BWW Interview: Joe McElderry Talks JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
Joe McElderry - who won the 2009 edition of The X Factor - is ready to end the year taking the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to Newcastle, his hometown.
When did you realise you wanted to perform professionally?
I think I was probably 14. I'd get a lot of compliments for performing at karaoke nights and things like that, so it slowly started to build up. So I started to perform for bigger audiences and then I went on The X Factor. And that was it!
Did you go to the theatre a lot when you were a kid?
Yes, we went to see pantomimes every year. We loved going to performances, and performing too! We had karaoke nights, everyone enjoys it. But I was always kind of shy, even though I loved it.
What was the first show you remember seeing?
I think the first professional show I saw was The Kind and I, and then in college I saw Blood Brothers. Those are the two that stand out.
How did your experience on The X Factor change the way you approached your work?
Being on a programme like that shows you what the professional world is like. It teaches you to adapt - there are a lot of changes that go on, and that's very similar to what happens in the industry. Coming out of The X Factor, I started to work differently. It was very helpful in that sense.
Do you have any dream roles?
I'm always really open when it comes to roles - I'd never imagined I'd do things like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! I'd love to do anything, really, I think that things take you by surprise. Joseph was one of those. I'd never thought it would have this huge part in my career - it's a special moment for me.
It kind of naturally happens to you, and I love working like that. If it feels right, it's good. On the flip side of that, it's terrifying. With Joseph, I know I was stepping into a huge role. I trained in my craft, but being on a show like The X Factor is completely different from being in a musical - it's a different process.
People train for years, and I was intimidated to step into it. I wanted to do it justice, I didn't want to be there just because I'd been on TV. I wanted to make it a special job; there was a lot of pressure. But it felt right, and it was indeed special.
How is this production of Joseph different than the previous ones?
Everybody who plays the role makes it different, every cast is incredible, and ours is too. Everyone in it is brilliant - such beautiful voices! It's a special treat to watch the company do their thing; they're fantastic.
Will it make a difference for you to perform the show in Newcastle?
I think so! I think it will be quite strange for me because I've never performed in an arena, which is a completely different environment in itself. And I've never been in one when it comes to a theatre show! I think it will feel different.
Our last show is on New Year's Eve, which will be amazing. It's going to be a great send-off, and a celebration of everything good that's happened this year. Although I will be sad - I'm already thinking about how emotional it's going to be.
Do you have a favourite moment in the show?
I love "The Brothers Came To Egypt/Grovel, Grovel", it's always quite dramatic. I also love watching what goes on in the scene after that even though I'm not in it. I love seeing all the brothers together - I really want to be a part of that!
Do you think your performance has changed during the run?
Absolutely! You become more relaxed, and doing the amount of shows we do, you become very aware of what works and what doesn't. It also becomes second nature in a good way. At the same time, when you do ten shows a week you need to work very hard at not going through the motions.
When you have an intense touring schedule you have to chop and change things a bit to keep it fresh for your own sake, otherwise doing it over and over again can get to you. So, I always try to change it - not in a massive way, just small bits here and there. A great thing about this show is that it has room for your own interpretation. Some shows can be quite restrictive, but you don't get that with Joseph, it's wonderful.
Were you worried about anything specific when you joined the cast?
I worried a lot about doing a good job. As a performer, the biggest compliment you get is someone coming to you and saying how much they enjoyed it. The first couple of weeks are always the worst. You want people to enjoy what you do - it's normal and it means you care.
By now it should be OK and I should be used to it, but I'll never get used to that feeling. When you present something to an audience, you want it to be of a certain quality. You want it to be a moment for the audience - that's what I always worry about. But it's natural. I've become more relaxed about it...but also not!
Do you have any advice for young performers?
You have to be prepared! There's a lot of commitment that goes into it, but at the same time the rewards are wonderful. If you enjoy performing and you're doing it for the right reasons, if you want to have that amazing feeling of being on stage... well, all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes is worth it.
Photo credit: Mark Yeoman