Though it’s a mere few weeks old, the Grand Canal Theatre is certainly pulling in quality theatrical entertainment. The latest show to roll in to the waterside venue is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash hit musical Whistle Down The Wind directed and produced by prolific Bill Kenwright and starring Jonathan Ansell of X-Factor operatic sensations G4. Featuring music from Bonnie Tyler, Boyzone and lyrics by Jim Steinman, Whistle Down The Wind, the first musical in this new venue, promises to be a treat for all ages. I caught up with Jonathan Ansell for a quick chat prior to the opening night of the show.
First things first, if you can just tell us a little bit about your character and the show itself?
I’m “The Man”, that’s my character name and I’m an escaped convict from death row. I’ve apparently committed murder and I’m on the run. I’m found in a barn by a fantastically sweet, angelic girl called Swallow who thinks I’m Jesus. From then on the confusion continues and it becomes a bit complicated.
And then there’s the music of course. The concept album features a lot of well known artists and there’s quite a rock influence in it aswell.
There’s some rock influence absolutely. Jim Steinman wrote along with Andrew Lloyd Webber the music and he wrote the Meatloaf hit so there’s definitely a rock influence. Myself, within the show, I’m not actually performing many of the rock moments per se. I’ve got more kind of aggressive ballad moments. But it’s got a great diversity within it and it’s really exciting to amalgamate all those different stars within one show. For me, it’s a fantastic, shouty, aggressive ballad which is really excting.
This is your first professional foray into musical theatre, if I’m right?
It is indeed, yeah.
How are you enjoying it and how is it different from your solo tours or those with G4?
It’s very, very different. The only time I’ve done musical theatre before is actually at school so it’s a lovely new change. I’ve done Gilbert and Sullivan and stuff but this is fantastic fun. It’s great to play such a different character. When you’re on stage with G4 or on my own, it’s yourself performing to the audience but it’s great to be somebody else, to be a character and hide behind that. And as you can see, I’m slightly differently dressed so to have the character along with that is a really fun new form of expression.
You were saying that your background in musicals began in school then. I believe from your biography that it was one of the things that helped you through some tough times.
Absolutely. I’ve always loved singing since I was very small. It was my form of escapism, that and fishing. I’m really fortunate that I’ve managed to continue both, one at a professional level and one just for fun.
What’s it like then working with someone as prolific as Bill Kenwright?
He’s a fantastic man to work with. On this production, he’s producing and directing it so he worked hands-on with us. It was great to have that direct rapport with him. He’s a fantastically intuitive guy to develop shows and productions. He’s put some amazing things all around the world so it’s been really exciting working with Bill.
So what’s next then? You’re on tour for another while.
Yeah, we’re on tour until August so we’ve got Glasgow, Newcastle, we’re heading here, there and everywhere. I think we’re just over four months in and so far it’s been an adventure.
A well-earned break after that then?
I don’t know actually. I’ve got some casting calls for some West End productions so potentially I’ll end up straight into another one but I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Whistle Down The Wind opens tonight, Tuesday 11th in Grand Canal Theatre. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster and from the Box Office at Grand Canal. The show runs until the 22nd May.
Words Anna Hayes