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BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & MoreI wasn't surprised when the reaction to the announcement that Michael Crawford would return to the stage, immediately started to trend on Twitter in the UK and to generate internet traffic across the globe. It's been almost 5 years, to the day, that he gave his final performance as The Wizard, in Andrew Lloyd Webber's well received stage version of THE WIZARD OF OZ in London's famed West End.

Mr. Crawford's credits and accomplishments require encyclopedic knowledge of his illustrious career, but, he, himself, wouldn't be the one to boast. As a matter of fact, if you don't "keep tabs" on him, it's hard to know what, exactly, he is up to. But, one thing is clear ... he makes his career choices very, very carefully, because he cares so much. He always enjoys a challenge and is forced to keep considering the offers put in front of him, because of his enormous fan base and their fervor to see and hear him.

The announcement arrived late on Thursday that the CBE honoree (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) would be returning to the West End, leading a new musical based on the classic novel The Go-Between. The novel was written by L.P. Hartley, published in 1953, and for the musical adaptation, music and lyrics by Richard Taylor, with book and additional lyrics by David Wood. Roger Haines is set to direct.

It was immediately after booking travel to the UK, that I was able to speak to the man himself, by phone from London, where casting and rehearsals will soon begin for what is sure to be at the top of theatre-goer's MUST SEE lists this summer.

The legendary star of stage and screen is of course known the world over for his multi-award winning performance The Phantom in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as originally directed by Hal Prince. Other historic stage appearance were in musicals such as BILLY, BARNUM, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, THE WIZARD OF OZ, EFX in Las Vegas, and DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES. His film appearances known to audiences range from HELLO, DOLLY! to A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, among them. He has appeared in many films in his native UK as well as hit television series and is still one of the most sought-after male concert performers, the world over. The star has multiple gold and platinum albums to his credit, a best-selling autobiography and a lifelong commitment and passion for children's charities (including the UK's Sick Children's Trust for which he has been President since 1987). But, that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. Here, in his own words Michael Crawford, brings us up to date.

How did this production come about and did they find you, or you them?

It came about, nearly three years ago when I had just done a series in the United Kingdom called THE MANY FACES OF... and they had Judi Dench and other well-known people in our country. They filmed me in Long Beach about my career and then they put the things that you've done and they'll have excerpts from everything. And Richard Taylor, the composer, was watching this program. At the end they said, "Are you wanting to work again?" and I said "not really, I'm sort of taking it easy now...but, of course, if anything came out of left field that really appealed to me, I'd jump at it." He took that as a cue to call his agent and they called my agent at William Morris in California, and he got in touch with me. They said "would you be interested in playing the lead in THE GO-BETWEEN, the musical version of THE GO-BETWEEN?"

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & MoreI BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & Moresaid I'd love to hear it and read it. Then they sent me the script and the score, and I listened to it and I just fell in love with it. I just thought oh my gosh-this couldn't be a bigger challenge, couldn't be less what I wanted, it's such a challenge, but I just loved the music and of course the story is a classic by L.P. Hartley, which many of us grew up with. There was also a Joe Losey film that I'd seen, so many years ago-that had Julie Christie and Alan Bates and Michael Redgrave in it. (Trailer)

I said well...when I come back over to England, I'd love to meet up and talk about it. So, I did meet up and talk with them and I said I want to sing this for you, I want to sing some stuff. Which I always do-if you're offered something, I do believe that they should actually hear you first. It's not an audition-but in a way it is, but it's a voluntary audition. So I, did this voluntary audition and I seemed to do not too badly, or at least they put on a good front [laughs].

I recorded it on my iPhone and when I listened to it I thought well, that's the end of that! It was so bad. But, it has taken me all this time, really, to find enough energy and to find the strength to do it. Because when your years get up there and you do have bad years...I've had a couple which have left me fairly debilitated at times. I gave it all that time to consider it, and to work on it, I never stopped working on it, that's for sure.

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More
THE WIZARD OF OZ

I got to a point at the end of last year and I said okay, I feel ready and that I could do it. My health felt much better than it had, so I thought let's go for it...but, we have to go in a certain amount of time. It was a busy time in the West End and there were a lot of good shows coming in, a lot of good shows coming from America, but what we wanted was a small theater. I think it's a very personal show and needs an intimate surrounding-that was the feeling of the producers and I completely agreed. Then I got Bill Kenwright involved (as a producer), who I worked with on THE WIZARD OF OZ, and we got on very well. He has a lot of contacts with theater owners and is a good friend of Nica Burns who owns a few theaters and is the Chief Executive of the Nimax Group.

I asked if someone would please call Nica Burns and to say I'm working in the Scottish Church Hall at the back of Covent Garden behind the Fortune Theatre, and I said I'm going to be there next week and can she come one afternoon, late afternoon, to hear me sing some of it and see what she thinks. She came along and I sang to the best of my ability and she went away and said that she'd enjoyed it. I think she was taken with it, was drawn into the story and the music...the beautiful music that Richard Taylor's written for it. That's how it all came about, and two weeks ago, we'd heard we had got the Apollo Theatre from the beginning of June.

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

It sounds like you've shepherded the project along, so it must really be a passion project...

