McElderry is no Ordinary Joe

Joe McElderry as Joseph.  - Photography by Mark YeomanJoe McElderry as Joseph.  - Photography by Mark Yeoman
Joe McElderry as Joseph. - Photography by Mark Yeoman
One of the world's best loved musicals Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opens in Peterborough on Tuesday with X Factor winner Joe McElderry playing the lead.

Georgina Littlejohn caught up with him ahead of the opening night at the Broadway Theatre.

Hi Joe, thanks for joining me today. Tell me how you got involved with the show and what was it about the part that attracted you to it?

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It was last summer and Bill Kenwright came to me and asked me if I was interested and would I like to have a meeting about possibly playing Joseph. And it all went from there really and here we are!

It’s such an iconic role, everybody knows it and the nice thing about it is, and this is just from talking to people, it’s seems to be a lot of people’s first experience of musical theatre. A lot of people have told me it was the first musical they saw as a kid. And it passes down the generations. And out of all of the things I’ve done in the last few years, there’s a real buzz around this. I’ve never had so many people come up to me and tell me how excited they are that I’m going to be Joseph, so that’s really nice.

So you were familiar with the show when the offer came up, have you seen any previous productions?

I saw it a couple of years back with H from Steps and he was great. I wasn’t that familiar with the show when I saw it and when this came up, I had forgotten it but as soon as I heard the songs again, I remembered and I am more than familiar with it now! The good thing about it is that it’s all songs and I’m used to learning songs very quickly so I’m not too panicked. Even the colours - I’ve done it! And I did it on national television this morning, live on air! And I got it right!

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Philip Schofield, Jason Donovan, Donny Osmond have all starred as Joseph, you’ve got some big shoes to fill!

I am feeling the pressure a little bit because it’s such a famous role, that’s the thing about it. And people have a big attachment to the show, people who have seen it many times before, they have certain expectations. So I am a little anxious, but I always get like this before I do a show, whether this or X Factor or even my own tour, but then once I get into rehearsals I’m fine.

Have you already got a favourite song?

I love Close Every Door and Any Dream Will Do of course. I also love Pharaoh’s Dream Explained, I enjoy singing that, it’s quite bouncy.

Winning the X Factor in 2009, it’s what most people will know you from – is it a badge you still wear proudly?

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The thing with the show is, and I know it’s had a bit of a decline recently and people have been slating it in recent years, but without the profile it gave me, a lot of the things that I have done, including Joseph, probably wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the X Factor.

The X Factor led to one thing, which led to another, which led to another, so I’m glad I was able to be a part of such a big show.

You’re also the third X Factor contestant to star in Joseph after Lloyd Daniels and Amelia Lily were on the tour last year – do you think TV talent shows are a great platform for singers to branch out into other musical fields?

The thing is for me, I’ve done this for six years now, I’ve made four albums, had my own tours, and the nice thing I feel I’ve been able to do with my career, especially in the last two or three years, is to have a bit of diversity, which challenges me as well, something different to what people expect me to do. And that way, I don’t get bored, and I don’t think the audiences that come and see my shows do either, because I always try and do different things. And sometimes I do things that people wouldn’t think I would do, which is a nice thing.

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Do you think being cast as Joseph has taken people by surprise then?

I thought people would have been quite shocked but everyone has been telling me how perfect I am for the role, and that they’ve been telling me for years to do this (laughs). But that might just be because I’m called Joseph (laughs).

Are you still in touch with anyone from the X Factor?

Oh yeah. I mean, we’re not on the phone to each other every day but we see each other every now and then. And in this industry you bump into people all the time at events and parties. And I do hear from Cheryl (Fernandez-Versini – who mentored Joe on the X Factor), we have kept in touch, and while we don’t speak on the phone all the time, it’s nice that we’ve managed to keep the relationship. We’re from the same neck of the woods after all, opposite sides of the river, but same part of the world.

So you won that, then Popstar to Operastar, and then The Jump – we all know about your X Factor journey but how did you get involved with the last two?

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The Jump was a last minute thing really, I actually stepped in for someone and I was on holiday at the time in a nearby place, so that all happened by surprise. And I am a skier, I’ve skied for years, but half the things they make you do on there, well, it’s not all about skiing. Half the things we did I’ve never done before, like speed skating and tobogganing.

And then Popstar to Operastar was really nice because I got to learn a different genre of music. I actually though I’d be so bad at it that people would think it a bit of a joke, so I saw it as a fun project. And then it just went to another level! Everyone was asking me to sing Nessun Dorma at my concerts! And then I signed a classical deal with Decca and it spiralled from there, it was completely unexpected.

You’re on the road with Joseph until July, but you’re used to that having toured both with X Factor Live and your own concerts – how do you find being on the road?

I find that the first two weeks on the road are a bit out of sync because your body is all over the place just trying to get into some sort of routine. Certainly when I do my shows, and the same may apply with Joseph, it takes a good couple of weeks for your voice to settle into the material. But then after a while it just becomes second nature and then your body just goes with it and you find your routine.

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The nice thing about Joseph is, I’m normally in a different place every night, which is exhausting. But with this show, we’re in places for a week so that allows you to settle for a bit.

And also, there are breathers in this. When I do my shows, I’m normally on stage for a couple of hours with no break, but with this, although I have some big numbers, I’ll have moments when I’m off stage to take a breath, get myself together before the next scene, give myself a slap (laughs) and then I’m back on!