AUSTRALIAN actor, pop and soap star Jason Donovan is heading to Malvern Theatre on Monday (October 17) in his latest role as legendary record producer and ‘Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ Sam Phillips in ‘Million Dollar Quartet’.
The Observer’s Tristan Harris caught up with him to find out about the show, his role, his Ten Good Reasons tour which is coming to Malvern in December and to get some advice for this year’s I’m a Celebrity contestants.
MILLION Dollar Quartet has been a hit in the West End, Las Vegas and on Broadway. It tells the story of record producer Sam Phillips who brought four top recording stars – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins – together to create music history.
The show centres around the unforgettable evening when the four major talents came together and – featuring a multitude of rock ‘n’ roll hits, including Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, I walk the Line and Great Balls of Fire – puts the audience in that recording studio that night.
Jason said: “I didn’t really know the piece before but it’s a fascinating story about a very larger than life character – Sam Phillips was the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll and someone who pushed the boundaries and had to put up with having his integrity questioned.
“I like a challenge and this is a challenging role with a lot of depth to it.
“When you go into acting you don’t always want to be playing extensions of yourself.”
He added one of the tests was Phillips’ South American accent.
“It’s a very musical accent and fits well with the character, it’s not perfect but it’s a good interpretation.”
Jason said when it came to the role, it helped to have worked in the music industry because, with his experience, he was able to get into the head of the Sam Phillips character and appreciate what he was trying to do.
Jason burst onto the scene in the 1980s in Australian soap Neighbours, which was closely followed by a pop career which saw his debut album Ten Good Reasons become a five times platinum selling record and the biggest selling album of 1989. It was at number one in the UK for four weeks and, for some of that time, he was also number one in the singles chart with his cover of Brian Hyland’s Sealed With a Kiss.
Since then he has undertaken a host of other leading roles in stage shows, including the Rocky Horror Show, Sweeney Todd, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Reflecting on the 30+ year career he said: “I could never have believed it would have been successful as it has been.”
Earlier this year, Jason’s Ten Good Reasons tour went down a storm and, in December, Jason will be performing some more dates, including Malvern on December 14.
“Ten Good Reasons was massive at the time and I’m really looking forward to getting back on the stage and performing the songs again.
“It’s great how that album still touches people and it is great to be able to get to some of the places – like Malvern – that we weren’t able to get to in the spring.”
And with this year’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here just over a month away, we could not let Jason go without asking him about his time on the show. In 2006 he finished third and took part in a number of the infamous bushtucker trials.
“I had a great experience but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
“It was in Australia so it was a no brainer for me to do it – I got to do something I’d never personally done myself before and that was sleep in the bush. I found it quite therapeutic,” he said.
When asked what advice he would give to ‘the class of 2016’ he said: “The biggest issues in there are the weather and the food – surviving on the rations you get.
“They need to go in there with an open mind, get into the spirit of it and not take it too seriously.
“But the biggest piece of advice I would give is to make sure you work as a team.”
Million Dollar Quartet runs at Malvern Theatre from Monday (October 17) to next Saturday (October 22).
Tickets for that, and Jason Donovan’s Ten Good Reasons on December 14, are available at malvern-theatres.co.uk or by calling 01684 892277.