📷 : Darren Bell
Recently, Alex Christian toured the UK and Internationally with Flashdance and whilst in the production, made an appearance on Dancing with the Stars Ireland. Earlier this year, Alex began his role as Dance Captain in Oklahoma! at Chichester Festival Theatre, continuing until the show’s closure in September, and is also performing in the company every night as Sam. We caught up with Alex to find out about travelling with the Flashdance tour, joining the cast of Oklahoma! and his role as Dance Captain.
How are you finding your time so far in Oklahoma! and what are you looking forward to for the rest of the run?
I’m absolutely loving it. It’s an incredible cast and the process has been fantastic as well from day one of rehearsals until we put it on stage. Usually, tech can be quite tedious, but the way it was run by the creators and the stage management team was just phenomenal. It’s a full out show, especially when you’re wearing two, sometimes three layers of clothing, so doing a full-on dance routine can be fun in Chichester summer weather!
For the rest of the run, I’m looking forward to spending time with this lovely cast, band and stage management. It’s such a lovely working environment that you look forward to coming to work every day. Each day is like a new adventure with this cast. All of us love to tap dance so have a tap jam where everybody brings in their tap shoes and we put on some music and jam to it! A couple of the band play instruments for it so it’s nice as everyone’s really sociable.
A few of us boys from the cast have got a little card tournament going on. We get ready for the show and then we play card games until we’re called on (as the cowboys, we come on in Kansas City so we’ve got a little bit more time). We keep scores and then at the end of the week we decide on an activity to do, so it’s lovely.
Was there anything that drew you to audition for the show?
I didn’t actually audition. I’d worked with Matt Cole (choreographer) before on Flashdance and he was lovely to work with, and when I was coming up to finishing Guys and Dolls, Matt asked me if I would be interested in being dance captain for something he had coming up but he couldn’t tell me what it was. Due to the fact I love working with him, I immediately said yes. I did a singing audition just so they knew what kind of singer I was.
It was my first time being on the other side of the panel as I was helping to teach the choreography to the male and female performers and it was really lovely to see how Matt sets up an audition environment as he likes to create a fun working space. He just observed while we taught the choreography which meant that he didn’t need the groups to do it over and over again and tire them out to the point where they weren’t enjoying doing the choreography. Even though I didn’t audition, it was still interesting for me and being a part of that process was really cool, I really loved it.
What’s a typical day in your role as dance captain?
It depends on the day. I’m part of the ensemble so we have a fifteen-minute warm up which involves cardio to get you sweating and your heart pumping. I usually start from the head all the way down doing little loosening up exercises that get every muscle joint moving. From that, we’ll transition into stretching. I would then help to teach the choreography to the rest of the cast in rehearsals with Jane (associate choreographer), which meant that everyone had a clear picture in front of them of what it should look like as I was the male partner and Jane was the female partner, instead of one of us trying to do both parts. When it came to tech and previews, if there were any little bits that Matt or Jane said needed looking at, I would have a look in the break to see if there was a way that we could fix the problem so when we got to it, I had a solution ready to go.
Now that we’re open, it really varies. We’re doing cover rehearsals at the moment, so my job as dance captain is to walk through the dance numbers and teach the covers all the steps for their characters. We do a cover run where we run the show from start to finish with everyone as their cover parts, so before we get to that point, I try and run the dance numbers with the rest of the ensemble so that the covers have people to interact with and they’ll have the people they’ll be partnering and so on.
I also take the warm up every single day but I try to vary it as sometimes it can be a bit samey. We do ‘Guess the Playlist’ where everyone gives me a few songs and I play a different person’s playlist every day. Nobody knows whose playlist it is and we have a voting system so everyone can guess whose music they think it is. It’s lovely because then you get to see everyone else’s music tastes.
I’ll record the show, watch it and make notes and give them to the company so we can work through them. Halfway through the run, I tend to do a little clean-up call where we go through number by number to make sure everything’s tight. I do that for two reasons – 1) it’s nice to have a refresh of detail and 2) to make sure everyone is on the same page.
