Making numerous appearances over the years in The Rocky Horror Show, Richard Meek toured the UK as Brad Majors and toured internationally in 2017 as Leo Bloom in The Producers. Among his other roles, he played Sir Galahad in Spamalot and joined the cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie along with workshopping Footballers’ Wives – The Musical. Most recently, Richard was in the UK Tour of Annie as Rooster, a character which is the opposite to his previous projects, and finished the run late last year. Meeting with Richard, he chats about appearing in The Rocky Horror Show, touring with Spamalot and playing Rooster in Annie.
What was Rooster like to play in the UK tour of Annie and was there anything that drew you to the role?
Rooster was a role that I didn’t initially think about playing. I had seen the production in the West End with Jonny Fines as Rooster and I thought he was brilliant. He seemed to be a lot younger than myself so I didn’t think of it as something I would play. I went through the process and it just fitted me perfectly. Rooster is the opposite to what I usually play – he’s the villain – and I loved it! A lot of my friends who came to see it were quite surprised because it was totally different to my previous roles.
How was it rehearsing for this show and meeting the child cast for the first time?
I was much more nervous than the kids! I remember walking in to the first day of rehearsals and thinking about how many people were there, and I knew that when I did my lines, everyone would be watching. All the kids were there singing It’s the Hard Knock Life and they were confident and excited. I remember doing a scene early on in the rehearsals with one of the Annies and I was feeling anxious about my lines, and she was there amongst all these adults just getting on with it. I think I get more anxious the older I get.
What was Easy Street like to perform alongside Lily and Miss Hannigan?
I loved Easy Street because it’s always been one of my favourite parts of the film. It was really active and it’s the most I’ve jumped about since I was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The main song and the reprise are both different and at the end of the first one, we got wheeled off on a desk, and for both we just went full out. The choreography by Nick Winston is brilliant as it really uses the music and really sells it. Craig Revel Horwood originated the role of Miss Hannigan in this production, so that’s why it’s as dancey as it is because Nick was able to create this piece for a dancer.
Can you tell us about the workshop you did for Footballers’ Wives – The Musical?
I was asked to do the workshop just before I started the Thoroughly Modern Millie tour. The book was by Maureen Chadwick and the music and lyrics were by Kath Gotts. It was myself and Alice Fearn (who is incredible) playing the two lead parts and we sang a mashup of two songs called Christ He’s Dead, which happened immediately after a moment in the piece where they’ve had a fight with a football manager and he gets knocked out. It’s a brilliant song about how to make it look like the manager has fallen over drunk and that it’s nothing to do with them.
They did it again last year when I was in Annie and it’s progressed further. I think it’s still with Alice Fearn. I loved it. Watch this space for Footballers’ Wives.
You’ve appeared in The Rocky Horror Show a number of times what do you enjoy most about this production?
I love the music and Richard O’Brien has done an incredible job. It’s a cult classic but I’ve actually never seen the film. I remember in the auditions, the director asked if I’d seen the film and when I said no, he said not to watch it so I wasn’t trying to copy anything. There are Rocky fans that still follow me and still come and support me in other shows and I meet them at stage door, and that’s a unit that Rocky Horror creates – it’s all about unity and acceptance.
I’ve always played Brad, but when Joel Montague (who’s now in Waitress) injured his back, they needed someone very last minute who knew the show well to cover for a few weeks while he had his operation. The director asked me if I would consider it, so I ended up doing three months and that’s how I ended up going back in with that company to do it in town and for the cinemas.
How was it doing the performance that was broadcast live to cinemas?
Incredibly nerve-racking! We had a practice the day before so they could get used to the shots. We had celebrity narrators including Stephen Fry, Emma Bunton, Anthony Head and Mel Giedroyc, and of course, Richard O’Brien. There’s a great picture of me chilling with some of these people just having a chat!
It was a mega exciting night and it went by very quickly. I remember coming off stage and my phone going crazy because all my friends were watching it live in cinemas around the country and in Europe. It was then played on BBC in America so that was crazy.
Did you have a favourite scene in the show?
I really enjoyed the bed scene but it’s a bit naughty! I also like the Agatha Christie scene when Dr. Scott comes in, and I’ve done that from both sides as Dr. Scott and as Brad. My favourite part of it is I’m Going Home, which is almost the last song, it’s incredible. There are so many amazing songs in that show. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’m getting a bit old for Brad now but I’d play any part!
What is Spamalot like to be part of?
Spamalot is one of my most favourite things I’ve ever done. It was a six-month tour but it felt like six weeks because we had so much fun and it whizzed by. I got to perform one of my favourite musical theatre songs, The Song That Goes Like This, and I’ve been obsessed with the show for years. I was working abroad and I got a call offering me the role of Sir Galahad and that was my dream. It’s so funny and the songs are brilliant. I did it with Joe Pasquale and Sarah Earnshaw, and we laughed our way through six months!
I would also do that show again in a heartbeat. I feel that six months wasn’t enough, we needed another year as I could have just stayed doing that. It was really hard work because we all play so many different parts but getting to perform the Monty Python material and getting to meet Eric Idle was mega. I got to wear a long wig to toss-toss like Glinda in Wicked which was brilliant!
