Having many stage roles throughout his career, Dan Buckley appeared at The Other Palace last year in Eugenius! which received great reviews and award nominations including Best Musical at the Off West End Awards. Dan opens in FIVER tomorrow at Southwark Playhouse, a new musical by Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees, and along with his stage career, he runs a popular YouTube channel with fellow actor Scott Paige. Meeting up with Dan, we find out about playing Feris in Eugenius!, the Buckley & Paige YouTube channel and his new production, FIVER.
Is there anything you can say about FIVER which is opening tomorrow at Southwark Playhouse?
We did a workshop of FIVER last year. It’s a very clever show, not only does it have a great score, but it’s little snippets of different people’s lives, following the journey of a £5 note. I know there have been changes to it since the last time I did it. There are loads of different characters, you go from a homeless guy to a busker to a couple getting engaged to a shop worker to a waitress, so it opens up to a varied amount of styles and genres. It’s going to be a challenge in the best way.
When did rehearsals start and what are you looking forward to for the run?
Rehearsals started mid-June. I’m looking forward to singing again. It’s going to be quite hard and relentless so sustaining that for all shows a week is going to be a new challenge for me. Also, it’s a small space there so working in that intimate environment will be another thing I’m looking forward to and having the audience right there.
You played Feris in the original cast of Eugenius!, how was your time in the musical?
Amazing, it was probably one of the most fulfilling acting jobs I’ve ever done. I felt like it creatively challenged me and the creative team were so amazing. Starting at the Palladium was wild and hearing the response was so good. For them to keep me on was the icing on the cake as I loved being a part of it. I don’t know if the journey’s ended, but we’ll see.
Can you tell us about your character and what was he like to play?
We called the three principal geeks – Eugene, Janey and Feris – the three heroes. Feris was not so much the third wheel but he’s kind of there to facilitate the other two’s connection. He’s got his own thing going on, he’s so charismatic in his own way and so sure of himself that even though he was a geek, he was endearing and confident. He was one of the best writers and he helped Eugene pursue his dream and then followed his journey with him and supported him when things went bad. It was amazing and a total joy to play someone that uninhibited and exciting every night.
Had you worked with any of the cast members previously?
I knew a couple of people when we did it at the Palladium and then, of course, Alison (Arnopp) came on from the Palladium and we were the original two from that company that stayed on for the final run at The Other Palace. I don’t think I had worked with anyone before apart from Alison, but it was nice to meet some new friends who are now friends for life.
You recorded the original West End cast recording, what was the experience like?
It didn’t really start out as that. It was originally posed as a concept album but then they were happy with the results. It was recorded in the studio at Ben Adams’ house. If you listen to the album without having seen the show, there are a lot of vocals that aren’t on the album because we done the bare minimum and then they added loads on and made it sound way more epic than what it was originally. I think if they’d recorded it with the band that they had during the run and they had all of the cast, then it would have been a different experience. Ben asked if I wanted to go over and record and I said yes as I wanted to be associated with the show and I was really keen. It was amazing. Recording a part like that is hard and tough on the voice but I loved it. Ben’s a dream and a total genius. He’s amazing at what he does.
In 2013, you joined the original West End cast of The Book of Mormon, can you say about your time as Standby Elder Cunningham?
It was crazy being part of a huge Broadway transfer, for the original company especially, it was very exciting and very stressful but in a good way as there’s a lot of pressure on getting it open and ready to run. The show is a hit and it felt like one amazing opportunity after the other. We did so many Gala performances where we had so many celebrities coming in and I know it’s not about meeting them but it just makes you realise that people really want to see the show. They set it up pretty quickly, I think we had a show running after two weeks and we still had six more weeks of rehearsals so it was quite a quick process getting it on its feet.
Opening the show was incredible and the cast were insane. I’ve genuinely met friends for life on that job and two were my ushers at my wedding and they’re my best friends. It was always daunting going on but I knew I was right for the part so I think I just ran with it. The very first show I went on, I had to run out of the wings and run down to the wings room and heave into their sink because I was so scared. That’s just one of the perks of being an actor because you never know how the nerves are going to hit you. The Book of Mormon was an incredible experience.
What was it like being part of the cast of Loserville at the Garrick Theatre?
