This Morning host Phillip Schofield relives that post-NTA show as he debates whether to sing for the first time in 20 years when he appears at Ipswich Regent on April 22
- Credit: PA
For somebody who’s spent the day on the phone talking about new show The Knights of Music, Phillip Schofield’s very chipper when I call, writes Wayne Savage.
Certainly more than he was that morning after the NTAs. He and This Morning co-host Holly Willoughby made headlines when they presented the show, which had picked up an award the previous night, still worse for wear.
“I wouldn’t like us to sound like a couple of drunks; we drink, we celebrate, we have a lovely time... Most of the time we’re actually very sober, very professional and not being crazy,” he laughs. “But on the rare occasions - well, not that rare - that we do...”
Willoughby heard you didn’t get a hangover from drinking 100% Agave tequila. Putting it to the test on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man, Schofield remembers they wrote Carr off, leaving him to interview the rest of the guests in a really poor state.
“I woke up the next morning and thought ‘Oh my God, oh my God’, opened my eyes and thought ‘b****y Hell it works and felt fine. If we had stuck to that on the night of the NTAs we may not have been in the state we were in.”
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The duo broke the cardinal rule - don’t mix your drinks.
“The minute you drink your first glass of red wine the world comes to an end. We needed to be home, we really did but what can you do? What was wild was the pinging of my phone with Google alerts throughout the rest of the next day or so. Newspapers, TV listings around the world said ‘British TV hosts turn up for TV show in the same clothes as the night before and still drunk’. The Herald in Wisconsin were very shocked. So we raised a few eyebrows; it’s not something that would ever be a regular occurrence.”
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The Knights of Music, coming to the Ipswich Regent April 22, celebrates those who have transformed the face of music, film and theatre throughout the ages; from Sir Elton John and Sir Tom Jones to Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Sir Cameron Mackintosh to name a few and all sung by top-notch West End performers.
He was pitched the idea by former Doctor Dolittle cast-mate and friend Simon Schofield, no relation, over a pint at the pub. Asked if he wanted to host the evening, it sounded too fun to miss. Then...
“He said ‘we might be able to persuade you to sing at the end of it’. The jury’s still out on whether or not I’m going to sing for the first time on stage in about 20 years, although he’s pretty persuasive. I miss the theatre, I loved my time in it so much,” says Schofield, who took over from Jason Donovan in Webber’s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“I’m not nervous about hosting the show, it’s a lovely opportunity to tell a couple of stories about Joseph and maybe stories I haven’t been able to tell before. If they persuade me to sing I will be nervous, there’s no question. I haven’t 100% made my mind up,” he laughs. “I keep saying ‘is it entirely necessary?’ Who knows, if the band strike up Any Dream Will Do I might not be able to stop myself.”
Joseph has a special place in Schofield’s heart. The great thing about it, he remembers, is it is short. They had to write the megamix to make sure people got their money’s worth. It was so short, when they finished for the night at the London Palladium, Les Miserables’ second act was just starting.
“It was such a wild night of great music and great fun. Joseph was such a bonkers thing for me to agree to. My entire path was TV, and then the next thing you know, I end up standing on the stage at the Palladium about to sing to 2,500 people and I swear I stood there thinking ‘what the Hell am I doing here’.” There’s nothing more centring says Schofield, who later starred in Doctor Dolittle and The Lodger, than the moment the curtain goes up.
“Anyone who’s seen Joseph will know you’ve got the overture and the introduction with the narrator and then Joseph appears. I’ve got about five minutes of the show standing there in the dark on my own, in the dry ice, 10ft off the floor on a hydraulic lift - I couldn’t have run away even if I’d wanted to. Then, as the curtain went up and the lift came down, I thought ‘well there’s no way back now’.” He recalls everything being a blur, just thinking “stand in the right place, look in the right direction, say the right words, sing the right tunes with the right notes and anything else will come in the future.
“And then the triumphant night it finished and everybody jumped up. I will never forget that moment as long as I live, when I knew the biggest gamble I’d ever taken had worked. It was a great feeling.” Schofield confesses he’s turned down many West End roles since the curtain came down on Dolittle to focus on his TV work.
“I’ve been offered most of them and have turned them all down. There’ve been so many big shows, big new shows. There’s been lots of temptation, no regrets I turned them down but a twang of sadness that I didn’t get to do them. No matter how wonderful a time you have on the telly there is nothing quite like theatre; there’s nothing like a team of theatricals to have fun.
“We had such a ball, I loved it. I loved the audiences, I loved the live feel and it is genuinely a bug you get... But it’s very rare in my career these days that I get a chance to let the bug loose.”
He describes The Knights of Music as a heart project. Something new, a chance to come to play with top flight West End performers and for him to reconnect with theatre audiences.
“I don’t get the chance to do these things very often. What’s also nice is, in the tradition of Joseph and Dolittle, we’re encouraging people to the theatre who may never have been before. It’s not fair these things should always be in London. That’s why we said we’re not doing it there, let’s take it out and we’re only doing four venues around the country.
“If we get a handful of people come along for the first time because of me, or the music or the team from the West End that’s job done as far as I’m concerned because you start off a love affair with the theatre which can only be a good thing.”