Jason Donovan is trying to relive his youth as he prepares to take the stage at Ipswich Regent on May 17, 2016
- Credit: PA
Trying to relive his youth? Having a mid-life crisis? Or just a dad having fun doing the thing he has always loved?
Jason Donovan, who will be visiting Ipswich on his latest tour, tells Gabrielle Fagan why he is returning to pop music after 25 years.
It’s a brave man who tries to relive his youth, but Jason Donovan’s determined to give it his best shot.
While many men in their 40s fret in private over their ageing appearance, splash out on a motorbike or have an affair, the actor, who first found fame as a teenager in Neighbours alongside Kylie Minogue and is now known for his work in musicals, is going public with a bid to turn the clock back.
Next year his UK tour, ‘Ten Good Reasons’ & ‘Greatest Hits’, from February to May, will see him return to the heyday of his pop career.
He’ll perform all the songs on his 1989 smash hit album, Ten Good Reasons, including singles Too Many Broken Hearts, Sealed With A Kiss, and Nothing Can Divide Us, which won the then 21-year-old Australian, with help from his heart-melting good looks, the global adoration of millions of teenagers.
“I may not look exactly like that 21-year-old, but I don’t think I’m looking too bad!” says the 47-year-old with a smile. “Also, I feel I’m at the peak of my professional abilities.”
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It’s true that although the face is more lined these days, the hair brown rather than the beach-boy blonde, those blue eyes still have a twinkle, and he’s trim and charming with an appealing self-mocking wit.
“The success of that album was the most amazing 21st birthday gift. I never meant to be a pop star. I was just so lucky, in the right place at the right time, with the best music producers in the world, Scott Aitken Waterman, and we created magic. Recently, I thought: ‘Let’s meet up with my fans again so together we can relive those halcyon days when we were young and things were simpler and less complicated’. There are songs on there I’ve never sung live before,” he says, explaining the decision to tour after a break of seven years.
“Will fans still be swooning and throwing themselves at the stage? Well, I actually hadn’t noticed they’d ever stopped doing that!” he jokes, still with a trace of his Australian accent.
“That album has a place in many people’s hearts and the show’s a celebration of my life. I’ll chat and reminisce and I think it’ll be brilliant fun, but also quite poignant.”
It wouldn’t be surprising if this tour did, in fact, trigger a range of emotions in Donovan, who described his life in 2008 autobiography, Between The Lines, as a “roller coaster ride” and himself as a “survivor”.
Certainly, he’s come a long way since 20 million UK viewers watched him marry Kylie Minogue (as Scott Robinson to her Charlene Mitchell) in 1988. He went on to date her in real life before she dumped him for the late rock star, Michael Hutchence.
Donovan won further fame as the lead in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1991, which gave him his third solo UK number one with Any Dream Will Do, but by the mid-Nineties it was well-documented that he was bingeing on cocaine. He reportedly suffered a drug-induced seizure and collapsed at Kate Moss’ 21st birthday party at the notorious Viper Room in Los Angeles.
“I’m an extremist who works incredibly hard, has huge drive and then just stops for a while, but even then I find it hard to relax,” he says.
“In those days of self-indulgence in the Nineties, I’d party hard and not come home for a few days, but even during those times I was conscientious about work. I’m a perfectionist at heart so I never ever mixed those two parts of my life. Of course, I wish I’d done things differently then, but I think, in a way, going through that made me stronger and probably a bit more interesting.”
Salvation came in the form of his wife, Angela, a stage manager he met while performing in The Rocky Horror Show in 1998. With her support, he renounced his wild ways and the couple have three children, Jemma, 15, Zach, 14, and Molly, four.
Donovan, who was brought up by his actor father after his parents divorced when he was five, and who rarely saw his mother, says: “During my childhood, the closest woman in my life was my grandmother, so I think I needed a strong woman and I was lucky enough to finally find Ange. I’m married to, and in love with, my best friend.
“She’s my backbone, has a strong moral compass, gives me gravity and I respect her. I do everything to look after my ‘nest’: her and the children.”
While his career was rocked by Nineties derailment, he resolutely worked his way back. He’s sold more than 13 million albums, had success in a range of musicals including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sweeney Todd, as well as television roles and profile-raising appearances in I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2006, and in 2011’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Currently he has a radio show on Heart and will soon appear on selected dates in a tour of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert as Tick, a role he played in the West End in 2009 and toured with in 2013. Recently he also played Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist, in a touring stage production of The King’s Speech.
“I absolutely loved doing that straight role because acting is my spiritual home - it’s how I started and my passion. But for me, in some ways, the bad news is I’m Jason Donovan. I’m so known for being me that I think it’s been difficult for producers to see beyond that. But who knows what’s ahead?” he says philosophically.
He chuckles at the thought that next year’s singing tour has the potential to embarrass his teenage children. “I’m used to that! When I was on Strictly they literally went underground for a month until they found I was, at one point, getting the highest scores in the whole competition. Then they started trading on my name,” he laughs.
“When I do next year’s shows, it does slightly concern them because one of the venues is near their school. They’ll have to walk past with their mates and my name will be up in lights. Deep down though I reckon they think it’s pretty cool, though they’d never admit it.
“Having children completes the circle of life. They’re wonderful and mean more to me than any gold records or fame. They’ve taught me patience, unselfishness and how to give love and understanding unconditionally.”
He declares himself at a great stage in his life. “The greatest thing about my story is that I know what I don’t want to do in life, whereas some people get to 40 and just go for it, marriages break up and there’s a bit of chaos. I got all that out of my system years ago and I’m happy to be at home with my kids, watching TV, and not going out getting hammered. I’m certainly not planning a mid-life crisis,” he says.
And, he says, with that twinkling smile: “I believe everything happens for a reason and you just have to keep moving forward. Hey, I’d still love a Hollywood role - something which turned into a box set that I could put on the shelf next to the loincloth I wore for Joseph and my gold discs! Surely, that’s not asking a lot?”
Jason Donovan’s ‘Ten Good Reasons’ & ‘Greatest Hits’ tour takes place February - May 2016 across the UK. He will be at Ipswich Regent on May 17. Tickets are available via 24hr Ticket Hotline: 0844 338 0000 or online