Thursday, 1 October 2015

Interview - Jason Donovan

"IT'S a great marriage, this show and me," muses Jason Donovan. The 47-year-old singer, actor and former Strictly Come Dancing finalist is referring to Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, the heart-warming, uplifting adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus in Australia searching for love and friendship and end up finding more than they could have ever dreamed of.
Jason has been part of the show since its original incarnation and hugely successful run in the West End and subsequent touring productions in 2013.

He is now back on board the bus and reprising his role of Tick in a new version of the show which comes to the New Wimbledon Theatre this week as part of a nationwide tour.
As well as what Jason describes as a "fantastic story" it features a dazzling array of outrageous costumes and dancefloor favourites such as It’s Raining Men, Say a Little Prayer, Go West, Hot Stuff and Always on My Mind.
We chat as Jason gears himself up for the gruelling eight shows a week regime he has let himself in for once more and says he's excited to be back in the thick of it.
"It's going good and last night the audiences were great - so it's lovely to be back," he tells me.
I’m looking forward to coming back to Wimbledon. We were here for the last tour, they are a great crowd and it’s close to home so it’ll be fun.
"I have done other bits and pieces since the last Priscilla tour but I keep coming back as it's just a real audience winner and Tick is such a great character. I have a ball playing him.”
The other bits and pieces include performances in The King's Speech and Annie Get Your Gun, both of which he says he enjoyed.
"I loved doing The King's Speech," he says. "It was a real challenge but it was great to do straight, serious acting again - I'd love to do more of that in the future, especially film or TV although that's a tough nut to crack."
But the lure of getting dressed up in the glittery costumes and make up and strutting his stuff to those fabulous tunes has proved quite a draw for Jason though he admits the costume changes are "relentless".
"It's a big production and the bus looks the best it's ever been so there are a lot of reasons to come back to it and want to step back into these costumes," he says warmly.
"It's a tough show to do though, two hours of singing, dancing and acting, and it's relentless in terms of its costume changes.
"But it's a great story, a unique and modern tale about these three guys who go on a journey where they travel through the Australian desert to get to Alice Springs.
It's also peppered with such wonderful songs, a real juke box musical but it works - I see at first hand how much people love it. There are very few shows you get to do that have that sort of impact.
"I think audiences want something that has substance and this is it."
For those who’ve not seen it, it tells the tale of Tick, a drag queen and his two friends who travel through the Australian desert in their lavender bus Priscilla, to get to Alice Springs to do a drag show.
Along the way they encounter a number of strange characters as well as incidents of homophobia.
"I think I'd describe Tick as confused," says Jason. "He’s a gay man with a wife and child and I think he’s just on a journey of discovery.
The other two accept him for who he is but they are all really misfits and have been rejected by society because they are a bit different.
"It’s about diversity and the barriers these guys face and about triumph over adversity, which is really the moral of the story. I think it’s one we can all relate to in some way.”
And he says fortunately those barriers are coming down as people become more accepting.
"I think they are breaking down a bit especially with the gay marriage legislation,” he says. “People are more accepting and enlightened – we're living in a global village and people are more informed these days which is good."
And since he waltzed his way into the final of Strictly four years ago he says his confidence on the dance floor has grown.
The fear of choreographers has gone now,” he laughs. “I am more at ease and in tune with it and it doesn’t stress me out although the dancing in the show has changed a bit with this tour which threw me a bit initially.
It was a surprise to get to the final of Strictly though. It was quite an intense experience and I don’t want to do it again!
It’s a great show though and my four year old daughter loves it – it’s like a panto leading up to the panto season!
But it's all about working hard and that’s what I always try and do."
This work ethic has been at the centre of his working life and something that he's now keen to pass on to his three children.
"I tell my kids that if you work hard anything can happen," he says. "It worked for me. I've never really been naturally gifted at anything - I've had to work hard. But when you do get results it is quite satisfying."
And to prove the point, after his latest three month stint in Priscilla he will be going back on the road with his Ten Good Reasons tour.
"I haven't been on the road with it for about six years and it felt like it was overdue," he says.
"I think there is an appetite for 80s songs so it'll be fun to sing all the songs I did back then.
"They are all favourites but Too Many Broken Hearts is a great song."
And when I ask if there will be any special guest appearances he laughs.
"There may be but I've not dived into that area just yet," he says. "But you never know. There are a couple of people that could help me out!"

Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, between Monday, October 5 and Saturday, October 10. Tickets from £14. Visit or call the box office on 0844 871 7646.

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