As the dance captain, I check in with everyone and make sure they’re all injury-free, and if anybody does have any injuries, then I see what we can do to adjust. If we ever have anybody off, I’ll usually spend the day doing a cut show as we don’t have any swings to step in. It’s my job to remove that person’s track from the show entirely which does mean occasionally cutting their partner or ensuring someone is there to move certain props. One of the girls had injured her lower back and couldn’t do the partnering work so I took her out from all them sections and adjusted the spacing so that the audience wouldn’t be able to notice anyone was missing. That evening, I had my mum and dad in, who both knew that somebody was off, and I knew they’d be sat in the audience trying to spot where someone was missing. They have a keen eye for detail so I was fully expecting them to point it out and they came out after the show and said they couldn’t spot it so that means I’d done a good job!
📷 : Johan Persson
How is it performing on stage at Chichester Festival Theatre?
Amazing. Chichester Festival Theatre has got an incredibly loyal audience and so far, every show has been packed. The stage is right in the middle of the audience so it’s challenging because you need to play to every single angle. It’s really incredible because you’re not just projecting out front, you’re projecting to 180° of audience, so it really changes your way of thinking as a performer. We’ve had great audiences so far and our press night was incredible, the show was an absolute buzz. I think the show lends itself really well to this space, the audience and the company that we’ve got. It’s quite a dark show in terms of storyline but it’s a fun show at the same time because there are moments where everyone’s on stage. This show, in particular, has been really special for me and I really love it.
What can audiences expect from the production?
Everything – it’s got emotional scenes, it has comedy, it has moments that are going to make you gasp, moments that will make you cry and incredible dance numbers (which I’m not going to spoil). The orchestrathat we’ve got is something else, we have some of the world’s best musicians behind us and to perform to that music every night is incredible. The set, the costumes, everything has been thought through right down to the smallest detail. It’s just got everything, it’s got happiness, sadness, tricks, tap dancing, cowboys, skipping ropes, tug of war… everything we could have put in the show, we’ve shoved in.
Can you say about being part of the Flashdance tour?
I spent a year and a half on that tour. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a tough show but it was also rewarding. We had nine full-out dance routines that had some of the wildest tricks and lifts where we were throwing girls above our heads and dropping them in front of us. It was tough on our bodies but so rewarding in the sense that the audience were on their feet every night clapping away to the ten-minute Megamix with incredible songs like Maniac, What a Feeling and I Love Rock and Roll. The cast went out every night and gave it 110%, the energy did not stop from start to finish. We saw some incredible places and we got an award in South Korea for Best Overall Musical, Joanne Clifton won Best Female in a Musical and Ben Adams won Best Male in a Musical, so we came away with three awards which was amazing for the show.
I took over as dance captain after the first year which was lovely because it was a new challenge for me. It was a really special show and one that I’ll hold close because I still speak to a lot of people on it and again, working with Matt (Cole) was lovely.
📷 : Johan Persson
How was it performing on Dancing With The Stars Ireland?
For me, incredible because I’m from Ireland. My parents and I moved over to Cork when I was four and I was brought up there for fourteen years before I came back to London to study Musical Theatre at Bird College. I had people messaging me asking if they’d just seen me on Dancing With The Stars Ireland! It was such a great experience and performing on home soil was incredible. We also performed at Bord Gais Theatre and that had been my dream for many years, so to do both of those in one year was great. A couple of the dance schools that I went to or had taught at had brought a bus-load of students up and I gave them a backstage tour. It was an incredible feeling being able to perform to students who you want to inspire and show them that whatever it is they want to do in life, it’s achievable as long as you work hard.
What was it like going from Joe to playing Jimmy on tour?
Very different. I felt very connected to Joe because I created the track from the start so all the lifts were what I’d come up with, we all created our own tracks from nothing. It was such a contrast playing Jimmy because a supporting lead was something I’d always wanted to do, and I particularly love doing the comedy roles. It was really nice for me to play Jimmy intermittently throughout the run and then playing him for three weeks over Christmas was great and it was a lovely change going from a full-out dance track to playing a supporting lead.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
Going out on stage doing something that I absolutely love to do as my job and I think, at the moment, the world can sometimes be a scary place so being able to create an escape for the audience for two and a half hours is great. I will remember this moment from Flashdance until the day I die… We were in Brighton and we’d had a tough week and everyone was still putting in 110% but we were all tired and we were pushing through. Towards the end of the show, there was this beautiful little boy sat in a wheelchair and his carer was holding his hands and helping him clap along to What a Feeling. At that moment, the whole cast could see the back of the auditorium and saw the enjoyment that the boy was getting and we all looked at each other and realised the joy, excitement and happiness that we can give to somebody like that in the audience is really why we do it. It’s the best feeling in the world.
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