Monday, 23 April 2018

Star of off-the-wall drag show is just a family man

“I WOULDN’T want my kids to turn out like me,” says Jason Donovan. “I’ve made too many stupid mistakes.”

“I WOULDN’T want my kids to turn out like me,” says Jason Donovan. “I’ve made too many stupid mistakes.”

It’s rare for any top celebrity to make such a candid admission, but then Donovan’s mistakes — his descent into cocaine addiction and the humiliation he suffered after suing a magazine for falsely claiming he was gay, to name but a few — are not really a secret to anyone.

The Australian actor and singer who shot to fame in TV soap Neighbours in the Eighties, and who had a rather public relationship — and heartbreaking split — with co-star Kylie Minogue, certainly knows how to reinvent himself. He’s turned from TV actor to singing star and then, after a long lull, he revived his career as a star of the West End stage. Next week, he brings his latest hit Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert to the New Theatre in Oxford for a six-night run.

Donovan’s early life was far from run-of-the-mill — his parents split up when he was four and his father was awarded custody of him. He concedes that this probably contributed to his problems, but he turned over a new leaf after meeting his wife Angela Malloch in 1998 and now, at the age of 44, he is a clean-living father of three — and is passionate about family life.

“I don’t consciously think about my parents’ divorce,” he said. “But underneath all my problems I’m sure it was something that affected me.

“Family life is very important to me now. I mean, what’s the point in having anything if you don’t have anyone to share it with? I’m very lucky to have a wife, who’s also my best friend. She’s a pain in the arse sometimes! But then again so am I. I suppose that’s fair.

“I know I’ve made mistakes in my life, but I’ve also been strong enough to face the consequences. I never really call them ‘mistakes’, because no-one’s life is perfect. You learn to deal with the cards you’ve been given and play to your strengths.”

Despite his rocky road to fame, which began with a TV role aged 11, Donovan said he was not concerned by his children’s nascent efforts at stardom. In the past two months, 11-year-old son Zac and 12-year-old daughter Jemma have both made their professional acting débuts.

“I’m all for my kids being passionate about anything they do,” he said. “That sort of thing is very exciting at that age — I know it certainly was for me. If they want to sing, dance or act that’s great, but I’d be just as happy if they wanted to be plumbers or accountants, or to work in a shop. As long as they genuinely care about what they do, I’ll always support them in any way I can.”

His first foray into stage musicals was as the lead in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the early Nineties, and a string of successful roles followed. He has starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds and a touring production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. He has also made a variety of appearances on reality TV shows, including I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and Strictly Come Dancing, finishing in third position with his dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff.

But he always returns to the stage, and he is particulary excited to be working again on Priscilla as part of its national tour after its successful two-year run as a “feelgood” musical spectacular in the West End.

The jukebox musical is based on the cult Australian feature film starring Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce that follows the trials and tribulations of three drag queens touring the Outback in a camper van. Donovan plays Tick who, married with a young son, is struggling to accept that he is gay.

The show has been fêted for its flamboyant costumes and a soundtrack of disco diva classics such as Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff and The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men. It’s a far cry from the world of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but Jason argued that is part of the show’s appeal.

He said: “I love it because it’s not your typical boy-meets-girl romance or a crime story. It’s a bit more off-the-wall. It’s colourful, it’s uplifting and it’s also very modern.

“Up until recently, when programmes like High School Musical and Glee got popular, musicals had gone a little bit out of fashion. They were aimed at the kind of people who’d want to see Cats, Phantom Of The Opera or Les Misérables, but this is much more in the Rocky Horror Show mould.

“It’s definitely a spectacle — but there’s also a strong human story.”

As the Standard reported last month, the show will also star eight-year-old Joshua Hogan, from Nettlebed, as Tick’s son Benji. Jason was due to meet Joshua for rehearsals early this week and said he was looking forward to it.

le_SHrSPriscilla, Queen Of The Desert runs at the New Theatre in Oxford from February 25 to March 2. Tickets start at £15. Box office www.atgtickets.com/oxford or ring 0844 871 3020.

