Before the pandemic closed theatres around the world, Ian Carlyle had been performing as Brit in the Dutch Tour of We Will Rock You, a show he had previously worked on in the West End at Dominion Theatre for a number of years. Ian was part of the European premiere of Little Miss Sunshine and, having made his West End debut in The Lion King, he has been involved with many shows since, including the original Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Tour, Sister Act and Five Guys Named Moe, where he played Four-Eyed Moe at the Marble Arch Theatre. Most recently, Ian was seen in the ensemble of Musicals: The Greatest Show which aired on BBC Radio 2 and BBC One earlier this month, and is now available to stream on iPlayer. Recently answering our questions, Ian tells us about his time in We Will Rock You, being in the cast of Five Guys Named Moe and appearing in Musicals: The Greatest Show.
You had been touring in the Dutch Tour of We Will Rock You as Brit before the pandemic, how had this been going?
It is always a privilege to sing the iconic songs of Queen. Doing the Dutch tour was amazing for a number of reasons… first time visiting Italy where we rehearsed, and first time in the Netherlands, both incredibly beautiful places, and this particular production was a complete re-imagining of the show… different set, different costumes so I had a rare chance to re-create the role a little. But the cherry on top was performing alongside an incredibly talented Italian cast and crew who are so very passionate about musical theatre, and to top that off, I got to perform alongside Anastasia, who was our Killer Queen for part of the tour… she’s just amazing.
Having been part of We Will Rock You previously in the West End over a number of years, what do you enjoy most about being part of the production and performing the Queen music?
You mean apart from singing those brilliantly iconic songs seven nights a week? With a band whose members were part of iconic rock bands themselves, and a gorgeous cast of insanely talented singers, dancers, actors and actresses? The family atmosphere our amazing creative team cultivated for us? The rare occasions having the legends that are Dr. Brian May and/or Roger Taylor drop by to play on stage with us? Playing at the historic Dominion Theatre? Playing my first ever lead role in the West End? Or even the amazing fans of the show of which I have not seen the like since? 😁… I loved every minute of every second of being in the show, We Will Rock You will always have a special place in my heart.
Last year, you were involved in the charity video of Bohemian Rhapsody which featured Brian May, how was this?
When I was in the show we did quite a few charity appearances and it’s always nice to see a big show like WWRY doing their bit for charity, so this was amazing in that it keeps that tradition going. Also, it was nice to reconnect with memories of being in the show, and hearing the incredible voices of past and present cast members, watching the video made me think WOW!… I was part of that show.
What was Larry/Buddy like to play in Little Miss Sunshine and what was it like touring with the production?
Playing these two characters was so much fun but also challenging because up until then I hadn’t played two different characters that occupied the same timeline in a show. I also played a doctor in the show, so the challenge was to give them each a distinct character of their own, so that the audience would see the character and not me, the actor who was playing the three different characters, if that makes sense. Touring with the show was a great experience, I got to play in theatres I’d never played in before, in a few places that I’ve never visited before, I love travelling and it was great to explore and also to see that theatre is such a big part of a lot of communities across the UK.
How was it being part of the European premiere and was there anything that drew you to the role?
It was great to be a part of a European premiere because I got to originate the characters that I played. I love the process of creating a character, creating a backstory, creating the nuances of a character and seeing where the character’s journey takes him and the people who interact with him. That’s what drew me to the production… the opportunity to create, I also understudied the Grandpa role, even though I’m waaaaay too young 😬, so to discover him was especially fun.
Can you tell us about playing Four-Eyed Moe in Five Guys Named Moe at the Marble Arch Theatre?
Oh man. Where to start with this show. This was such a highlight of my career, this show is an example of musical theatre at its best. All singing, all dancing, LIVE performance. Playing Four-Eyed Moe was a ridiculously incredible experience. I cannot tell you what it meant to me being a part of this legend of a show, not only did it challenge every aspect of performing for me, but performing with my Five Guys Named Moe brothers was good for my soul, being with them on stage, and off stage, every night, taught me a lot about myself and about my profession. I don’t think we were supposed to have that much fun on stage, but we did. Marble Arch Theatre was built specially for the show right next to the arch itself, and the buzz was incredible. Working under the direction of Clarke Peters was an invaluable experience as a performer, as a person, and as a creative.
In 2015, you were cast in Show Boat at Sheffield Theatres, what was this like to do?
Wow, another highlight without a doubt. I’ve been so fortunate with the shows I’ve been in. Again, an incredible show, with an incredible cast line-up, and I mean c’mon… Olivier-winning director Daniel Evans, so incredible to work with… how many times have I said incredible in this interview? Haha. Everything about this show was just, here it comes again… incredible! The script, the music, the set, the story, the cast, the crew, the creative team and the theatre team all came together to make this one hell of a brilliant show. This is another one that has a little corner of my heart.
How was it performing in Sister Act and can you tell us about your time in the show?
I love this show so much. I have been fortunate to play two characters in this show on two different occasions for two different theatre companies, and both were a pleasure to play. One of them was so far from my own character as a person but it was so exciting to play the villain. And the other was a bit closer to who I am as a person and it was a thrill to walk his journey too. I am a huge fan of the movies so to have a chance to do the stage show was definitely amazingly cool.
What was it like touring the world with Notre Dame de Paris?
I didn’t know the impact this musical has until I was a part of it. Touring with the show showed me how loved it is across the world and showed me that musical theatre can transcend language and cultural differences. The response to the show was incredible and very humbling. And the show took me to countries and places that I never thought I would see ever in my lifetime. I will always be grateful to have been part of this show.
You understudied the role of Jesus on the original Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Tour, can you say more about this?
This is one of my favourite musicals of all time and to have been part of this production was a dream come true. Covering Jesus was a surprise and very, very daunting but it was the icing on the cake. It was recreated to a 20th century time frame, so it was great to see a classic like this make that transformation into a relatable show for a more modern age, for a new generation of musical lovers. Epic in every sense of the word.
Do you remember how you felt making your West End debut in The Lion King and how did you find the experience being part of the musical?
Oh my goodness, there was no feeling like it. I was part of a West End show. My life up until then was a dream, and there I was, living that dream. I felt a sense of Achievement, Excitement, Exhaustion, Elation, a mess of Emotion… all the Es, haha. I learned so much from being in The Lion King. Made the most incredible, lifelong friends, The Lion King set me up for the rest of my career and gave me a sense of what I could do… that’s invaluable to me especially at that time when I wasn’t sure if I could actually do it, it gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my talent.
Had you always wanted a theatre career and where does your love of performing come from?
Oddly enough I wanted to be a recording artist, but I saw Starlight Express on a holiday to London, I remember being mesmerised and completely taken by it, and that was when I said to myself… Yep, that’s what I want to do.
I was discussing this with my family recently and I guess my love for music comes from growing up with music always playing in the family home. My mum was always humming church hymns and loved gospel music, my dad listened to old classics, R&B and soul music, and my brother and sister always had current pop hits playing too, so I had a wide and varied exposure to music when I was younger.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch?
Rent, JCS, Miss Saigon, Hamilton, The Lion King, Chicago, Once on This Island, La Cage aux Folles, Caroline, or Change, & Juliet, Kinky Boots, Memphis, The Producers, Sunday in the Park with George… to name a very few.
Can you say how it was performing on Musicals: The Greatest Show for BBC Radio 2 and BBC One?
It was so amazing to be part of this broadcast, especially in the current climate where these opportunities are not as forthcoming as they once were just a year or so ago. It was a breath of fresh air to be able to just perform with a group of talented performers and musicians (socially distanced and masked when off stage) around me, and a much-needed boost to my mental health.
Apart from the Bohemian Rhapsody video and Musicals: The Greatest Show, have you been involved with any other musical theatre-related projects during COVID, and what are you most looking forward to for when theatres can fully reopen?
I was also part of the “Make Them Hear You” from Ragtime – 150 West End and Broadway stars support #BLM video on YouTube.
I am just so looking forward to being in a theatre, whether I’m watching a show or in a show. I’m going to be the first at my local theatre seeing how I can support and get involved. Hopefully that’ll be sooner than we think.
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