BWW Interviews: A CHORUS LINE's John Partridge

BWW Interviews: A CHORUS LINE's John Partridge

When John Partridge answers his phone, he's in his dressing room. Not at the London Palladium, you understand, where he opens in A Chorus Line next month.

No, he's at the Theatre Royal Nottingham, where he's still playing Prince Charming in panto until Sunday...

You must be exhausted with a full panto schedule and having to do back-to-back interviews with the likes of me...

It's fine! I've been whizzing up and down, though, and I've been having private tuition - private tuition, Carrie! [laughs] - ready for A Chorus Line, but it has been a couple of mad weeks.

I have had some good news, though - they were looking for another boy for the chorus and they auditioned my husband [Jon Tsouras] yesterday, and he got it, so it'll be lovely to work together particularly after being away from each other for so long.

That's brilliant! Now, don't get me wrong, but I was quite surprised to see your name in the cast list as Zach - I've always thought of you as a song-and-dance man rather than someone who's the booming Voice Of God...

Ha! There are various ways to stage Zach, actually, so I will be dancing, in fact I'll be dancing quite a lot. But yes, I'll be barking orders. When I was first approached about the role, my initial reaction was "No". I had no desire to go back into a musical. I had no desire to do song-and-dance again. I ummed and ahhed, but I didn't think it was right. I'd not actually seen it in London - I'd seen the movie a long time ago, I think when I was in college.

So I was sent a script, and once I'd read it, I was shocked at how much dialogue there is and just how good it is. I was impressed, with the music, the lyrics, the dialogue, it was just something I wasn't expecting. I had a meeting with Bob Avian, who told me there are five ways of putting Zach on his feet, and we came to a middle ground. I'm excited.

We've got some changes for this production that are unique to London, some character alterations, some script changes - for example, Bob wants me to play Zach as English and I want to play him as American, so we're in the process of working that out! Bob and Baayork - the show is their life, but they allow you to bring to the table your own concepts. We have a very limited rehearsal time, and the cast are all over the place at the moment, there are still people who'll be starting rehearsals with me next week, so it's a fragmented rehearsal process - but it's so highly structured that no time is wasted at all. It's extraordinary.

You said that you're encouraged to bring your own concepts to the table - how do you perceive Zach?

All of these characters, we know them. If you're an actor or performer, whether it's on Broadway or in the West End or in regional theatre, you know these characters and how they feel. Zach is not that far removed from me - he and I remember being 17 and just out of school and looking at people and thinking, 'Yeah, I can do this.' I remember how that feels. And I remember being 30-odd and thinking, 'I'm still doing the same thing I was doing when I was 17, but not as well, and there are kids coming up behind me and they're better than me.' I know how it feels to wrap up your whole self-worth in a yes or a no. I've heard 'no' at auditions just as much as the next guy. Sometimes you can get a break that lifts you out of that. Zach moves out of that cycle, and I've done that. So I feel like I know this character really well, and hope I'm able to bring my experiences to him.

When I spoke to Leigh Zimmerman, she said that although she's not as cynical as Sheila, she's certainly got experiences she can draw upon for the character - do you feel the same about Zach?

Oh, you can't be in your 40s - I'm sure Leigh won't mind me saying that! We're both in our 40s - at this point without having cynicism. Every actor has an element of that. You'll see it at any audition. 'Why on earth have they cast him?' And even if you haven't auditioned, you still think like that! Just look on any blog or fan sites! Everyone thinks like that, you just can't help it.

And do you have any nightmare audition experiences you can draw upon?

So many! I mean, I've had great ones too. Even for EastEnders - they saw me in Drowsy Chaperone and asked me to come in - I auditioned, and they literally said, 'He was the worst one, but he is the character.' You can be absolutely shocking but they want you. I've had auditions when I've thought I was fabulous and they've just said, 'No way.' That's what this game is - somebody else's perception of you. One day it's no, then the next is yes. That's what A Chorus Line is - it shows you feelings, expectations, desire. It's all out there.

John Partridge plays Zach in A Chorus Line at the London Palladium from next month.

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