Yes, it has been a love affair really, from the beginning. I think it's important to do certain things you wouldn't otherwise have to do, pushing and saying would you come and listen to it? selling it to somebody at this point and time in your career. But Richard is, I believe, a beautiful writer, so therefore it would be great to be part of letting people hear the beautiful music he's written. And the end, the beautiful adaptation that David Wood has done of L.P. Hartley's novel. It's so respectful, and sensitively written.

And "Butterfly" is such a gorgeous song, from what I've heard from what's on YouTube from that first regional production.

It is, it is - the way that it's been done, it's really more true to the book than the films were, inasmuch as it's from the point of view of the older Leo Colston. So that he stands there and sings and tells the story. And the young Leo, in the [early] 1900s I'm flashing back-he's reading his diary and they are his memories, the people that lived in that house that he goes to, the country home that he goes to of the Maudsley family who is his best friend at school. And he's the son of a bank manager so there's a slight difference in class, as they say in England. And so he's in a lesser class than they are, and he's in awe of it all. And uh-I think it's easier to read the book, Rob! [laughter]

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More
BARNUM

I hope that we're not giving away the whole story!

There could be some returns after they read my description of it! [laughs] But it's interesting from my perspective, and I hope from the audience's perspective, that you're looking back as an adult on things that you did as a child, and the way you were affected by things as a child, when you were a child. And you have an entirely different perspective when you are literally 70, and you look back to the 12-year-old who's so innocent. And you have all these 50-odd years of experience of life.

From what we've heard, it sounds like you'll be onstage for a lot of the show then?

Oh yes - I may end up with a walker, I'm out there for so long. I'll need whatever I can get from the designer or the director! [laughter]. If they can fit in a walker or a cane, I would appreciate it. At least a wall to lean on!

So 8 shows a week doesn't become easier when you know what you're in for, once you start 'training' for it?

Obviously you've got to be fit to do it, you've got to be fit - as much as one can - be at this age, you've just got to make sure that you eat and sleep properly, that's all. That's all you can do. And lead a clean life! [laughter]

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More
HELLO, DOLLY!

You keep saying how much singing there is, how are you vocally training?

Oh, massive amounts. And it's 'conversation' on a lot of it, so that the breath control, the work, the mechanics is a lot. My singing teacher of 40 years now (Ian Adam), he passed away a few years back, I still use his tape every day which I've now converted to a CD and it's on my computer. I don't go anywhere without it and I work with it for at least an hour and a half or more a day. I practice stuff two and a half hours, just to build the muscles, and it's much harder to regain muscles when you're older. But, I've just got to be able to have the strength to do 8 shows a week, vocally.

Well, I guess I should next ask your neighbors how it's going then?

Well, when I'm exercising I'll put a towel or a face cloth or something over my mouth - it's not the prettiest sound is it, when singers are warming up?

No comment.

[Laughter] No, you can't comment on that!

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More
FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON

You seem to have ignored the showbiz adage of not working with animals or children...

Several times in my career!

And, you haven't yet tried to kill either?

No, no. There are sometimes surprises, but I was a child once and you have to be completely understanding. That's how I started as a 12 year old, so it's exactly the same age as when I started in opera, with Benjamin Britten.

How will you be involved in the casting process to find the young you?

I'll be there. I think it's a collective process - it's obviously the Director's choice and the chemistry of people - all these things go toward casting. It's not always the best if someone doesn't look right when you are trying to match people up. It's got to be obviously someone who could've been me at 12. So, that's hard and there're going to be three boys, three pairs. There's Marcus, you see and Leo - the young Leo, and there's got to be by law three teams of boys, so that it's not too hard work for them. And I wish there was one for older people! [laughs] But no, I want to be selfish, I don't want to share this part.

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More
THE WOMAN IN WHITE

Does it add a challenge, that you have to bond with three sets of boys? (British working laws require multiples when working with children)

Yes, it does, but we'll all be working together the entire time. So I think we'll all know each other and get the chance to intermix. They keep swapping the boys around for the scenes, so they get used to you and it'll be so regimented as to the movement. It'll be as dances are, as choreographed as a production is. Especially on a smaller stage, you've got to be very precise. It's not as though people are wandering around all over the place.

Rehearsals start soon, I imagine?

It's sure to be early April or mid-April. But I've started. Every day I'm singing and we've just got a Musical Director, so I've started to work with him now. Nigel Lilley is his name. And he's just finished Chocolate Factory in London, at Drury Lane. He's doing Bend It Like Beckham, he's just finished on Saturday night, I think. And Spring Awakening he did, so he's very experienced and competent a Musical Director. So, we've started to work together, so that's a bond.

Now the question that I have to ask ... it's a 20-week run, is there a chance that it'll come to New York next?

Well, the public will be the judge of that... and the critics. Whatever reaction we get, hopefully, it will be well received. It's such a beautiful story, it's such rich writing. It would be my biggest delight if I could come back to Broadway with it!

For tickets and more information, visit thegobetweenmusical.com

BWW Exclusive: Catching up with Michael Crawford on His Return to the West End in THE GO-BETWEEN; Broadway Possibilities & More
Michael at a Sick Children's Trust Charity Event


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