A total joy. It came with its little pockets of drama but you can expect that with a young company. Overall, it was the best West End debut I could have asked for, to be creating a role in the West End is an actor’s dream and everybody was amazing. It was a great venue to work at and the cast were so buzzed to find out that we would be transferring and we all genuinely loved being in it. Again, I met friends for life and it’s amazing that you go into these contracts and meet so many incredible people. I think that show deserved a better life, it deserved to last longer but, for whatever reason, it didn’t sell. I think, individually, that was the hardest working ensemble that I’ve ever known. Nick Winston is a genius, there’s a reason why he’s attached to so many projects because he works everyone so hard and everything is so detailed. I used to stand in the wings and watch the ensemble because I was in awe as they worked so hard every single show. The set was amazing, the lighting was incredible, the music was amazing. It was an amazing production to be a part of, I just wish it had lasted a bit longer.
How was it being involved with the recent workshop of Cinderella?
Crazy! I was brought on very last minute, I got the call on the Friday and they asked if I could start the following day so I went in and it was full of actors and Andrew Lloyd Webber in a room together, working on his new show. The cast were absolutely insane and I was lucky to watch them and learn from them and again, I met some lovely people. It felt like the biggest workshop I’d done in the smallest space. The music was amazing. Andrew Lloyd Webber brought a lot of people along to watch so we had Michael Caine and David Walliams and various others and we were sat there surrounded by famous people. He really appreciates their feedback and things got changed a bit, that’s what workshops are for so it was really amazing.
I feel like as you get older and more experienced, you lose that sort of submissiveness so I didn’t look at Andrew and start bowing down, I just looked at him and learnt from him and was happy to be facilitating his new production. It felt way more collaborative that way and I then didn’t spend the whole time worrying about how I came across and I wasn’t panicking whenever he came near me. It’s so easy to be like that because he’s one of the most successful musical theatre writers in the world.
There are so many different plans for what it could be, whether that’s a Broadway musical or something else. If it ever has a future life, it will feel really special knowing that I was part of the creation of getting it on its feet.
How different is it workshopping a stage production to a film such as Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again?
It’s funny because Mamma Mia was still like a theatrical workshop because they brought on us actors to hear the script and the music all the way through for the first time, to make sure that it ran well and made sense. Ol Parker (who is incredible) was there and I don’t think he knew quite what he’d got himself in for! I remember on the first day, we did a few rehearsals and singing, and in the most generic sense, you have music stands across the front and you get up and say the lines and then sit back down again. There’s no choreography, movement or staging, you just present the show as best as you can with your books. Ol Parker was sat there and I remember him looking around and you could see him thinking ‘wow’ and that felt amazing. We had lots of people there like Katie Brayben, Mazz Murray, Emily Tierney, Bronté Barbé… so many amazing and accomplished performers. I don’t think musical theatre performers would necessarily usually get seen for Ol Parker’s work, so to see him sit there and really appreciate what we were doing was amazing. Will Burton did an amazing job of getting everyone in.
The only difference when we presented it was there were only a couple of people watching and it was mainly cameras and lots of microphones. It’s weird knowing there’s an archive footage of me and a bunch of actors for that movie. When I watched Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, as far as I’m aware, they hadn’t changed anything. I was privileged to be asked to go in to record the demo tracks for the actor who played Young Bill, so when he was learning the music, he was listening to me, so that’s really bizarre. We weren’t allowed out of the room with our scripts and we had to sign them in and out as it was top secret because it was a highly anticipated movie. It was wild and really cool. I knew a lot of people on that project so it was exciting.
Did you know you wanted a stage career from a young age?
I remember I wanted to act when I was nine but I don’t know why. I think I used to say it was after a primary school nativity and we did some creative thing where I played a stall merchant and I had to get angry and flip my stall and I think I remember at that moment, I thought that was cool and after that, I really wanted to do acting. I did am-dram and my parents drove me to bigger cities to do Stagecoach. I think, until that point, I’d wanted to work in the medical profession as a doctor – my dad’s a paramedic, my mum’s a GP nurse – so that was the environment I hung out in. After school, I’d go to the local hospital and speak to the patients while my mum was working. I loved hanging out there and I wanted to be in that environment but then acting definitely took priority from a young age.
Have you seen any theatre shows recently that you would recommend?
I would say Emilia, but that’s now closed. Waitress, Come From Away… though I think people will go and see that anyway. Anything at the National, I feel like people don’t go to the National enough and they’ve always got a massive array of shows to see there. If you’re debating what show to go and see, just go to the National as there’s going to be three or four plays on that you could watch. That would be my advice!
