My chat with… Gareth Gates

Gareth Gates, Katy Pearson, Footloose, #whatkatydidUK

Footloose – Gareth Gates as Willard (c) Matt Martin

WHEN I chat to Gareth Gates – star of Footloose – the Musical coming to Basildon’s Towngate Theatre on August 21 – he is fulsome in his praise of our county.

“I love Essex,” he confesses. “It’s a great place, fun. My best friend in the world, Matt, he lives in Essex. He lives in Southend, so I’ll be staying with him probably while I’m performing.”

In fact, it transpires he even owns a house here.

Six students at Rayleigh’s Masters Performing Arts College actually have the Pop Idol’s runner-up as their landlord.

“I own a house in Leigh-on-Sea – a student house,” he explains.

“Matt [Plummer] is the principle of Masters – the performing arts college – and I bought a house literally down the road from there in Leigh for the students.

“I’ve got six students living there.”

So, he’s no stranger to Southend or even Basildon – where he has performed before. Continue reading

My chat with Cleo Higgins

CLEOPATRA, coming at ya!

Hands up who remembers that pop refrain from the late Nineties?

Well, Cleo Higgins all grown-up at 33, is quite literally going to be coming at ya – as the lead female in Thriller – Live! at the Cliffs Pavilion this week.Cleo Higgins interview with Katy Pearson

The show – created to celebrate the career of the King of Pop – is now in its seventh year and has played over 3,000 shows globally, to 2.5 million fans and visited over 26 counties.

But musical theatre was not an avenue that Cleo had any real yearnings to explore.

Instead the ex-girl bander, who rocketed back into the public eye on TV show the Voice in 2013, was lured by the temptation to spend time belting out some of Jackson’s hits – including Can You Feel It, Off The Wall, The Way You Make Me Feel, Smooth Criminal and Beat It.

When we chatted her voice was super-husky – having been a bit under the weather – but enthusiasm for the show positively radiated down the phone line.

“I am a major, major Michael Jackson fan,” she says.

“Musical theatre isn’t really my thing… but Thriller – Live? Well, that’s not really musical theatre is it?

“The show’s just huge – it’s become a thing of its own. The music – Michael Jackson’s songs are just so strong. His fans just love it.” Continue reading

My day with the Wicked Witch Of The West

The whole world has heard of The Wizard Of Oz, but what do you know about Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz? Well, since the production premiered in London in 2006, Wicked has been seen by more than four million people and I am one of the happy theatre-goers.

Me with Wicked stars Rachel Tucker and Gina Beck

Katy Pearson, Rachel Tucker and Gina Beck

Based on the novel Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West by Gregory Maguire, the musical tells the tale of two witches from the Land of Oz – green-skinned Elphaba (played by Rachel Tucker) and beautiful blonde Galinda (later Glinda, played by Gina Beck). A riot of colour and song, it is, above all else, a tale of friendship. And its popularity continues to soar. I went backstage to see what goes on behind the wizardry, sorcery and spells that audiences love so much.

Rachel Tucker spends the entirety of the musical painted green. But when we chat in her dressing room at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, there’s not the slightest tinge of emerald on her. So how does she get it all on – and off?

‘It’s a MAC-based water paint. I wear what is, in effect, a green skin, so I’m not fully greened. That’s what the trick is: I just green my hands, up past my wrists. And I get my face, ears, neck and chest done. Where the pinafore stops, that’s where the green stops. The girls do it in about 15 to 20 minutes – and I do my hands just before. You might notice a tinge of green hanging off everything in here. It does come off everywhere. Whenever I’m offstage, I’m constantly being topped up with green.’ Continue reading