BWW Interview: Don Gallagher On Playing Jafar In West End's ALADDIN
Don Gallagher's stage credits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Producers and Les Miserables in the West End, as well as work for the National Theatre and RSC. He's currently starring in the musical version of Disney's Aladdin as the nefarious Jafar.
What was the first musical you saw?
It was South Pacific, locally, starring my mum.
Did you do much acting at school?
I did a few productions - the first was Oliver, playing Mr Sowerberry the undertaker.
When did you realise it might be a career, and were your family supportive?
I realised at university, having taken part in several plays from Ibsen to Shakespeare. My family were supportive as by then I had my degree.
Where did you train?
I guess my training happened during my second job, my first West End run. I attended acting classes, movement sessions and singing lessons for the year I was in the show. Then I went off into rep for the next three years and that's the best learning ground for any actor.
What was your first paid acting job?
It was a children's theatre production of Alice in Wonderland, playing the Mad March Hare and the Caterpillar.
Did you start out doing more musicals, or drama, or has it always been a mix of the two?
I started out doing a real mixture of both, as in a six-month rep season you would find yourself in productions ranging from The Merchant of Venice to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and West Side Story.
Is it easy to switch between them, or do you sometimes have to fight for roles?
It seems to be easier now to switch between them - when I first started the business seemed more keen to label people musical or non-musical performers.
How well did you know Aladdin before coming into the show? Were you a fan of the film?
I knew of the Arabian Nights tale of Aladdin, and I remember seeing an old black and white movie when I was very young. I loved the animated film - it's so well done and combined with the music is very entertaining.
Do you prefer playing the villain to the hero?
I think it's more fun being the villain - having always been a character man, I'm probably biased!
Did you have any inspirations for Jafar?
Jafar, to my mind, is the archetypal villain driven by greed and a lust for power. Going to the cinema lots when at school l loved adventure films and there was always a baddie. Drawing on those memories, plus the character in the animation, was important.
What's your favourite number or scene to perform?
I love performing "Diamond in the Rough" - it's great fun.
Did you wonder at all about how British audiences would respond to the show?
I was confident they'd love the show, as it's a very entertaining, lavish piece of musical theatre.
Why do you think Aladdin is such an enduring story?
It's a good old-fashioned tale of magic and the triumph of our hero over evil, against all odds - a story that's been popular for thousands of years.
Any future dream roles or collaborators?
There are still lots of roles in Shakespeare I would love to play.
Finally, any advice for budding performers?
You have to want to do it more than anything else, and never stop working on your skills as no matter how long you do it - no one knows everything.
Aladdin is currently booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until 8 July. Book tickets here
Photo credit: Deen Van Meer