BWW Interview: John Barrowman Talks DICK WHITTINGTON at Manchester Opera House
BroadwayWorld caught up with John Barrowman to chat about his run in the Manchester Opera House pantomime Dick Whittington.
Tell us a bit about this year's panto
Well, this year's panto is Dick Whittington. For those of you who saw it in Glasgow you'll know it was Dick McWhittington, so we adapted it so that it works down south. It still has myself and the Krankies, and apparently I'm still known as "The Biggest Dick In Pantomime In The United Kingdom"..
It's going to be a lot of fun - as it always is when myself and the Krankies get together. We know we'll have a laugh, we know we have a great sense of humour, and we know we have a great rapport with each other.
We also know the audiences are coming to see the stupidity and the daftness that we have onstage, because what do they want to do at panto? They want to laugh and enjoy themselves, and the three of us are going to give it to them.
How many pantomimes have you done with the Krankies now?
I think I've done nine? Or maybe eight - no, it was eight. I took a year out. The year that David Hasselhoff did the SECC.
Is there a 3D aspect to the production?
We do have 3D in it. Honestly, I don't know exactly what 3D we have in it this year because every year they up the game a wee bit. They either add something or change it. So there will be a 3D aspect to it - whether we're above ground, in caves or under the sea, I have no idea yet!
Why do you think pantomime is so important in the UK?
I think the number one reason is that it is a tradition. Number two is that it introduces kids and families to live theatre. Number three is that it's just a lot of fun and families expect it around the Christmas season.
It is steeped in history, not only in England and Wales but Scotland and Northern Ireland as well. It has history going back centuries to an extent. What we like to think we do with it, the Barrowman and Krankie pantomime, we have the tradition in there but we also have the spectacle and the showbiz. We bring it up into a modern big West End type production.
Having spent a lot of your childhood in Scotland, did you go to many pantomimes when you were wee?
I did! I used to go to the Kelvin Hall - they used to do some shows and some pantos. I also went to...what's that theatre they used to always say we were competing with?
The King's - yes! I had been there many times, and I know the Krankies had performed there as well years before we started working together. So I know of the tradition of pantomime in Scotland. It was one thing that when I went to the States, when I came back to the UK in 1989 I knew what panto was.
I remember being overwhelmed when I first saw a panto, I think it was Peter Pan, and any time after that when I came back here to work and to do stuff I knew right away what to do because I knew the style. It was like putting on a nice pair of shoes that fit really well!
You performed in pantomime in Birmingham last year - do you find much of a difference between Scotland and England for panto?
The audiences are very similar. It just depends, there's certain jokes or certain ways we tell jokes that you can't do. For instance, the Birmingham audience I was speaking with my American accent because the audience there knows me as American from television. Whereas in Glasgow, being a hometown boy I was able to speak in my Glasgow accent and that meant we could do jokes quicker and faster. Glasgow humour is very different!
That was something I found didn't work when The Hoff took over your role in Glasgow. David Hasselhoff making jokes about Paisley...
Janette and Ian [Krankie] were telling me that there were a couple of times they had to really sit him down and explain a joke to him. The difference was that all of us were from the area, so we all knew the humour.
Have you had any onstage disasters in panto?
I have had pants rip and I have had costumes not stay up. In Glasgow, you'll know that I was chucked off a horse - 20 feet in the air. I have had disasters, but the whole thing with panto is that no matter what you just get back up and keep going!
What's next for you after panto season?
In January I go to Melbourne to do a concert. I just finished five years on Arrow, so I'm going to be looking at other TV shows that I might want to do in the States. I'm on an advisory board for the Sci-Fi channel in the States for their programming. I've got maybe 20-30 conventions I've been asked to do for Arrow and Doctor Who throughout the US. There's a lot going on, a lot of picking and choosing!
Dick Whittington runs at the Manchester Opera House from 9 December