You run the Buckley & Paige YouTube channel with Scott Paige, what made you decide to start the channel and how do you come up with the content ideas?
Scott and I met on Eugenius! and we knew of each other through friends, but we’d never met. People always said to us that we’d either get on like a house on fire or not like each other at all. I feel like we complement each other perfectly because Scott is the version of myself I wish I could be. He walks into a room and he has everyone in the palm of his hands, not because he’s loud and the centre of attention, but because he has an amazing aura and the quickest brain, he’s so funny. Everyone loves him. I feel like we bounce off each other really well because he has such a quick wit and I tend to think more about what I’m saying so we complement each other perfectly. I just knew when I met him, that he would be a special friend.
We started doing Instagram Stories and someone said to us that we should start up a YouTube channel and we originally said no because we knew the work that goes into a YouTube channel and how hard it is to get even a hundred subscribers. I’ve loved YouTube for years and I watch it more than television, so when we’d finished Eugenius!, I asked him if we should give it a try and once we got our offers for the second run of the show, we started filming ourselves and that’s when the channel started. We started vlogging and I much prefer vlogging to sit down videos, but only because it’s easier to film your life.
We try and vary it so we do fun videos for people to enjoy and Inside Info videos where we talk about the industry and our experience, and these videos tend to be quite long and they’re essentially like podcasts. We try and alternate them so people can dip in and out if they want to. We’ve tried making challenges up before, it’s just stupid, fun stuff that we enjoy. We would never do anything that we didn’t love or enjoy, and we wouldn’t ever talk about something that we felt like we didn’t know something about. There are times when one of us has more to say than the other because of our own experiences, and that’s why we started introducing guests to talk about their experiences in the industry, instead of just talking about the shows Scott and I have done. People want to know about filming, self-taping, vocal coaching… so we get guests who know about them areas so people can learn more.
I think our main demographic is theatre fans but then every now and then, a really prolific message will come through about something we said in one of our videos from an actor who has given up, or stopped acting when they were a kid and they want to do it again and how we’ve inspired them to go for it, just from something we said in our videos. I never anticipate that but we get the most profound responses to our Inside Info videos. I love filming fun videos where we are laughing our heads off and being silly, but the Inside Info videos are way more valuable than I sometimes give them credit for. We’re always thinking about what we can talk about next.
We film our videos in batches because Scott’s based in Manchester, so they’re all filmed in advance, and he’s down often enough for us to film another batch. He lived with me before so it was easy to start up the YouTube channel, so we were worried that when he moved back home, that it wouldn’t work but we then could have just vlogged and showed our separate lives. We have done that a few times and people are still interested in that, but generally speaking it’s working out well. We both really love it.
How much fun do you have filming with Scott?
He’s brilliant, he’s so amazing and I like to think I keep all of the fun stuff in. Some of the stuff we joke about is not appropriate for the channel because it has swear words in it or is not relevant to the video. He’s so funny and he comments on anything, like the dog, but leaving them in the video wouldn’t make sense. Editing the videos are such a joy. Scott’s so brilliant and so supportive, he’s strong and he’s so compassionate. Generous is probably the first word I’d use to describe Scott. I wouldn’t want to film or hang out on camera with anyone else, he’s just brilliant.
What are your future plans for the Buckley & Paige channel?
To keep trying to grow it. We got quite a few subscribers early on and it’s now doing that slow but steady climb, every time we post a video, we gain a few more subscribers. I could delve into the analytics of it all and figure out how we can publicise it but we love what we do and if our target was to hit a million subscribers, then I think we would probably work a bit harder on it. We are both happy and content with our lives that we like the way it is at the moment. I love editing, it keeps my brain ticking over. It’s nice to have something to think about in between acting jobs. Our goal has never been to get all the subscribers in the world, I don’t think we’d be able to handle that anyway as I wouldn’t want it to take over my life.
We love the fact that we can keep in touch with all of our subscribers on our Instagram page and we love DMing and chatting to people. The Internet can be a really nasty, horrible place and we wanted to create a happy place on the Internet. We don’t have a huge channel but we haven’t had any hate or negative comments because we’re creating a positive environment and the people that want to watch it are encouraged by that.
We try to hold a competition or a giveaway at every milestone we reach and when we get to 5000 subscribers, we’ll want to do something cool, but it takes a while to get there. We get maybe five or ten subscribers with every video, so it’s still very slow but we love seeing the numbers go up. We love filming for it and that’s primarily why we’re doing it.
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