Tag Archives: Chariots of Fire

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s own star of smash hit Jersey Boys talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog

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Scottish actor David McGranaghan recently joined the cast of the West End smash Jersey Boys in the starring role of Nick Massi. David’s impressive  credits include: Colin in Chariots of Fire; Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew; Father Damian in Be Near Me in the Donmar Warehouse/ National Theatre of Scotland production, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Boyfriend and Lady Be Good at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. 

Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to talk to David about his path from pupil at the Dance School of Scotland to the West End via the Royal Shakespeare Company and award-winning board game inventing!

Can we go back to the start, tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an actor.

I started off singing in my school’s music department. Through this came concerts and performances, so I almost fell into acting through my love for music. To move into working on scripts after performing lyrics and characters felt like a natural progression.

I see that you were a pupil at the Dance School of Scotland; I have interviewed many actors for this series and a large number are alumni of the school; what do you think it is about the training there that has produced so many top-rank West End performers?

I think that the teachers are very dedicated to their work, and their passion for the arts feeds into their pupils. Also they let us know from the very beginning that everything is down to hard work, so improvements are down to dedication and focus. I think from looking at myself and fellow Dance School students you can still see that in their attitude towards work and the industry.

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You have a very varied CV, from the RSC to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre and much more in between, what have been the highlights up to getting your current role in Jersey Boys?

I have been very lucky to jump around different types of theatre however working at the Donmar Warehouse which was a co-production with The National Theatre of Scotland was a great experience. It was a play called ‘Be Near Me’ which was set in my home turf of Ayrshire, and we premiered in Kilmarnock (40 minutes from my home) before we went down to London. Of course working on four completely different productions for the Royal Shakespeare Companies 50th Anniversary Season was another highlight. Working with phenomenal directors, actors and plays, it was as good as it can get for any young actor.

Before we talk about your starring role in Jersey Boys you are an award-winning entrepreneur, tell us about Game for Fame.

I invented a board game with fellow actor friend Joseph Pitcher (currently on tour with RSC’s Winter’s Tale) and we decided to go into business with it. It is fun family board game that takes the mick out of our celebrity obsessed society. Players must fight for fame and fortune by playing a number of fun games, and just like the real celeb circuit talent has nothing to do with success. While avoiding the Dole Queue or Re-Hab, players must attempt different games like guessing accents or talking with their tongue hanging out of their mouth, all with a very funny outcome (especially if a few glasses of wine are involved). It has been a great success for us both with deals from Tesco as well as a number of small stores and of course online, and we enjoy working on its success alongside our acting. For more information check out www.gameforfame.co.uk

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Let’s talk about your current starring role as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys, tell us a bit about the role of Nick and how you have prepared for it.

Nick is the bass player of the famous Four Seasons group. He is described as the ‘harmony genius’ and his three passions are music, woman and booze…in that order. Since he hates conflict or the arguments that the four guys find themselves in, he is often the quiet member of the group until he gets pushed too far and blows up. For playing Nick I taught myself Bass guitar for a start. Just playing a bass makes you feel very cool, simple and effortless, which is very much like Nick. I also did a lot of research about New Jersey, watched lots of Four Season performances with a fine tooth comb and watched movies based around the area and time of the group. After that the Jersey Boys creative team had so many stories that had been passed down from the band regarding the real Nick Massi that became a massive influence when building the character up.

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Jersey Boys is a phenomenal success in the West End, what is it like to join a show that is as well-established and well-loved as it is?

It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time. Since I was already a fan of the show I couldn’t wait to get the red jacket on and get going, however since it’s so well known you are aware that you are handling something that is precious to a lot of people, and if you mess up you will know about it. Thankfully that cast and creatives have all been great in guiding me during the rehearsal period while still giving me the freedom to explore my own ideas.

What do you think it is about Jersey Boys that makes it so popular with all age groups?

The music is timeless and appeals to all generations I think. I also think good theatre appeals to anyone no matter what age group they belong to. Our older audience members will remember some of the hits when they first came out however younger theatre goers will still surprise themselves with how many hits they know. The script is also based on their true story, and I think that each character and journey can resonate with all of us.

What drives you as a performer?

