Spice Girl Melanie C has joined Jason Donovan and Andrew Lloyd Webber in Superstar, a new ITV1 series looking for the star of a new arena tour production of the composer’s famous musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Mel spoke to What’s On TV about the series…
You must excited be to be a judge/mentor on Superstar, which means working with Andrew Lloyd Webber?
“Oh my word, who wouldn’t be if you’re doing a show with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jason Donovan to find a star of a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Then I find out later that I’m going to be on the blimmin’ arena tour as Mary Magdalene. It’s like ‘Wow, absolutely brilliant’. I’ve been a fan of Andrew’s since I was a kid really. I’ve sung, danced and been into performing arts and musical theatre since I was like an early teenager in the 1980s so I was into Cats, Starlight Express, Evita, Phantom. Musically, Andrew was such a large part of my life growing up, and now having the opportunity to work with him it’s a like a dream come true.
So effectively you’re casting the show and going to be performing it, too?
“Yeah it’s like double wonderful isn’t it? I don’t think judges on Andrew’s previous searches, like Denise Van O and John Barrowman, actually got to perform in the shows they were judging on.”
Did you know when you first started the auditions that you were going to be Mary Magdalene on the arena tour?
“No. I only found out after the show’s first boot camp called ‘Superstar Island’. Andrew called me and asked me to do it, so my role in the TV show actually grew into something else.”
Were you nervous about your role in this show?
“I was a bit nervous about the whole ‘TV thing’ because it’s something I’ve not done before, but working with Jason Donovan was amazing. He’s such a lovely man and so professional – it was like learning from the master. We had so much fun. The auditions were the early days when we we’re all still a bit nervous but we quickly got into a groove. As filming progressed there was just so much banter and I’ve heard it comes across well.”
What about the contestants wanting to play Jesus, what were they like?
“The talent was incredible. We’re going to need someone who can perform and hold an audience of up to 20,000. So they’ll need incredible charisma and that will have to translate to a huge audience.
“They all had to sing Gethsemane at the callback stage, which is such a huge song for Jesus in the show, and those guys had balls to get up on the stage and sing such an emotional and demanding song. It’s a very talent driven show and has such a mix of people auditioning. There were even rockers and heavy metal types with long hair and tattoos. Some guys had no experience whatsoever, but then we had others who’d done amateur stuff and also guys who’d played leading men in West End shows – so we had the full gamut on offer. It was so much fun to see how they got on together, to put them through their paces, advise and mentor. The final 10 are just mind-blowingly good.”
What was Andrew’s role overall?
“He did brief us a little on what we should be looking for in someone to play Jesus. But he was also open to hear mine and Jason’s thoughts as well, but obviously he has a clear vision on what he would like. It’s important to get the right dynamic between Judas, Jesus, and Mary, but that will go out of his hands as it’s the British public deciding on the final choice from the live shows. And I think that’s right, not only because it’s an incredible show, and role, but after all it’s Jesus isn’t it?”
Jesus Christ Superstar was quite a controversial show when it came out 40 years ago. Are you going to have to be quite careful in how you phrase and handle things?
“Of course, and all the way down the line we’re reminded again and again from Andrew and Tim Rice that it was never meant to be any comment on religion. It’s really an artistic piece that’s inspired by events that may or may not have happened. But you have to respect that people have very strong views and opinions about this. So I think we always have that in mind and acknowledge that.”
Has it been difficult to be harsh sometimes and have to give out bad news?
“Yes that’s been hard, and more difficult as time goes on and you get to know people. But I have to say everyone has been so gracious, but there have been dramas, I’m not gonna lie, but we’ve always tried to be constructive. In this industry you have to accept that while you might be talented you might not be quite right for a role. It’s hard for anybody to take rejection, so I was quite sensitive.”
Can you tell us a little about the new stage show Viva Forever, which features Spice Girls songs and opens just before Christmas?
“We were all very involved in the early days as we actually commissioned the show. We found Judy Kramer and kind of left it in her capable hands and she bought Jennifer Saunders on board as a writer. They kept us involved every step of the way and wanted us to be happy. It’s so exciting and I can tell you it’s just brilliant. We were quite nervous because obviously they were our songs and we’ve given them away to be interpreted in a different way and performed by different people. But Judy and Jennifer have done an incredible job and it’s better than we could have ever imagined.”
What are you future plans – are they in musical theatre?
“I’d hope to get other roles. This is a great opportunity for me because it gives me more experience in another role. I’d love to do more theatre in the future. I’m also going to be releasing a musical theatre-inspired album later this year, which is something I started working on way back when I finished Blood Brothers and it’s finally kind of getting there. So I think it’s a good time to unleash that on the world.”
Superstar begins on ITV1 on Saturday, July 6