In 2009, almost 20 million people cheered the then 18-year-old Joe McElderry on to win the sixth series of ITV’s The X Factor.
Following his win, Joe’s debut single The Climb went to the top of the charts and hot on its heels came his debut album. Since then he’s released three further Top 20 albums, sold more than 2 million records worldwide, toured extensively and has taken part in and won reality shows The Jump and Pop Star to Opera Star.
He cemented his place in the nation’s hearts by making a successful transition from pop music into musical theatre when he took on the lead role in a touring production of Tommy - The Rock Opera.
And for six months of last year he played Joseph in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s iconic hit musical Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat to celebrate its 50th anniversary, receiving glowing reviews in the process.
After a break for Christmas and a stint in panto, Joe’s putting the coat of many colours back on and reprising the role for a further six months in a nationwide tour which hits The New Wimbledon Theatre this week. And chatting during a break from performances he tells me he’s hugely excited about it.
“It’s a dream role,” he laughs. “For ages I had been told by family and friends that I would be good at musical theatre and this role in particular so I’d been thinking about it for a while. I was approached by producer Bill Kenwright on numerous occasions, but it never quite worked out because I was doing other things so the timing just wasn’t right. It was a shame because I am a huge fan of the music and knew I’d love to do it.
“However, last year I was asked if I could do it, had a meeting with Bill and luckily it all fell into place. It was like a natural joining up of everything.
“We were very lucky because everyone said wonderful things about it. It created such a positive vibe that it’s been an absolute dream, hard work but an amazing experience, and I have loved every minute of it - so here I am again for the second leg!”
The story, for those who don’t know, is based on the Biblical tale of Joseph and his 11 brothers. Joseph is the favoured son and one day, after he is given a glorious coat of many colours by his father, Joseph’s brothers decide they have had enough of being second best.
They kidnap him, sell him as a slave and he gets taken away. But this leads to a series of adventures for Joseph and a reversal in his fortunes thanks to his ability to interpret dreams.
It was the inspiration for the musical, penned and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice 50 years ago, and has been staged in theatres and schools all over the world.
“It’s just such an iconic musical and a real family show,” says Joe. “What I love about it is that we get such a mix of ages in the audience - everyone loves it and sings along, it’s a real family show.
“The songs are just incredible and really beautiful - I love them all although I suppose one of my favourites is Close Every Door. It’s quite emotional as it comes at a stage in the story where Joseph has been beaten up, kidnapped, he’s battered and bruised and sold as a slave.
“Of course the colours song is great and the audiences love to sing along to that one. It took a while for me to learn the colours in the right order,” he adds laughing. “I was trying to learn them and make sure they were in the right order and a friend of mine filmed me trying and failing to do it and having a full on tantrum and then it went on social media. It was tricky but once you know them that’s it, you never forget them!
“But the songs are all beautifully written - I think that’s why as a musical it’s stood the test of time. It’s a story that people can relate to in many ways, there is a moral to it and the music is just incredible. It’s got all the magic ingredients so it’s lovely to be part of it.
“I think it’s also why almost every school does a production of it at some point,” he adds cheefully.
“For many children it’s their first experience of live theatre as it seems to be the production most schools do.
“They did it at both my junior and senior school but I was never brave enough to audition to be in it let alone go on stage.
“Although I loved going to see shows, pantos and films, at the time I had no thoughts about being an actor or singer - I was really shy. In fact I wanted to be a doctor but I was hopeless at maths. Then I had an idea about being a paramedic but came up against the same issue so that was never going to happen!” he adds laughing.
“It was only when I was about 14 that something clicked and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Fortunately for his legions of fans he gave up the idea of being a doctor and when he was 18 he auditioned for X Factor. The rest as they say is history.
He admits that taking the role of Joseph comes with the knowledge that other well known actors and singers have gone before, and that to begin with there was a certain amount of extra pressure. But now that he has six months under his belt he says he’s more relaxed about it.
“When we started out last year there was a weight on my shoulders as so many famous people have played him,” he says.
“They had each done a great job and become so well known for doing it so it was an extra pressure for me - you have to deliver something really special as it’s all on your shoulders. Also it’s such an iconic show and everyone has an idea of how it should be staged. Of course I’d never done it before so I was very nervous! But it made me really focus and took me out of my comfort zone which is a good thing.
“Now I’m still nervous but it’s an excited feeling as well because I’ve got used to it, know the character and am just really enjoying it all.”
Full of enthusiasm and good humour, Joe is warm and chatty throughout our conversation and says he’s grateful for the way his career has evolved.
“I don’t have a bucket list of things I want to do, I just take things as they come,” he says. “I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. Doing The X Factor was incredible and has opened up so many doors - in fact it’s very much part of why I’m still here seven years later and has given me a platform - you can’t buy that kind of exposure so I will always be grateful for that and appreciate very much what that show gave me.
“However I have worked really hard since then and used it as a stepping stone to take on projects that excite me and I know I’ll enjoy. What I love now is that I’ve had a chance to do pop music and theatre. I love playing a character such as Joseph as it requires a different mindset but equally I love going out on stage and singing my songs.”
And he says he’s looking forward to coming to Wimbledon and getting to know the area.
“I have seen a couple of shows there and love the theatre but I’ve never performed there,” he says. “I’m hoping I will get a chance to have a look round when I have a bit of time off in between shows.
“I’m also looking forward to the audiences there and seeing their reactions.
“When the band starts playing it always takes my breath away every time!”
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre between January 31 and February 4. Visit www.atgtickets.com/wimbledon or call the box office on 0844 871 7646 for full listings.