The excitement of auditioning or working on a role that you have lots of ideas for. Trying those ideas out and learning more about the character and yourself, going back to the drawing board and improving every time (well, hopefully improving). I think that is what drives me, the constant challenge and the never ending learning and discovering.

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 Are there any actors whom you admire or careers you’d like to emulate?

Hugh Jackman. Anyone that can do Oklahoma and Wolverine in one career has to be number one.

What ambitions would you still like to fulfil?

I now develop game shows for some companies off the back of Game For Fame so for one to work right through to commission would be a dream come true. Acting wise I’d love to do some Sondheim, Gabey in On The Town, work at venues such as The Globe and National and one day play MacBeth…not asking much really.

What advice would you give to any aspiring actors back home in Scotland?

Work hard. Put the hours in now and they will pay you back later.

Finally, what words best describe David McGranaghan?

Very good at Maths!

*DAVID AND HIS CO-STARS WILL BE APPEARING TOMORROW EVENING 6TH APRIL AT 7PM ON ANT AND DEC’S SATURDAY NIGHT TAKEAWAY*

Follow David on Twitter @dave_mcg3

Jersey Boys tickets and info at www.jerseyboyslondon.com

REVIEW: Chariots of Fire, Gielgud Theatre, London

‘I can run fast, but I think I can run even faster. I want an Olympic medal. It’s waiting for me’

In a week of unusual and entirely new theatrical experiences (the silent disco technology of Biding Time (remix) at The Arches and taking to the water at lifeguard in Govanhill Baths) last night I was lead through the wings with twenty-odd others to take my seat on the stage of the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue to watch Mike Bartlett’s version of the multi award-winning Chariots of Fire. Seated in bleacher seating to represent the 1924 Paris Olympic stadium, surrounded by a steeply banked running track and with my feet beside the double revolve, the excitement of seeing a play, on a West End stage from the performer’s eye view was making the heart beat that little bit faster.

Based upon the true story of Cambridge educated Harold Abrahams, wealthy son of a Lithuanian Jew and Eric Liddell child of a devout Christian missionary family, and the two men’s path to compete at the 1924 Paris Olympics, Chariots of Fire is a genuinely moving and inspiring tale. 

The differences between the two men have always been the heart of the story, but the two have many more similarities than differences. Both are driven, Abrahams with the desire to overcome antisemitism and win the approval of his distant father and Liddell by his Christian faith to run for the glory of God.

The actors are required to sing and play instruments as well as show athletic prowess and to a man they deliver impressively. James McArdle is particularly impressive as Abrahams, the man’s raw determination to do whatever it takes to win and his arrogance about his chances of achieving glory could easily have made him unsympathetic. McArdle manages to imbue him with a vulnerability that even in the midst of his greatest triumphs, the loneliness and struggle still shows through the cracks. 

This is a wonderful celebration of Britishness, there’s Gilbert and Sullivan, Scottish country dancing, bagpipes, marching bands, university life and of course a rendition of Jerusalem.

Tam Williams who appears alongside father Simon, delivers a fine turn as archetypal English gent Andrew, Lord Lindsey who re-creates the famous champagne glasses on hurdles scene (below) not once but three times. He also typifies the classic British turn up and get on with it spirit when he arrives, jacket casually slung over shoulder, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth to compete. 

This is a truly remarkable feat – bringing to life the beloved multi-Oscar winning film and managing to take the audience on a powerful emotional journey, and it is down to a truly gifted creative team. Writer Bartlett’s ability to get straight the emotional heart of a piece is stunning (his Medea at Glasgow Citizens two weeks ago was as pin sharp and straight to the point as this), the dialogue is sparse and it relies on a series of short emotive, quick moving scenes to drive the narrative. Miriam Buether’s double revolve set, Scott Ambler’s inventive choreography and Vangelis’ iconic score heighten the excitement and truly carry the audience along with the actors in this fully immersive theatrical experience.

This is stirring and spine-tingling – the sound of the actors as they pound the track around you, the whiff of embrocation and the blast of wind as they streak by is utterly visceral. I can’t recommend this highly enough – it will put joy in your heart and bring a tear to your eye. See it if you can.

Runs at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue until 2nd February 2013, ticket details here