“I WOULDN’T want my kids to turn out like me,” says Jason Donovan. “I’ve made too many stupid mistakes.”

It’s rare for any top celebrity to make such a candid admission, but then Donovan’s mistakes — his descent into cocaine addiction and the humiliation he suffered after suing a magazine for falsely claiming he was gay, to name but a few — are not really a secret to anyone.

The Australian actor and singer who shot to fame in TV soap Neighbours in the Eighties, and who had a rather public relationship — and heartbreaking split — with co-star Kylie Minogue, certainly knows how to reinvent himself. He’s turned from TV actor to singing star and then, after a long lull, he revived his career as a star of the West End stage. Next week, he brings his latest hit Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert to the New Theatre in Oxford for a six-night run.

Donovan’s early life was far from run-of-the-mill — his parents split up when he was four and his father was awarded custody of him. He concedes that this probably contributed to his problems, but he turned over a new leaf after meeting his wife Angela Malloch in 1998 and now, at the age of 44, he is a clean-living father of three — and is passionate about family life.

“I don’t consciously think about my parents’ divorce,” he said. “But underneath all my problems I’m sure it was something that affected me.

“Family life is very important to me now. I mean, what’s the point in having anything if you don’t have anyone to share it with? I’m very lucky to have a wife, who’s also my best friend. She’s a pain in the arse sometimes! But then again so am I. I suppose that’s fair.

“I know I’ve made mistakes in my life, but I’ve also been strong enough to face the consequences. I never really call them ‘mistakes’, because no one’s life is perfect. You learn to deal with the cards you’ve been given and play to your strengths.”

Despite his rocky road to fame, which began with a TV role aged 11, Donovan said he was not concerned by his children’s nascent efforts at stardom. In the past two months, 11-year-old son Zac and 12-year-old daughter Jemma have both made their professional acting débuts.

“I’m all for my kids being passionate about anything they do,” he said. “That sort of thing is very exciting at that age — I know it certainly was for me. If they want to sing, dance or act that’s great, but I’d be just as happy if they wanted to be plumbers or accountants, or to work in a shop. As long as they genuinely care about what they do, I’ll always support them in any way I can.”

His first foray into stage musicals was as the lead in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the early Nineties, and a string of successful roles followed. He has starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds and a touring production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. He has also made a variety of appearances on reality TV shows, including I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and Strictly Come Dancing, finishing in third position with his dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff.

But he always returns to the stage, and he is particulary excited to be working again on Priscilla as part of its national tour after its successful two-year run as a “feelgood” musical spectacular in the West End.

The jukebox musical is based on the cult Australian feature film starring Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce that follows the trials and tribulations of three drag queens touring the Outback in a camper van. Donovan plays Tick who, married with a young son, is struggling to accept that he is gay.

The show has been fêted for its flamboyant costumes and a soundtrack of disco diva classics such as Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff and the Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men. It’s a far cry from the world of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but Jason argued that is part of the show’s appeal.

He said: “I love it because it’s not your typical boy-meets-girl romance or a crime story. It’s a bit more off-the-wall. It’s colourful, it’s uplifting and it’s also very modern.

“Up until recently, when programmes like High School Musical and Glee got popular, musicals had gone a little bit out of fashion. They were aimed at the kind of people who’d want to see Cats, Phantom Of The Opera or Les Misérables, but this is much more in the Rocky Horror Show mould.

“It’s definitely a spectacle — but there’s also a strong human story.”

As the Standard reported last month, the show will also star eight-year-old Joshua Hogan, from Nettlebed, as Tick’s son Benji. Jason was due to meet Joshua for rehearsals early this week and said he was looking forward to it.

le_SHrSPriscilla, Queen Of The Desert runs at the New Theatre in Oxford from February 25 to March 2. Tickets start at £15. Box office www.atgtickets.com/oxford or ring 0844 871 3020.

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