Strictly winner Joe McFadden to appear in cult musical at Ipswich Regent
PUBLISHED: 19:00 06 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:48 09 March 2020
Holby’s Joe McFadden showed a different side to his performing talents when he won Strictly Come Dancing, now he’s testing himself further by starring in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Ipswich Regent. Here he talks about trying to avoid being type cast
For former Holby City actor Joe McFadden winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2017 opened a whole new series of doors. Having played "Raf" di Lucca in the BBC 1 medical drama for four years, he was afraid of becoming typecast, but his success with Katya Jones on the dance floor meant that his fans and the entertainment industry suddenly saw him in a whole new light.
The result was that his character in Holby City was suddenly killed off and Joe now finds himself in high heels and plumes of feathers as he stars in the touching musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which is touring the UK and being produced by actor/singer and former Priscilla star Jason Donovan.
For Joe, not only does a UK tour mean that he gets to strut his stuff and belt out show tunes every evening but it also allows to reconnect him with a live audience, something he says he missed out on spending years in front of a TV camera first on Take The High Road, then Cranford, followed by Heartbeat before landing his leading role on Holby City.
Was being cast in Priscilla the realisation of a long-held dream or was it more of a terrifying challenge?
Joe: "I think it was a combination of both of those things really. I saw the show a long time ago and very much enjoyed it. I was too young then to play any of the parts but I kept it as a 'perhaps one day' wish at the back of my mind so when the offer came along last year I jumped at it.
"I knew it was going to be a challenge because of the accent, the heels, the quick costume changes and the dancing - and not only that, because we are on tour, there's the travelling to a new venue every week and settling in, which can be tiring, so maintaining energy levels can be a challenge.
So what has been the biggest challenge you've had to mast on this show?
"I think mastering the heels was the biggest challenge at the beginning but like everything in life, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Touch wood, I just take the heels and the dancing in my stride now. We're six months into the tour so, for me, it's keeping things fresh, keeping everything 'spontaneous' that's the real challenge as it is for any long running show. But, the great thing about Priscilla is that the characters are so dense, have so many layers you can have endless fun exploring all their different facets, so it never becomes predictable."
Presumably, the audience has a role to play as well?
"Absolutely. The reaction of the audience plays a huge part in the show. Each night is different and every venue is different. Also audiences change as you travel round the country, some areas are quieter, others are more vocal in their appreciation. As a rule audiences way down south are the quietest during the show and you sometimes think 'are they enjoying it?' and then at the end they are on their feet singing and dancing and giving the biggest standing ovations. So everyone reacts to the show in their own way."
If you have a lively audience, does it make it a challenge to keep the attention on the characters and the story trying to stop the evening from turning into a cabaret?
"Yes, there are fantastic songs and great dances but we all want the show to be about something. It shouldn't just be about us singing and wearing fancy costumes, they should be emotionally engaged by the show. They should be moved by it. It's a wonderful story, so the trick is to maintain that balance between the fun performances and preserving the sense of honesty about the characters.
"I think that people get that. People have told me that they came to care about the characters and the songs are there for a reason, they advance the story, there not there just because we need another number at this point."
Do you think that you landed this part because of your success on Strictly? Has it offered you a wider range of roles?
"Absolutely. People come out of that show proving that they can do so much more than people thought. For example Danny Mac is now in Pretty Woman, Ore Oduba has just gone into the West End in Curtains, so it provides all sorts of opportunities that weren't available before. You can't underestimate the size of the Strictly audience and the fondness it has for those of us who have been fortunate enough to take part. I'm really grateful for the opportunities the show has afforded me and it's a wonderful way to stop yourself becoming typecast and it's put me in front of a live audience again which I love. It's a great discipline for you as an actor to handle all the quick changes backstage - and some of them are amazingly quick - and if something goes wrong, having the presence of mind to get yourself out of trouble. It keeps you on your toes."
And so when the tour finishes later this year, is there anything else you are dying to try your hand at?
"Ah, that's a good question. There is a lot of good drama being made now for television. Good quality, limited episode dramas, I'd love to land a part in something like that or perhaps a straight play, doing a role that I haven't done before. It's about challenging yourself to do good work, pushing the boundaries, keeping yourself interested in the work. I try not to have too many plans because you never know what is around the corner but getting back on TV in a good drama would be nice."
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical is at The Ipswich Regent from March 23-28. Tickets are on sale here