Can you tell us about your experience in Germany with Starlight Express?
I still feel it in my legs now! Starlight was something I never thought I’d do. I’d not seen the show and I didn’t know the music, but circumstances took me over there and it was incredible. It’s so intense because there’s a three-month skate school you go through before it opens. It’s in German so you have to learn phonetically how to sing a show in a language you don’t know.
The skating involves racing on three-tier tracks, it’s insane but I loved it. However, it was too difficult for me to carry on for another year because it was proper hard work as we had four-show weekends. It’s something that I’m really proud to have been a part of because I’d just turned thirty and was ready for a big challenge. I also got a pug out of it because I bought a pug while I was living over there! That was one of the main highlights of Starlight along with all of the great friends I made in that show.
You played Leo Bloom in The Producers, what was this role like to perform?
Amazing. Mel Brooks is so funny. Again, I hadn’t seen the show so wasn’t really familiar with it when I got the script through, but I remember reading the freak out scene where someone takes Leo Bloom’s blue blanket away from him. The blanket stops him from having an absolute mental breakdown so when it gets taken away, he runs around the office screaming and he lies down on the floor hysterical. I read it through and thought ‘this is totally me’ and knew I could do it.
It’s an incredible show and the music is amazing. It was a huge production which was co-produced by Selladoor and Nederlander, and again, it was over too soon. I would love to do it again.
What was it like working with the cast in Thoroughly Modern Millie?
Hayley Tamaddon is one of my best friends. We did Brad and Janet together the first time I ever did The Rocky Horror Show, and we became best friends and have been very, very close ever since. I auditioned for the boyfriend, Jimmy, but I was a little bit too old. I was having a drink with Hayley the week before she started rehearsals and we were saying about how we could have been together. Two days later, I got a call asking if I’d like to play the part of Trevor Graydon. I called Hayley and said she wasn’t going to believe what I was about to say! We had the most amazing time.
I’d seen Thoroughly Modern Millie in town many years ago, and I love the film. The music is brilliant, it’s funny, it has tap dancing, and I loved it. It’s one of my favourite experiences and the company were amazing, we all got on really well. I got to sing The Speed Test and it’s all about Trevor annotating to her, his new secretary, to see how fast she can do it. I loved it!
Hayley Tamaddon was the stand-out part about Millie. There is a joy about seeing someone you love being brilliant. We commuted every venue together, we’d finish on Saturday night, jump in the car, travel back home together and pick each other up. We were peas in a pod.
Had you always wanted a musical theatre career?
Yes, as young as I can remember, I wanted to be an actor, or musical theatre actor, or a singer. I always wanted to go to Italia Conti and get started that way, and if I had, I would probably have better technique. I started at college when I was sixteen and that’s when it all began. The only other thing I have a passion for is working with children with special needs. My sister is disabled so it’s the only other thing I get any pleasure from. It’s the only thing that makes me happy.
Do you enjoy watching theatre shows as well as performing in them, if so, what’s the most recent you attended and which would you recommend seeing?
I love it. I recently went to see Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy at the Playhouse. It was amazing, it’s set almost like a radio play. The last musical I saw was Gypsy in Manchester at the Royal Exchange and that was amazing. I’d never seen it live on stage before but I had a friend who was in the production at the Savoy a couple of years ago. I love the Royal Exchange, it’s such an interesting space and I’ve seen lots of shows there. For Gypsy, they had a proscenium arch which would keep turning so eventually everyone got the idea of sitting in the auditorium. It was brilliant! I had a friend in that as well which was really fun. I didn’t realise until just before I went in and noticed her as one of the strippers. It was so funny, I loved it.
You’ve performed in pantomimes previously; how different do you find working on this type of production?
I started my career in Joseph doing twelve shows a week, and then when I became Joseph, I did ten shows. Panto is like that but you have an awesome time because you’re all in it together, but it’s a fifteen-show Christmas week. I haven’t done panto for quite a while now but I always have a great time even though it is really hard.
I only saw one this year as my best friend did one in Skegness and it was proper old school. There were no names in it, just a group of really talented people. I bought a glove and my sister had a fairy light stick, it was really fun!
I do enjoy not working over Christmas though. My friend Lesley Joseph, who was the last Miss Hannigan, only finished panto not long ago which is relentless.
What are your plans for the upcoming months?
I do lots of gigging with a group called The 4Tunes, and we do gigs around the country as well as guest entertainment on ships. I was recently in the Bahamas which was really good. We did two thirty-minute shows on New Year’s Eve on a huge cruise ship. I’ve got a couple more of those coming up that keep me going.
I’m seeing a PT at the moment for the first time for my mental health and my physical health. You have to keep pushing on and you have to learn in this industry that even though you are feeling like you’re never going to work again, you could actually be starting a job on Monday. I’m currently auditioning for shows.
I’ve got my house, I’ve got my dog and I’ve got my partner… it’s all about keeping focused. I’m thirty-seven now and it can be really hard because there are high highs and low lows in this industry because that’s just the nature of it. I just have to stick with it because there’s nothing else I want to do.
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