PANTOMIME INTERVIEWS 2014:
Jane McDonald - Jack and the Beanstalk (Birmingham Hippodrome)
Last week, we brought you a review of Loose Woman, Singer-Songwriter and all-round National Treasure Jane McDonald's latest UK Tour, Singer of Your Song, citing it as 'classy', 'tour-de-force' and 'supremely impressive'. This week, in the second part of our Jane triple-dip, Kyle caught up with her at the Birmingham Hippodrome to discuss her upcoming panto debut in Jack and the Beanstalk, the inspiration behind her first album in six years, and how it feels to be in greater demand than ever 16 years after first rising to success.
By Kyle Pedley.
Interview conducted Friday 12 September 2014.
|Jane as she will appear as 'The Enchantress'|
in Jack and the Beanstalk
Jane, thank you so much for your time...
Now, you seem to be busier than ever at the moment, between your new album, touring with sold out live shows, and now the Panto. How are you finding it all?
Well to be quite honest I’m a bit shocked I’m that busy, because I’ve been doing this for quite some time now and I keep thinking it’s going to slow down, and every time I come out of something, I think ‘Right, I can put my feet up a little bit more now’, but actually the time just gets filled with something else.
But in our profession that’s amazing, so I’m really quite pleased that I’m so busy, that I’m still in demand. And this is my first ever panto, so I’m really looking forward to this, because the best you could ever do is the Birmingham Hippodrome, the biggest panto in the world, so, I mean blimey, it’s downhill from here (laughs), that’s it!
And as you said, you’ve been active and established in the industry for a few years now, is it still as exciting as ever, for instance when you’re doing one of your live shows, does it still generate that same buzz and anticipation for you?
I never, ever take what I do for granted. I’m always amazed that people come and see me, and I’m also extremely grateful for the position I’m in. I love, with a passion, showbiz, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was born, really. So to still be getting the work at this time, 17 years on from The Cruise, I’m amazed, but grateful to everyone who still continues to come and see me, and I love it.
Every year, there’s something else that happens, or it’s a different show. I mean I am a producer, I am a writer, and very much involved in everything we do, I’m a perfectionist, a bit of a diva. But people wouldn’t have me any other way, would they! So I do take it very, very seriously but it’s showbiz and it’s great fun and that’s how it should be.
As you touched upon beforehand, Jack and the Beanstalk is your panto debut. So how are you feeling about taking the panto plunge?
I’m absolutely petrified, but I’m also looking forward to it so much. I’m going to be flying in on wires, doing a lot of comedy - thank goodness, because I can’t help but do comedy - there’s going to be fantastic outfits, which is fabulous ‘cause I love a bit of dressing up and obviously I’ll be getting to sing quite a few big numbers.
I’m working with an amazing cast, so it couldn’t be better. I’ve started at the very top, which is quite daunting really... I sincerely hope I do them proud.
I’m sure you will. And how is the showing coming together? Have you started rehearsals yet?
I’ve seen a bit of the script, and I laughed my head off already, which is good, I know that if I’m laughing that’s gonna transcri... transpo... what’s the word I’m looking for?
Translate! You know what, I’m so glad you’re here! (laughs) I know that comedy will translate then to the audience, and with the cast that I’m working with you can’t help but have a laugh with these boys. I know them all personally, so it’s going to be a hoot, it really is, and we’re all going to be heading down these streets when we come out as well so...
|Interviewer Kyle Pedley with Jane|
at the Birmingham Hippodrome
Well there’s certainly plenty on offer in Birmingham...
I’ve been hearing!
It’s certainly got a colourful nightlife...
(laughs loudly) Brill!
So having just mentioned the cast, obviously you’ve got the lovely Duncan James as your Jack, and you’ve got Chris Gascoyne as Fleschreep (laughs)...
(laughs) Fleshcreep... it’s not nice is it...
Poor Chris! Have you worked with any of them before?
