With new musical Back to the Future the Musical opening at Manchester Opera House in February 2020, Will Haswell was cast as Dave McFly, and went on as cover Marty McFly, and he has been part of the musical since the first workshop in 2018. The show only managed previews and a few shows before the pandemic closed theatres and it is now set to open for its West End transfer at the Adelphi Theatre in summer and Will is due to reprise his role. Since graduating from Laine Theatre Arts, Will has had a number of roles including Johnny Casino and understudy Danny Zuko in Grease, Lewis and understudy Joe Casey in the Madness musical Our House, Joe Pesci and understudy Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, Pinocchio in Shrek the Musical (with a performance on Blue Peter), and he made his West End debut in MAMMA MIA!. Will answers our questions about being cast in Back to the Future the Musical, touring with Grease and playing Lewis in Our House.
Was there anything that drew you to the role of Dave McFly in Back to the Future the Musical and what is the character like to play?
The role of Dave McFly and the other characters I play in the show are great fun. Dave works at a local fast food joint and his entire world revolves around that! His motto for life is “Do you want fries with that” which I think is a pretty good answer to most things, to be honest! I was also really lucky to have been on the show since 2018 where we did our first workshop and I played Dave then too. It’s been amazing seeing the show go from that first workshop to the show it has become now.
How had your time performing at Manchester Opera House been going before theatres were closed?
The time at the Manchester Opera House was brilliant. It was such a shame that we had to cut it short as we had only just got going. Two-and-a-half weeks of previews and three days of shows to then be told to close due to the pandemic was tough as we all were having such a great time. The previews were manic as we were tweaking little bits and pieces here and there and I even managed to get on for my cover Marty at short notice which was really enjoyable!
What are you looking forward to most for returning to the show when it opens later this year at West End’s Adelphi Theatre?
I can’t wait to get back to the show and the people. As we had such little time on it it feels like we never really managed to get it going and have a completely settled show. I also just can’t wait to see everyone. A year of hardly seeing anyone to going back to work with a wonderful bunch of people is going to be rather overwhelming, I think. I’m so excited!!
How was it being in the cast of Grease and can you say about playing Johnny Casino and understudying Danny Zuko?
So, Grease was a cracking tour. We had an amazing company. It was such a feel good show and also it’s a show I’ve always wanted to be a part of. Johnny Casino was a great part to play. Opening Act 2 every night at the school dance competition was fun and then getting to still be involved in all the numbers throughout the show was enjoyable too. I managed to play Danny a fair few times which was, again, a bit surreal. I never thought I would get to go on or play him but to have done it a few times is really cool. It’s a part and a show that you can say to most people and they know what it is so I’m really chuffed that I got to give it a go.
What are some of your highlights from touring with the show?
Again, the people. Touring with a fun bunch of people is always the best. Going to different cities and exploring is a right old laugh. Also, taking the show to different parts of the country and seeing how audiences react differently to different elements of the show is always enjoyable. Also, Dublin and Guinness. What a drink!
Can you tell us what it was like as an ensemble member in Sweet Charity?
The ensemble in Sweet Charity played multiple parts. It was such an incredible experience. The process was a brilliant feeling like we were all contributing to this magnificent show from the ground up was great. The team, again, were unbelievable and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with them. I’d always wanted to work at the Donmar as well and that’s a huge tick off my bucket list.
In 2018, you were in the cast of The Book of Mormon, how was this and what did you enjoy most about being in the musical?
The Book of Mormon was a heck of a year. After seeing the show a few times I thought it was a show I would love to do. I think I enjoyed performing Turn it Off the most during the show. It was such a fun number to do and no, I can’t reveal where the pink waistcoats come from!!
You played Lewis and understudied the lead role of Joe Casey on the UK Tour of Our House, what were the roles like to play and how was it performing the Madness music?
So, ever since I was little I’ve loved Madness. I remember watching the DVD of the London production and thought it was fantastic. Again, it was a show that I didn’t know would happen again. So when it was auditioning and I managed to get the role of Lewis and cover Joe Casey, I was chuffed. The roles are great. There were lots of different places you could take Lewis as he goes on a big old rollercoaster. As does Joe who has the two sides of him. Good/Bad Joe. It was a brilliant piece to get your teeth stuck into. The quick changes I won’t miss though, haha. Especially in my cover run as Joe. He never stops changing costumes! Also, the company were absolutely amazing and performing alongside them every night was brilliant. To perform like high school kids alongside some of your best mates was hilarious, especially in Baggy Trousers! Killer of a routine and Ad Libs for days!!
