How's it going at Drury Lane? "Great! The show worked well at the National, but Drury Lane has that extra something special."
This is something of a reprise for you? "Yes, because I played the part of Billy Crocker in Anything Goes in the late 1980's, at the Prince Edward Theatre, opposite Elaine Paige. It was my breakthrough role in the West End, so I'm very attached to it! But quite apart from that, I love the music, and this show has an energy about it. It's hard work, but it gives you the necessary energy to pull it off, and the audience can see that the cast is having a ball, which means they enjoy themselves and we feed off their enjoyment. It's fun."
And Anything Goes isn't your only Cole Porter connection? "No . . . I've just finished making a film about him, starring Kevin Kline as Cole."
I know you've done a lot of modern shows, but you have that period look. "Yes, I guess I do, which is great for musicals like this. Though I've done modern shows, too." Are you doing any cabaret at the moment as well? "Not right now. I'm concentrating on the show, but I've done quite a lot in America, and I enjoy it. I've performed at Chicago's Park West and Empire Room, at the Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, among other places. I was also at the Kennedy Center last year playing Bobby in Sondheim's Company as part of their 2002 Sondheim Celebration."
You're a Sondheim fan? "Very much so. Apart from Company, I was in a Sondheim revue, Putting It Together on Broadway. . . ."
Can you tell us a little about the workshops you've started up for people interested in getting involved in theatre? "They're called Dreamers Workshops, we've given them in the States, and they're designed to encourage students to get involved in music theatre, as actors, singers or dancers. It's my way of giving something back, having got so much out of the business, and young people deserve and need encouragement and practical advice. The workshops run over a week or so, with a performance at the end of it. Beverley Holt co-presents them with me. We both enjoy doing them, and the students seem to get a lot from them, so I hope to do a lot more. In America I'm known more for television work than stage work, whereas over here it's the other way round, and it's great to be able to use the fact that I'm known through television to encourage people into the theatre."
Speaking of the theatre, have you seen any of the famous Drury Lane ghosts? "Not seen so much as smelt. I said to someone the other day that I liked the smell of lavender there seemed to be in the theatre, and they went white! Apparently there's a ghost called 'the lavender ghost,' which is the spirit of a man from Victorian times who used to like the good looking young actors. Unfortunately, he was incontinent, so he used to carry little bags of lavender to waft away the smell of urine. And if he likes you and 'appears,' it's in the form of the smell of lavender..."
Aren't you spooked by that at all? "No. When I was at the Prince Edward Theatre years ago, in that production of Anything Goes, a woman stopped me near the stage door and said, 'Excuse me, but there's someone you can't see standing beside you, and she'd like you to know she's there and is looking after you' — and she described, exactly, my grandmother, who had died some time before. So if there is a ghost around at least she's there too!" Speaking of ghosts, they say Ivor Novello haunts this place, as it was where so many of musicals were staged, but I've yet to see him."
Would you like to star in a Novello musical, here at the Lane? "I'd love to, but I'm not sure people would revive them, as they're seen as too sentimental these days. But you never know. . . Meanwhile, I'm very happy to be in a Cole Porter show!"