Up until the pandemic closed theatres around the world, Daniel Fletcher had been playing Bob in the UK Tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, a show he had been involved with since their first workshop with Melbourne Theatre Company in 2006. Over his stage career so far, Daniel’s roles have included Dennis Dupree in Rock of Ages on a number of occasions, performing as Elwood Blues, where he toured the world with Blues Brothers Approved, and originating the role of Fred Gailey in Miracle on 34th Street. Daniel is also hugely involved in voiceover which has seen him work on cartoons such as Berry Bees and Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs. We found out from Daniel about touring the UK as Bob in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, playing Big Jule in Guys and Dolls and his time as Eddie/Dr Scott in The Rocky Horror Show.
What was Bob like to play in the recent UK Tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and do you have any standout moments from your time playing him?
Bob is a salt of the earth kind of guy, a rough exterior with a heart of gold. He is a solid character, physically and morally. At first meeting he appears to be just another rough and ready bloke from the outback, but as we come to know him more, this is not the case. It was wonderful to be in a position to challenge people’s perceptions of what is considered conventional or normal as Bob’s relationship with Bernadette unfolds, and to play that tenderness. It was also the first time since I moved to the UK in 2008 that I have played a role in my native Australian accent, so that was a change for me! The entire tour was a treat and our audiences were amazing. It’s always special to see audiences react to the little bits of magic that are built into a show, and the bus arriving on stage was one of those moments every night.
Youʼd previously been in the show for Norwegian Cruise Line, how was this?
Doing shows at sea has come a really long way in recent years, and Iʼm not just talking nautical miles. The standard of presentation has to be able to compete with whatever an audience would see on land. When the cruise lines recognised this, they started to take Broadway shows to sea. They are every bit as good as what you would see on land, and for the most part, they are part of the same theatrical legacy as normally (in my experience at least), the original creative team will rehearse and install the show on the ship. It’s a lot of fun and a real bonus getting to tour around different countries and ports doing what you love. There is a real camaraderie between the performers in different shows on board too. It can get problematic when youʼre on stage in high seas and bits of set start to move or youʼre trying to dance on a seriously inclined and moving stage. But other than that, it’s all smooth sailing!
How was it returning to the show and touring with this production?
Amazing. This production was the first non-replica production of the show so our creative team had license to approach the material with fresh eyes and made some really lovely new discoveries. Working with our director Ian Talbot OBE and our choreographer Tom Jackson-Greaves was really special. They were perfectly matched to create this new version of the show with sensitivity and heart in a fresh way whilst still staying faithful to the original. No easy feat. Priscilla has been in my life since its beginning as I was a part of the very first workshop at the Melbourne Theatre Company back in 2006. We knew right away that the show was going to be something special. So it feels very fitting to be a part of this new version – another road on the Priscilla journey.
Can you tell us about playing Big Jule in Guys and Dolls?
Guys and Dolls is an absolute stand out piece of musical theatre. It has everything you want from a show – drama, comedy, romance, wonderful music, and it’s classy! Big Jule is so much fun. He is a real jerk and the further you go with a character like that the further they have to fall, so it can be extremely satisfying and fun to play. I’m not normally a nasty person so it’s interesting to explore that. Heʼs got some great one liners too, and who doesnʼt want to dress up as a 1930s American gangster? As a bonus we all had to learn to play the tambourine for our finale – so I guess I can put musician on my Spotlight now… right!?
What is The Rocky Horror Show like to be part of and how is it seeing the audience reaction to the production?
Being a part of The Rocky Horror Show is very special. For me, it felt like joining a club… becoming part of that theatrical legacy. The show is extraordinary in the way it continues to gather fans and stay relevant and fresh decade after decade. The songs, characters and story have transcended the theatre and become ingrained in popular culture and consciousness, and for good reason. They are amazing. So, being able to be a part of that and join the long list of performers who have lovingly recreated this show time and again is a very cool thing. I highly recommend it! The audience reaction to this show is unlike anything or any other show there is. The audience become a character of their own, with shout outs and gags that over time have become a part of the playing of the show. It’s a truly unique experience, heightened even more by the dressing up of audience members. It’s hilarious and liberating seeing what people arrive to the theatre wearing. The orchestrations in our production had the rock element dialled up to eleven, so each night was a rock concert. People would lose their minds. It was very cool.
What is it like performing as Eddie/Dr Scott?
Eddie is a streak of theatrical lightning as he doesnʼt appear until the end of Act One and gets killed off pretty soon after that! Spoiler alert if youʼre one of the few people who doesnʼt know the story of Rocky Horror. So, for Eddie, youʼve got to come out all guns blazing from the moment you set foot on the stage. Thereʼs no warming into it. He is larger than life and I loved getting covered in blood and plasma every night to be Eddie. Dr Scott is mad and lots of fun. I was asked to play him with a German accent. We toured right across Germany and I was told by the German audiences my accent was very believable and humorous. Maybe that’s just code for rubbish! I did master the skill of doing a wheelie in a wheelchair though.
Youʼve played Dennis Dupree in Rock of Ages on a number of occasions, what do you enjoy most about the role?
Rock of Ages continues to be one of the most enjoyable shows Iʼve ever been in. Playing Dennis Dupree was a total buzz every night. Dennis has such a cool self-assuredness, swagger and wisdom, it’s hard not to love him. The appeal for me was the high-stakes drama in the seemingly mundane scenario of trying to save a battling business and the comedy that was born out of that. The surprising bromance with Lonny was a classic moment in the show and always went down a storm. But above all, letʼs be honest, it was the kick ass 80s score. Hit after hit and not a single song has been ruined for me by being in the show. Thatʼs saying something. I got really good at wearing long wigs in this show and even managed one night to sing with a big chunk of it down my throat. The hazards of live theatre! I do not recommend trying that at home. The 70s style platform shoes I wore were also a treat. Although I donʼt know how people used to get around in them. It was hard enough for a couple of hours every night.
Can you say what itʼs like performing as Elwood Blues from The Blues Brothers?
Playing such an iconic character as Elwood comes with a lot of expectation, and a responsibility to be as faithful to the original character as possible. We did a lot of work on refining his physicality and voice. Once we got all that right, the suit, hat and glasses pretty much did the rest. The longer you live in it the more comfortable it becomes and you start to embody the role much more. We toured for over two years so it became like a second skin in the end. Being able to sing those songs and be a part of that show night after night was the best.
How was your time touring the world in Blues Brothers Approved?
The best thing about being on the road aside from the great places you get to visit and adventures you have is the camaraderie with your tour mates. Our cast, band and crew were together for such a long time, they are my extended family now. Touring the way we did, spending hundreds of hours on tour buses, you form deep connections with people, have a lot of laughs and have your fair share of difficulties too. Touring can be tough. If youʼve got good people around you, it makes it so much easier. A good sense of humour goes a long way.
We started with our UK and European tours and this extended into being asked to do a residency in Chicago which was a huge honour as itʼs the spiritual home of The Blues Brothers and location for the classic movie. After that, we toured right across America. We also performed in Turkey and South America. I’ve lost track of how many theatres weʼve been to. These days I can only tell you what year something happened by remembering what tour I was on at the time. There are so many standout moments. One that was particularly special was being asked to throw out the opening pitch at the Chicago Cubs baseball game at Wrigley Field, then sitting in the stadium as The Blues Brothers, having a beer and watching the game. It was a real pinch yourself moment.
You originated the role of Fred Gailey in the UK premiere of Miracle on 34th Street, what was this like to do?
It was a wonderful experience and great to see the amazing response to this classic Christmas story on stage. Richard Attenborough, who starred in the film version, even tweeted our Kris Kringle to wish him luck which was very kind. Itʼs always exciting being the first cast to create something new or bring your own take to it, even if it is a story that people know. It feels fresh again.
The story has a lot to offer adults and children alike and Meredith Wilson’s score has all the pageantry of Christmas in New York. Miracle was right after Rock of Ages finished in town so it was a big change going from long-haired hippie Dennis Dupree to clean-cut fast-talking military man Fred Gailey. A highlight for me was that it snowed on stage every night. It was proper theatre magic, and a credit to Paul Taylor Mills, our producer, for making it look so good.
Having voiceover roles in TV shows such as Berry Bees and Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, can you tell us more about this?
Working on cartoons is the best. I love it. Seeing the artwork for a character, creating the voice and then watching it all come to life through animation is so satisfying and just really cool. It was one of the things I always wanted to do as a child. I used to copy the voices of cartoon characters and make silly sounds and voices, so it’s a real buzz to think that I now get to do that for my work. I remember the first time I was in the studio doing some ridiculous sound effects for one of the characters in Captain Flinn as heʼs falling off a cliff into the ocean. I had a little giggle to myself and thought – I just got paid for that. Having said that, it is hard work. We would sometimes record as many as eight or nine episodes in a day so you have to be vocally fit and mentally sharp to maintain your workload.
Over the years, youʼve worked on many stage/screen roles, can you talk about some of the others youʼve been involved with?
Touring to Japan with We Will Rock You was a real highlight. Queen have a huge fan base in Japan and we were treated incredibly well by the producers and audiences alike. Each night was like a rock concert. We added an extra encore of the song I was Born to Love You which was a huge hit in Japan, and every night the audience would rush to the stage, people would be in tears and were fainting. Iʼve never seen anything like it since.
On screen, a wonderful little Aussie comedy I made several years ago has recently found a new home on Amazon Prime Video. Inanimate Objects – directed by award-winning Australian director Don Percy, tells the story of a young man from a small town with big dreams of getting out, if only he can stop running into the furniture. It’s great fun. We did a lot of stunts and slapstick in that one. My body still hasnʼt forgiven me.
How did your acting and voiceover career come about and where did you start?
Like a lot of people, I was just a kid when I got an idea that I wanted to be an actor. I started doing shows when I was in school. I enjoyed it a lot. We did a musical production of Robin Hood when I was nine years old. The kid who was playing the Sheriff of Nottingham got stage fright on his first entrance, wet himself, and ran off, poor guy. I was left standing there on my own, with no one to do the big fight scene with, until our school principal stepped in and I got to kill him in a sword fight in front of the whole school. It was my first encounter with improv and safe to say I was the hero for a while at school. I remember thinking at the time, I just want to do this. Everything since then has just been an extension of that moment I think. In terms of where I am now, it’s taken a lot of hours of study and continued learning, whether in a formal situation or reading literature that excites me. Iʼve been extremely fortunate to work with some brilliant and very talented people. Learning on the job will always hone your skills far quicker than the schoolroom in my opinion. I was also fortunate early on to have a couple of experienced mentors who shared a lot of wisdom and pointed me in the right direction.
Do you have any favourite TV or theatre shows to watch?
Schittʼs Creek. Number one for me at the moment. Such satisfying comedy and clever writing. Iʼve been a big fan of Catherine OʼHara and Eugene Levy ever since all of those wonderful Christopher Guest films so it’s great to see them on screen together again.
Completely opposite, I’ve recently got into Kingdom starring Frank Grillo, Jonathan Tucker and Nick Jonas on Netflix. Set in an MMA gym, itʼs a gritty drama about fighters and family relationships. The fight work in it is brilliantly done, technically correct and the drama is top shelf.
My favourite musical is Little Shop of Horrors. The recent production at Regent’s Park was a stunning interpretation, and the film version with Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin is a classic piece of cinema and masterclass in everything, directed by the extraordinary Frank Oz. Who, among his many credits, is the voice of Yoda. So, technically speaking, Yoda directed Little Shop of Horrors. No wonder itʼs so magical.
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