How was your time playing Joe Pesci and understudying Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre?
So, Jersey Boys was an absolute dream of mine. It was the one show I remember telling my mum and dad (when I was younger) the first time we saw it that I want to do that when I’m older. I couldn’t believe it when my agent rang me to tell me that I’d been offered that part of Joe Pesci cover Frankie Valli. I was sat on the steps to Liverpool Lime Street whilst on tour with Shrek when I got the call. I was on my own and I just burst out into tears. I really couldn’t believe it. Then getting to perform that magnificent show every night really was a dream come true and to play little Joey Pesci was awesome! The show itself was so slick and smooth and gritty and I just loved every minute of it. Then, on top of that, I got to perform my dream role. I had a lot of people in for my first show. The Tuesday matinee and I just remember pacing back and forwards side stage waiting to come on thinking, you’re playing Frankie. Enjoy it and just try and have fun. I really can say that it has been the best role I’ve ever gotten to play. I still can’t believe it to this day!
What was your experience like touring as Pinocchio in Shrek the Musical and do you have any stand-out moments from your time touring?
Pinocchio was a great part to play! I’d never been on tour before and to head out on my first UK and Ireland tour with this show was fantastic. Everything from this show really pushed you to your limits, from the make up to the costumes and learning how to move in a way that still made you look like those characters. The Pinocchio voice was tough as well but he was an awesome role! I think a big stand-out moment was performing on Blue Peter. I watched it as a kid and always wanted a badge! We performed and then we got given badges to wear whilst we were being filmed, then we got to keep them at the end. Mine’s in a cupboard still on display in my parents’ house, haha!! Another stand-out moment was the audience reaction in Glasgow and Dublin. I’d never travelled to either and the noise at the end of the finale was utterly incredible.
Can you say about some of the other roles you’ve been involved with?
My first show was MAMMA MIA! in 2012/13. I’d just left college and was eighteen and was like, this is mad! It was a bit surreal as it was the first show my parents took me to see in London when I was younger. So it’s a special show to me as it was my West End debut but also after taking me all those years ago it was my first West End show my parents saw me in.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
The two that spring to mind straight away that I love watching and would love to be a part of is Come From Away and Blood Brothers.
I’ve seen Blood Brothers a fair few times and I think it’s brilliant. I remember seeing it for the first time and just fell in love with the show and the characters. I’d love to play Mickey at some point. He seems like a great role.
I remember listening to the soundtrack of Come From Away before I knew anything about it – what it was about, the plot or the songs. From start to finish I thought it was an absolute masterpiece. The orchestrations, the lyrics, everything about it is sublime. I saw it in London with my girlfriend and I was blown away. The show was faultless and I can’t wait to go again when we can! To be honest, I just can’t wait to see all live theatre. It’s been soooo long and we’re so close to having it back!
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
Away from acting I LOVE sport. Playing or watching I find it great. I also enjoy fishing when I get the time! The other thing is birdwatching! I know it sounds odd but sometimes I think there is nothing better than walking somewhere, taking a flask, sitting in a hide with a pair of binoculars and spotting different birds! It’s something that me, my dad and my grandad would do. Me and my dad (when we have the time) still go now. I love it!
Had you always wanted a theatre career and was there anything that encouraged you to train at Laine Theatre Arts?
I’ve always enjoyed performing however I didn’t think I would end up doing it. I was always involved and interested in sport. I thought I would have ended up maybe going into sport science, physiotherapy or something down that route. But when I discovered that I could give this a real go I didn’t think about anything else. I didn’t really know many colleges to be honest, however, my old dance principal from my dance school said that Laine would be good for me as I had a real interest in singing and musical theatre. I auditioned, was lucky enough to get in, and had the best three years training. I wouldn’t change any of it at all, and now I get to say I have the best job in the world!
Follow Will on: