For one night only, seven celebrities take to the stage at the London Palladium to sing a song from a West End musical. Host John Barrowman tells us more...
Few people know more about musical theatre than John Barrowman. With a career on stage and screen spanning some 30 years, this Sunday, ‘Mr Jazz Hands’ himself – star of such musicals as Anything Goes and Chicago and TV hits such as Torchwood – will be your host as seven celebrities take to the stage for ITV’s All Star Musicals.
For one night only, presenters Alan Titchmarsh and Martin Lewis, Grantchester’s Tessa Peake-Jones, Coronation Street’s Daniel Brocklebank, Emmerdale’s Amy Walsh, I’m a Celebrity star Joel Dommett and stand-up comic London Hughes will attempt to ‘razzle dazzle’ the audience at the London Palladium as they each perform a song from a well-known musical.
All Star Musicals first hit our screens back in 2017, hosted by A League of Their Own’s Freddie Flintoff with Phantom of the Opera star Michael Crawford mentoring the celebs for their big performance. This time round, that job goes to West End legend Elaine Paige. She’ll be joined on the judging panel by Broadway icon Kristin Chenoweth, Strictly pro Kevin Clifton and Aladdin favourite Trevor Dion Nicholas.
TV Times is thrilled to have been invited along to the London Palladium to watch the show being filmed. Before we take our seats for curtain up, we chatted to John, 51 – last seen eating bugs in the I’m A Celebrity jungle – about why All Star Musicals is going to hit all the right notes…
As the host of All Star Musicals, you’ll be opening the show with a spectacular song and dance number. What can viewers expect?
“I can’t tell you exactly what the song is but I can reveal that the performance will involve a kick-line of dancers. It’ll be a really lovely, big opening number for a night of musical theatre – it’s going to be fab-u-lous!”
West End legend Elaine Paige is mentoring the celebrities on the show – you two go way back, don’t you?
“We do. Elaine gave me my big break in the West End in 1989 when I starred opposite her as Billy Crocker in Anything Goes. This will be the first time we’ve performed together since we did Sunset Boulevard in 1995. So this show is like two close friends coming back together.”
On the judging panel alongside Elaine are Kristin Chenoweth, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Kevin Clifton. What do they bring to show?
“Well, both Kristin and Trevor are a triple threat when it comes to singing, dancing and acting. Kevin is one of the pro-dancers on Strictly and he’s also touring with the musical Rock of Ages. All of us involved in this show – no offence to the last one! – are all musical theatre people who know what we’re talking about. We’ve actually done what these celebs are doing, so we’re able to critique, help and motivate them.”
Which of the celebrities are you looking forward to seeing perform?
“I know Alan Titchmarsh, so I’m intrigued to see what he’s gonna do. Likewise, Martin Lewis, who I’ve interviewed a few times when I’ve guest-hosted This Morning. And then there’s Joel Dommett. When I was in the jungle, my husband Scott [Gill] developed a bit of a ‘bromance’ with Joel on the ITV2 show. So Scott is coming to see the show… but he’s not coming to see me, he’s coming to see Joel!”
You’ve starred in a great many musicals. What’s been your career highlight?
“Every show I’ve done has meant something different to me. Whether that’s Anything Goes, when I got my start, to playing Chris in Miss Saigon or Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. Those shows were major turning points in my career because each one led me onto something else. And, in terms of TV, Captain Jack in Doctor Who and Torchwood led me to Desperate Housewives, which led me to Arrow. Those are all defining moments in my career.”
What role are you most recognised for? And are you recognised more now since doing I’m a Celeb?
“I get recognised a lot because of my fanbase for Arrow, Torchwood and Doctor Who. Those fans are passionate and obsessive and they have a real love of those shows, which I appreciate because I’m a big nerd and geek myself! But I get recognised by different people since the jungle. Now I have families and young kids coming up to me shouting: ‘Fabulous!’
“The jungle allowed people to see me in a different light. I loved it in there. It was hard but it was fun. It’s important to step out of your comfort zone – I never thought I’d swim with crocodiles or eat a raw bull’s penis ever in my life! If they ever asked me to go back, I’d do it all over again.”
Elaine Paige: ‘It’s brave of these celebs to step outside their comfort zone!’
West End star Elaine, 71, on mentoring the famous faces on All Star Musicals…
Why did you want to get involved in the show as a mentor?
“Musical theatre is something I love and that I’ve been involved in for some 55 years and this show gives me the opportunity to pass on some tips and share the things I’ve learnt in my career. These celebrities are all accomplished performers in their own fields, who all have a desire to sing in a musical. It’s brave of them to step outside their comfort zone.”
What do you think of the talent in general?
“Many of these celebrities are not necessarily people you’d think would be singers or even want to sing. We all know Daniel Brocklebank as the vicar in Corrie but many won’t know anything about his ability as a singer. You probably wouldn’t know Alan could sing either! Some of the celebs perhaps have more musicality than others but I know everybody is going to bring something special to the song they’re singing.”
You mention the celebs’ ‘desire’ to sing in a musical. Describe the feeling you get from performing?
“For me, the buzz of performing has never been in the applause but in the process of learning how to do something. These celebs have been breathing, eating, sleeping with these songs going around in their heads day and night for weeks. So when they throw themselves into their performance on the night hopefully they’ll feel a wonderful sense of achievement that they’ve done it!”
The studio audience have to vote on their favourite performance. Why do you think people love musicals so much?
“I think people love watching musicals because they take you on a journey out of your everyday life. For two hours or more, you’re taken out of the mundane and transported to this magical world.”
All Star Musicals airs on Sunday March 17 at 6pm.