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Come to the Cabaret

Will Young has been busy since he found fame on Pop Idol more than a decade ago. In addition to a successful music career, he has found acclaim as an actor, and is currently touring the UK in Cabaret. Reporter Kathryn Tye caught up him.

Leather shorts, a corset, suspenders, full make-up and slicked back hair. Will Young’s risqué costume for his role in Cabaret couldn’t be farther from the clean-cut image which won the hearts of the nation back in 2002 when they voted him winner of ITV’s Pop Idol.

And Will’s character, Emcee, is just as outrageous as his costume – the leering, flamboyant master of ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub, a seedy cabaret establishment in 1930s Berlin.

Will Young on stage in Cabaret
Will Young on stage in Cabaret

Written in 1966 by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the musical revolves around the life and loves of bohemian cabaret performer Sally Bowles, set against the terrifying backdrop of the Nazis’ rise to power, and features well-known songs including Money Makes The World Go Round, Maybe This Time and the title number.

The show’s dark subject matter was among the reasons that Will signed up for the Rufus Norris-directed production, which debuted in London’s West End last year, and is now touring the UK.

He said: “I had always been very interested in cabaret, anything that is a bit subversive, and when you have a fantastic plot and great music, this is my perfect kind of show.

“Emcee is the most amazing role to play as he is an out and out psychopath. He is so free to do anything, he never gets boring.

“Also, there are so many layers to the story. There’s the cabaret club, and what’s going on in society outside with the rise of the Nazis and the persecution of minorities. The deeper you go into it the more you see. That’s what I think is great theatre, when it is really enriching,”

Will, 34, attributes his enormous passion for performance, both as an actor and singer, as the reason for his continued success, more than a decade after he won Pop Idol.

He said: “I am quite stubborn. It is my dream job so I just can’t let it go. So many people want to do it and I got a lucky break. And now, going into this area of musical theatre, it’s just great. I can’t believe I can get paid – I would do it for free, it’s so much fun.”

Indeed, in contrast to many other talent show winners, Will still remains grateful for his big break on the ITV programme.

He said: “Pop Idol was amazing! Particularly at that stage, I wasn’t exactly pop material, and it allowed me to grow in confidence very quickly because I was getting voted in every week and could gauge audience reaction. It was probably the best way for me to start.”

Will admits he doesn’t watch the current crop of TV singing competitions such as The Voice or X Factor, but he is a big fan of Britain’s Got Talent. However, he is still not a fan of its judge, and former nemesis on Pop Idol, Simon Cowell. Asked if they are still in touch, he said: “I have never been in touch with him. It is quite obvious that we are not friends. I think we are diametrically opposed people!”

Extra time: Will Young

Will grew up in Berkshire, and studied politics at the University of Exeter before studying musical theatre at Arts Educational School in London.

He has a twin brother called Rupert.

He got his big break in 2002 when he won the first series of ITV singing contest Pop Idol, going up against Gareth Gates in the final.

Will’s first acting role was opposite Judi Dench in 2005 film Mrs Henderson Presents.

He made his West End debut in Cabaret last year, resulting in the What’s On Stage award for London Newcomer of the Year and a nomination for the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

In 2012 Will released his autobiography, Funny Peculiar.

Will has released five studio albums, most recently Echoes, which reached No.1 in the UK in 2011. He also released compilation The Hits in 2009.

Nomination a debut bonus

For many people Cabaret will forever be associated with the 1972 film, starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Gray. The pair both won Oscars for their roles as did director and choreographer Bob Fosse.

The dance sequences were put together by Javier De Frutos, who won an Olivier award for best choreography earlier this year.

Will Young also won accolades, including a nomination for an Olivier for best actor in a musical – not bad for his West End debut.

He said: “I didn’t do the show for an Olivier but it was amazing. My first time doing a show in the West End and I got nominated.”

Will admits the show’s success and the acclaim he has personally received has encouraged him to pursue acting with a new vengeance.

“I think this show is a bit of a game-changer really. It has been one of the most brilliant experiences, working with some truly amazing people. Now I have got the bit between my teeth so I am already looking at doing more auditions. It is really exciting.”

Cabaret is at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, from Tuesday, November 12, to Saturday, November 16. Tickets from £24.50. Call 01892 530613. It is recommended for over 13s.

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