Interview: John Barrowman Chats STAGES Musical Theatre Cruise

By: Feb. 29, 2020
Interview: John Barrowman Chats STAGES Musical Theatre Cruise
John Barrowman

John Barrowman is a busy man at the moment. He's currently a judge on ITV's Dancing on Ice and recently popped up in BBC's Doctor Who, reprising his role as Captain Jack Harkness.

He's also part of the entertainment line-up of Stages: The Musical Theatre Festival at Sea aboard the Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, embarking from Southampton for Bruges on 27 September.

Barrowman spoke to BroadwayWorld about his career and what he's looking forward to about this specialist cruise.

How are you enjoying being back on Dancing on Ice as a judge this time?

I'm absolutely loving it. I've been a judge before on some BBC shows, but this is different. I've experienced the other side of the competition as a skater. I'm able to judge them on their level of performance and artistic elements, as well as the technical side of the skating. I'm having a great time trying to be as critical and precise as possible.

How did you find returning to Doctor Who? Was this a one-off or can we expect more of Captain Jack?

I've always said that if I was asked to do Doctor Who again I would do it at the drop of a hat, because I love playing Captain Jack and I love the show! I consider myself a bit of a "Whovian" myself.

In terms of what happened to the ratings and the response on the internet worldwide when that episode aired, it was just incredible. I think people want more of Jack, but I honestly have no idea if he'll be back again or not. It's for them to decide.

When I returned to set there were some new faces, but also a lot of staff who were there before, so it didn't feel like returning to something that was foreign to me. Captain Jack is such a big part of the Doctor Who and Torchwood worlds. Everyone knows who he is.

When I walked back in it felt like it had just been yesterday that we finished. Getting to meet all the new characters and stuff was cool because they're new to his history. It was just great to come back to Doctor Who.

What can we expect from you at Stages: The Musical Theatre Festival at Sea?

I don't like to give away exactly what I'm going to be doing in shows, because if I start giving specifics, people might complain that I didn't do a particular song that I said I would.

That said, what I can always guarantee is that people will laugh, they will cry, they will see something different. People who've seen me perform on stage before can attest to that. You'll hear me sing songs you never expected me to sing and you will go away from that evening feeling like you've had a great night of entertainment.

The whole ship is dedicated to this musical theatre extravaganza. You're not only going to get to see me perform, you're also going to get to see other people I've worked with: Lea Salonga, Bonnie Langford, Ramin Karimloo and more!

People will also get to experience workshops and things like that, so it's not just about the shows you'll get to see from specific performers. But what I can say at this point is that my shows will be intimate and a lot of fun.

Interview: John Barrowman Chats STAGES Musical Theatre Cruise
Stages 2019

Will you be popping up in other people's shows for a cheeky duet or two?

I don't think it's been advertised that we'll be popping up in each other's shows, but we're all stuck on a boat together and there's a show and if someone says "Come sing with me", I might just do it. But there are currently no plans on doing that.

One of the great things about these Floating Festival weekends is that anything can happen with the spontaneity of all these people being there. You'll just have to keep your eyes open and your ears listening as to what's going to happen on the ship.

Lea and I performed together a couple of years back. We did a concert in Germany together, and we bump into each other quite a lot in the supermarket in New York City. We just pick up where we left off.

Having worked with her before, I know that we both know what we're doing musically. When we get together to do something together, there's mutual respect of each other's crafts. I know she's good at what she does, and she knows I'm good at what I do and so everything just gels. Maybe we will spontaneously sing something from Miss Saigon - you never know!

Do you think you'll get a bit of a holiday yourself? A chance to see Bruges, where the cruise is heading?

I don't know if I will get much of a holiday. On this particular ship, I'm working and I'm expecting most people to recognise you, but you never know. Sometimes people surprise you and let you go about your own business.

What I do know is that I'll be there with my husband, as well as my friend and manager, so we'll make a trip of it once I get my concert out of the way. Once my show is done then I will be able to simply enjoy going to see other people performing, because it's not very often that I get to do that.

I'm going to go watch Ramin and hope that he takes his shirt off! I'll also go to watch Lea's stuff and I'll hopefully also pop in to see Bonnie, because I haven't seen her perform since she was in 42nd Street.

Interview: John Barrowman Chats STAGES Musical Theatre Cruise
Stages 2019

Do you prefer playing a character in a show or playing yourself at a concert?

In concerts, I never play a character. To me, concerts are not character-driven. If there's a song from a show on the programme about a particular character, I sing the song as John Barrowman.

Not all my songs will be from shows. Sometimes I take a contemporary song and adapt it to be more like a storytelling song.

For me, playing a character is also about playing part of yourself. I think that's why people like what I do in concerts because it's not a completely different character on stage, it's John on stage.

I think characters like Captain Jack and Malcolm Merlyn - who I've played for the last eight years in the States on TV - have been so successful because I put a bit of myself into them rather than disappearing into a character. I don't look at it that way. In a concert, it's just all me and I really like that.

Any other projects you can tell us about?

I haven't thought beyond Stages yet, but between now and then I'm going all over the world doing different things for the next few months. There are a lot of projects right after Dancing on Ice finishes, as well as a few things happening while I'm doing the show as well. There's a lot coming up in the calendar. It's all very busy.

How do you find juggling so many things?

I don't have a problem with it at all. It's something I've been doing for 32 years now. I have a good team around me who sort my schedule. I get everything mapped out so that all I have to do is go and do it.

I live daily. I don't worry about what I'm doing next week. I simply worry about the day ahead and then when I go to bed, that's when I think about the next day.

If you had to return to the I'm A Celebrity... jungle with one of your characters, who would you take to help you survive?

I think I would go with Malcolm Merlyn from Arrow of the DC world. Malcolm is a good shot with an arrow. He's brutal. If anyone gets in his way, he just murders them. He'd be good at killing animals and finding food or just finding general ways to survive. If you're vegan or veggie, you wouldn't want him on your survival team!

Why should people book a cabin on Stages: The Musical Theatre Festival at Sea?

They should book for two reasons: 1) because it's selling out really quickly - I think it's almost sold out, and 2) there is no other place in the world than on the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas ship, where you will get such an immersive experience of musical theatre from some of the top people in the business.

Basically, it's going to be a lot of fun - fabulous fun!

Stages: The Musical Theatre Festival at Sea departs from Southampton on 27 September

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