With Only Fools and Horses the Musical opening last year at Theatre Royal Haymarket, Andy Mace joined the original West End cast as Mike the Barman, a role he continued in until theatres closed due to the pandemic, and during his time in the show so far, he has also played the role of Grandad. Since starting his stage career, Andy has been part of many productions including a number of years with The Lion King as standby Scar/Pumbaa, The Full Monty at The Prince of Wales Theatre and being in the original West End cast of Wicked. Recently answering our questions, we found out from Andy about being in Only Fools and Horses the Musical, playing Grandad in the show and performing as Scar and Pumbaa in The Lion King.
Can you tell us what it’s like being part of Only Fools and Horses the Musical in the West End?
It’s enormous fun! Only Fools is one of, if not the most enjoyable shows in which I’ve ever been lucky enough to appear. Everybody gets along backstage, the show is laugh out loud funny and the characters are established British icons with whom everyone is familiar, so it seems every night as if we can’t lose. And we don’t! We have a 100% record of our lovely audiences going completely crazy at the end of every performance so far. We’ll hopefully be back in November.
What drew you to the show and which roles have you performed in?
I was initially drawn to the show by the sheer love this country has for John Sullivan’s masterpiece of modern comedy, including my own. Like everyone I know, I have my favourite characters, episodes and moments. I’ve watched that classic scene of Del Boy falling through the bar on repeat more than once and never failed to laugh, so I knew there’d be a loyal audience. I was right too, as almost every performance so far has been sold out.
What is Grandad like to play and what were you looking forward to for continuing in the show before theatres closed?
Grandad is a beautiful mix of funny and tragic in a lot of ways. He’s (seemingly) less able to look after himself than most, likes a laugh and has his beloved green armchair to relax in (actually an original from the TV show!). He’s a joy to play as he has so many funny jokes (courtesy of John Sullivan, John’s son Jim and, of course, original Grandad on stage – Paul Whitehouse). I worked on my own version of Lennard Pearce’s voice so I’d be recognisable from the start, and I think most people can identify that. We had to do approximations of the original characters, without doing direct impersonations, so it was a hugely enjoyable process to put it all together, especially working alongside Paul, Jim and our wonderful director CJay Ranger.
How was it performing with the show at West End Live?
West End Live has been a huge part of the musical theatre calendar for years now, and it was actually my first time performing on the WEL stage last year. It was great fun, with the most appreciative and dedicated crowd you could possibly imagine (some queueing up overnight). It’s something I’ll never forget.
How did you find your time in the West End production of The Lion King?
Well, what can I say? The biggest musical of all time, given the opportunity to play two of the most iconic roles? I was thrilled to get the job and had an absolute blast during my five years in the show. It’s run by the loveliest people (special shout out to Anthony Lyn!) and sells 2100 tickets every single performance, so it’s got everything you’d ask for in a musical theatre job. I’d happily go back if they asked me, (perhaps this time to make one of the two roles my own on a permanent basis). It wasn’t without its sad times though. I went through a divorce and we lost four colleagues in my time at the Lyceum (RIP Aaron, Chris, Thea and Michae), but I consistently felt surrounded by people who genuinely cared about me, and that’s something you never take for granted.
What was it like performing in a Disney stage musical?
It’s a unique experience. The costumes are lavish, the stage is huge, the band are all phenomenal musicians and the audiences plan their trips sometimes years in advance to guarantee a ticket. The Lion King is a London landmark show now, and after twenty years and counting shows no sign of slowing down!
Can you say about being standby Scar/Pumbaa?
Being a standby is basically being a spare principal actor. You’re required to be in the building for every performance (in case one of the parts you play needs covering due to illness) and hence need to be ready to perform every night if need be. That said, I spent more time not performing than I did on the stage in my five years, but fortunately had the company of Jamie Golding (the other standby at the time) and my Xbox One to see me through the downtime! I don’t miss the Sunday shows if I’m honest, but it’s part of the job to work unsociable hours. You get used to it!
How was it being part of Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello Theatre?
Betty Blue Eyes was one of those all too common beasts – a great show that never really found its audience. It had quality writing, a great story (based on Alan Bennett’s classic film A Private Function) and stellar performances from Sarah Lancashire, Reece Shearsmith and Adrian Scarborough (to name just three) but sadly failed to take off. I was lucky enough to understudy Adrian as Meat Inspector Wormold, so got to play the role several times, and it helped me secure my next job in The Lion King as the International Musical Supervisor had seen my performance and mentioned it during my audition. Working for Cameron Mackintosh is also always a super experience, and he’s not the most successful musical producer of all time for no reason (and a lovely chap to boot!), but even he couldn’t quite manage to light the fire of public interest around Betty. Maybe she’ll return one day…
You’ve appeared in Legally Blonde as Professor Callahan on tour, how was this?
Legally Blonde is a musical masterpiece. I don’t say that lightly. There are no dull moments (thanks to Jerry Mitchell’s genius as a MT director), the musical numbers are all terrific and the story is sublime in its simplicity and its ability to engage an audience. Callahan is the traditional antagonist of the piece, so it’s always the most fun part to play for me. I loved every minute of the touring production, just as much as I enjoyed the West End version. It’s a show that’ll always come back too, so watch this space once this wretched lockdown is lifted!
You’d previously been in the production in the West End at the Savoy Theatre, how different did you find each?
I didn’t, to be honest. I understudied Callahan (played by Peter Davison) in London, so I was ready to play the part when Les Dennis finished his stint in 2012. My main part in the London production was Elle Woods’ (Sheridan Smith) father, plus a Harvard Professor and various other roles, so I was almost never off the stage. Brilliant fun, stunning show and one of my favourite ever jobs. Plus, I got to work with Peter, which, as a Dr Who fan, was a dream!
Can you tell us about some of your early roles that have included Wicked, Les Misérables and The Rocky Horror Show?
The one I’m probably most proud of is being part of the original cast of Wicked. This was 2006, so I’d already been around the West End for nine years, but it felt so fresh and engaging being part of something so huge. Working alongside Idina Menzel was also a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment, and I’m still in touch with a lot of the class of ’06, including my old mate Adam Garcia. Great times. Otherwise, other shows I did in my earlier days were all fun in their own way, most notably The Full Monty (my absolute favourite after Only Fools); RENT (in the original London production) and of course Les Misérables (which is part of almost every veteran performer’s CV, and for good reason!). I’ve also been on a couple of tours, and particularly enjoyed a UK tour of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1998 (Regent’s Park Theatre production). There’s not one job I regret, not one that doesn’t hold a lot of great memories!
What do you enjoy most about having a musical theatre career?
It’s the feeling you get at the end of a performance when you know you’ve done your best, and the show has gone down a storm. It’s an almost unbeatable feeling that I hope I continue to experience for years to come. I’ve made a lot of friends too, which is something impossible to put a price on, so to say I’m grateful is something of an understatement! I’m a very lucky guy.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the industry?
Never give up, practice every day, never give up, believe you can do it, never give up. That’s it. Apart from also making sure you know how to handle rejection. It’s a part of the job.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
Honestly, there are just a few that I could watch several times and not tire of them. The Book Of Mormon (the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on stage); Wicked and Hamilton. I can see Hamilton becoming the defining musical of the next fifty years. If you haven’t seen it, go and see it right after you see Only Fools and Horses (a work of GENIUS!).
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