Wednesday, 9 July 2014

THEATRE INTERVIEW - Liam Doyle (Wicked)

Part Two - Liam Doyle (Fiyero)

Wicked flies in to the Birmingham Hippodrome this week as part of it's first ever UK and Ireland tour, and as part of our WICKED WEEK celebrations, we've brought you interviews with two of the show's leads.

Last week, Kyle chatted with leading lady Nikki-Davis Jones, who plays Elphaba on the tour, and this week we conclude our interviews by chatting to Midlands native Liam Doyle, who plays Fiyero in the show. We discuss his unusual path into performing professionally, returning to the Midlands with Wicked, and landing his dream role...

By Kyle Pedley.
Interview Conducted Thursday 24th April 2014.

Liam Doyle as Fiyero in Wicked
“I’m worried that I’m 23 and doing the part that I always wanted to do... it’s just downhill from here!”

Actor Liam Doyle is humbly, and jokily, assessing exactly what it means to him to have bagged his self-confessed dream role at such a relatively young age. The Coventry-born performer is of course speaking of Fiyero, the dashing, debonair leading man of musical colossus Wicked, which continues it’s first ever UK tour this week as it opens for a summer tenure at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

“It’s amazing. It is the part that I always wanted to play, it’s a part that I always kind of identified with.”

It’s late April, and a (surprisingly?) beautiful day in Wales at Cardiff’s stunning Millennium Centre, where myself and a collection of other press and media have hopped on our broomsticks to chat all things Wicked with it’s stars. Doyle has just crossed paths with Elphaba actress Nikki Davis-Jones after wrapping up our interview with her, and has noted with boyish enthusiasm how strange it is to see his co-star ‘not green’. He’s also just returned from a brief bout of illness, which he happily dismisses as ‘just one of those things’, with the only lament being over how it prevented him from seeing one of his closest friends perform in his stead:

“One of my best mates, Will, is first understudy for Fiyero. So it’s really annoying, cause I’m sick and in bed, not talking, and I want to come and watch him do it!”

There is no trace of stage persona or pretense with Doyle; rather, he exudes an earnest, easygoing, everyday humility and charm that may be in part due to his unconventional journey into musical theatre and performing. It turns out that football, for instance, was one of his original ambition and passions whilst growing up in the Midlands:

“I played football pretty much since I can remember, and I played it until I was about 16 and got injured in the middle of a game.”

“That was kind of the end of that.”

Liam Doyle in Wicked
Fortunately, his existing enthusiasm and talent for drama would set in motion a series of events and developments that, whilst far from typical, would nonetheless see him propelled into an already highly-successful career in theatre that has seen him play key roles in such major shows as Hairpsray, Mamma Mia and now, of course, Wicked:

“My drama teacher, Julie, was a really inspirational person. She was one of those people that just went ‘why don’t you do this? You’ve been good at this for a long time’. She needed someone to be one of the brothers in Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat], and that was when I realised I could sing.”

“It kind of just snowballed from there. I got into amateur dramatics and then that TV competition came along.”

Doyle is speaking of a search for a new musical superstar on ITV breakfast show GMTV back in 2009, which was looking to cast the lead role of Troy Bolton in the UK tour of High School Musical 2. It was undoubtedly the key catalyst for his career thus far, and he has one relative in particular to thank for it:

“I don’t know why my dad put me up for [GMTV]. I’d just got into drama school so it was one of those things where I was going to train to be an actor and do it ‘properly’, regardless of if it takes me 2 years or 50 years.”

“I was like ‘I’m going to become really, really good and get the best agent in the world’,” Doyle jokes.

“Then my dad put me up for this competition and I said ‘No, I’m not going. I don’t want to go’. And he made me go, because he bribed me with Hairspray tickets.”

In a fortuitous turn of events, those same tickets would see Doyle sat in the Shaftesbury Theatre watching a show he would later star in himself, just 24 hours before he was required to perform on the exact same stage as part of the GMTV talent search:

“We went to see the show at the Shaftesbury, then I had to dance the next day on the same stage, so I couldn’t believe it. It was incredible.”

Liam Doyle as Fiyero and
Nikki Davis-Jones as Elphaba
in Wicked
Ultimately, Doyle emerged victorious in the competition, beating out thousands of others to win the public vote and aged just 18 and pre-drama school, had secured his entry into a notoriously competitive industry.

“I’ll always be grateful to my dad for that, I don’t know why he did but it kind of just happened. It’s the best break I could have ever had.”

