. Elaine Paige also told me two things – don't want to do anything too quickly, and do it because you want to do it.
20) What do you do in your spare time?
I love cars, and tinkering. I love going to get my cars washed, it's like you're creating a bit of perfection, in a world where there is no perfection...I'm a complete gear head.
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