Star of Strictly Ballroom, Matt Cardle takes our TheatreBiz Quick Quiz
Former X Factor winner Matt Cardle has joined the cast of Baz Luhrman’s musical, Strictly Ballroom at the Piccadilly Theatre and took some time off to answer our questions.
Welcome back to the West End! You’ve had a long break since your celebrated run in Memphis. How does it feel to be back on the London stage after so long?
I’m having such an amazing time in Strictly Ballroom at the Piccadilly Theatre, it’s so much fun. I was so lucky to land the part of Huey alongside Beverley Knight in Memphis so it’s taken a while for me to connect with another role. I’ve spent three years writing and recording my new album Time To Be Alive and have re-signed with Sony during that time too, so I’ve been super busy! I remember coming out of my audition for Strictly Ballroom with Drew McOnie and phoning my manager straight away to say “I really, really, really want this one”! I was so excited by the role. The company and cast have made me feel so incredibly welcome. I’m having a ball on stage every night, I really am.
Your character Wally is a proper cheeky chappy, but how much of his twinkly eyed charm is you and how much is acting?
There’s always going to be a bit of me in every role I do but Wally has the luxury of breaking the fourth wall to communicate directly with the audience. Those types of roles don’t come along very often. Every night is so different based on the audience reaction to what’s happening on stage. If they’re quiet it’s my job to make them realise they are going to have the best time from the outset. I don’t feel I’m acting to be honest, I react to the scenes as they’re going on but it’s really a reflection of the audiences reaction…. It’s mostly me with an aussie accent, but it’s a whole new discipline I’m learning.
The show contains a whole catalogue of pop classics, but which song is your favourite to perform?
I really can’t pick one because they are all so different and each song connects with a particular point of the show on an emotional level. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper) is a real moment. Slave To The Rhythm (Grace Jones) I love because I perform it so differently from my own live shows. Also I love Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps as it’s a really intimate moment of the show with myself, Zizi and Jonny.
How does being part of a West End cast compare to performing as a solo artist?
I love it because there’s a real family spirit from the minute you arrive at the theatre. Someone could be sick or injured but you all come together to make the show the best it can be. It’s true what they say, the show must always go on! I’d love to continue being a recording artist and an actor because I get a real joy from both. I was only meant to be playing Wally for 8 weeks but things have been going so well that I’m extending.
Strictly Ballroom has to be one of the most colourful shows in town, but for those people, who haven’t yet seen it, can you tell us what it has to offer?
Everyone needs to know that Strictly Ballroom isn’t two hours of ballroom dancing. You’re not coming to watch a live recording of Strictly Come Dancing! It’s essentially a comedy; you’re going to laugh your head off. That’s a promise. Stephen Matthews and Anna Francolini, who play Shirley and Doug Hastings, are the perfect duo who effortlessly bring the comedy yet an emotional side too. Underneath is a story of love and breaking down barriers with a fight for change. Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen shine every single night. They captivate the audience from start to finish with the most incredible dancing and have them in stitches during scenes. It’s classic musical theatre. Of course there’s some incredible dancing in the show too. Fernando Mira, who plays Rico, is mesmerising. I feel so lucky getting to watch him perform the Pasodoble every night.
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Photo by Johan Persson