I’ve worked with Duncan before, and I know Chris. I’ve worked with Paul Zerdin before, who is just fabulous. But it’s actually been a dream of mine to work with Gary Wilmot for many years, so this is quite a dream come true for me. We’re going to be doing a duet together in the show, which I’m really looking forward to doing. And the production is just something I’ve never seen before... they certainly are pushing the boat out on this one.
And on that note, they are taken extremely seriously nowadays, pantomimes, with big, grandiose productions, and they remain as popular as ever all over the country. What do you think they retain that enduring popularity, and what was it that attracted you as a performer to star in one?
I think what attracted me was I was always gonna be in Panto eventually, and for 15 years I couldn’t because I was tied up with something else - TV contracts and things like that which I couldn’t get out of for that length of time. It was something I was always going to do, and musical theatre is something that I love with a passion.
The British pantomime is something that is renowned across the world and many people, performers from all over the world, want to come to Britain to work in the British pantomime. The production level is second to none, especially with this company, and it’s good fun, it’s sending yourself up and you can bring your children. And I think that’s something that there’s not a lot of - things that you can do that with a full family, a show for everybody, where the parents are going to be entertained as well as the children, so I think you’ve got a winner there as soon as you can bring your kids.
So tell us a little about your character, the Enchantress. Who is she within the context of Jack and the Beanstalk?
She is the one that has the magic powers, she is the one that makes everything in the world wonderful, so when you see me arrive, you know that it’s all gonna be fine (laughs). So I think it’s like everyday life, everybody wants a fairy godmother, everybody wants someone who can make things happen, and in this particular production, that’s me... couldn’t have been more perfect, could it?
Well, ideal casting, and as you said, it means you get to wear all those fabulous frocks!
Oh yes, darling, of course!
Now, moving away from the panto for a moment, this year you released The Singer of your song, your first album in 6 years, was it?
|Jane takes a seat at her new|
pantomime home - The Hippodrome
So what was for you the genesis of that album, was there anything in particular you wanted to set out and achieve with it?
Well I’ve been a songwriter for many years, and The Singer of Your Song is a song I have for my fans. I’ve been completely blown away by the loyalty of people who have followed me for so many years, and it was just a tribute to them really, because that’s exactly what I am, I’m the singer of their song. They come night after night to hear a certain song being sang, and if I can make them feel a little bit better then that’s my job done.
This is an album that I did in Prague with the Philharmonic [Orchestra] and there’s 18 tracks on it, produced by Nigel Wright, so the pedigree on that album alone is far superior to anything I’ve ever done, and with beautiful, beautiful songs. I’ve got a duet of The Rose which I do with my best friend, Sue Ravey, and we’ve got more classical songs like Love Is All and God Only Knows on there.
When you put it on it’s like a warm blanket, it’s beautifully arranged, the whole nine yards, and people don’t do albums like that any more.
And I’ve spent everything on it... so I really hope it’s a success! (laughs)
Well it is a fantastic album and as you said the calibre and quality of production is superb, so I’ll happily you a cheeky plug there.
(laughs) Oh, good! Thank you so much!
And finally, to people who are perhaps doing their panto shopping, looking at which one to choose, why should they go for Jack and the Beanstalk, and what can people who are coming to see the show expect from it?
People should definitely pick Jack and the Beanstalk because it’s my first one and if you don’t come I’m not going to be a success, so I need you to come and see it!
The Birmingham pantomime at the Hippodrome is the biggest in the world, there’s going to be everything thrown at this; the giant itself is fantastic, so just to see that happen, and to see the beanstalk that grows, it’s just phenomenal. And the cast, I mean you’ve got a top class cast, not including me, that’s without me in it... it’s just the best, it really is, so come and see us in Birmingham!
Fantastic, and Jane thank you ever so much once again for your time.
Thank you, Kyle, darling, it’s been great!
NEXT TIME: The third and final part of our Jane coverage will be when we review Jack and the Beanstalk when it opens at the Birmingham Hippodrome in December!
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK will be running at the BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME from Friday 19 December 2014 to Sunday 1 February 2015.