Now, five years later, with numerous West End and touring productions added to his resume, he is involved with one of the biggest musicals in the world, and the privilege of taking Wicked, and his character Fiyero, on the road for the first time, are not lost on him:

“It’s just such an honour to play it, I would actually call it an honour and privilege.”

“It’s been absolutely incredible and the audiences have been better than we could ever have asked for. I love being on tour, it’s one of those things where you bring the show to people that probably wouldn’t be able to come and see it. I’m from Coventry and if I was in it in London, it would probably cost the best part of £400 to come and see me for two days.”

“To be able to get in a car, drive to the Hippodrome and then come and see it... I think it’s amazing that is just opens it up to every single person that could possibly want to see the show.”

Speaking of the Hippodrome, Doyle is quick to sing the praises of being back in Birmingham and amongst the Midlands theatre scene, where he earned a lot of his musical theatre stripes:

“I did Hairspray at the Hippodrome, but I also did summer projects at the [New Alexandra Theatre], like stage experience, and I did two of those. I played Tony in Copacabana, where I wore an awful sparkly gold tuxedo, and I played Roddy in Boogie Nights.

“Birmingham theatres have a massive place in my heart. It’s kind of like being at home, as close as I can to Coventry anyway.”

Liam Doyle with Wicked Co-stars Emily Tierney (left)
and Nikki Davis-Jones (right)
Coming home to the Midlands with Wicked is also a chance for Doyle to reconnect with friends and family, from indulging in some home comforts to entertaining old friends:

“I cannot wait. I get to stay at my mom’s house so I’m like ‘Mom, I need my washing done!’, he laughs. “But no, I can’t wait, it’s going to be so much fun. My friends from school, who have finally stopped asking me what I’m going to do when acting finishes, they’re going to come and watch.”

“A lot of them haven’t seen me do anything, they just know I’m off on tour or in London, so I’m really excited for them to come and see it and to see how much I enjoy it.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more triumphant homecoming for a musical theatre performer than Wicked, a show which continues to go from strength to strength and is an internationally beloved mega-hit. It's soundtrack has already etched itself amongst the pantheon of the musical theatre greats, and the hugely popular story depicting the history between the witches of Oz seems to have captured a generational zeitgheist.

“It’s one of those stories where it kind of teaches you not to judge a book by it’s cover and I think that’s why so many people identify with it,” Doyle explains, “there’s something that everyone can identify with in all the characters, and I think that’s why it’s received so well.”

“I like to wind the girls up and say the whole story couldn’t happen without me. But it’s about the relationship between the two girls and how their life is changed because they met each other, I think that’s what it’s really about.”

“But it’s just so much fun, and it’s also really heartfelt, and that’s what I absolutely love about the story. It’s one of those things that once it gets going the show just ramps up the whole way, and it just keeps going.”

Liam Doyle (left) with
interviewer Kyle Pedley (right)
at the Cardiff Millennium Centre
Not unlike Doyle’s career then, which, from it’s unusual beginning right through to now, has certainly showed no signs of slowing down. But what happens once the Emerald City has closed it’s doors and the wicked witch has flown off to pastures new? Would Doyle be tempted or interested in reprising the role back in the West End, as co-star Nikki Davis-Jones was last week announced to be doing?

“I’d never say never, absolutely. I finish in September, but I absolutely love it. It’s great, it’s amazing and I’d absolutely go back into London, yeah.”

“Hopefully it’s not the end of Wicked for me.”

Before then, there is a whole summer of Wicked goodness ahead for Doyle, and back on home turf no less, as the Midlands welcomes back one of it’s more recent and prolific musical theatre success stories starring in what is probably the theatre event of the summer. And, come what may, given his untraditional journey so far, demonstrable talent and affable, humble nature, it isn’t difficult to imagine that any such fears of it being ‘just downhill from here’ as Doyle initially joked will turn out to be completely unfounded, and even more fantastical and unbelievable than even the tallest tale from the wonderful world of Oz.

NEXT TIME: Our Wicked interviews are now concluded, but stayed tune to (A)musings as our FULL REVIEW of the show will be going live this Friday (11th July)!

Stay tuned on FacebookTwitter and of course here on our blog for more exclusive WICKED content.

WICKED will be running at the BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME from Wed 9 July to Saturday 6 September 2014.

For more information on the show's run at the Hippodrome and to book your tickets online, CLICK HERE.
Alternatively, call Ticket Sales directly on 0844 338 500 to book your tickets now!

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