In the first ever UK Tour of Dreamgirls, Dom Hartley-Harris can be seen performing as Curtis Taylor Jr., with the musical set to continue through 2022. Dom had been playing Collins in RENT at Hope Mill Theatre before the pandemic halted performances after only a few shows and he returned to the role when theatres were able to reopen earlier this year. Previously, Dom has played George Washington in Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre, played Jagwire in the original cast of Bat Out of Hell at both Manchester Opera House and the London Coliseum, and he made his West End debut in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical. Dom has appeared in an episode of Doctors as Alex Varney and he is part of the music act Apollo Xperience. Talking with Dom, he tells us about touring with Dreamgirls as Curtis Taylor Jr., his time in RENT and performing as George Washington in Hamilton.
You are in the cast of the current Dreamgirls UK Tour, how did it feel finding out you’d booked the musical?
Dreamgirls has been at the top of my wishlist for as long as I can remember wanting to be in the business, so, I was floored at the fact they not only wanted me to be part of this iconic show, but play such a crucial role as Curtis. It’s a dream come true.
Was there anything that drew you to the production and what is like playing Curtis Taylor Jr.?
The weight of the show’s history drew me initially. Plus, it’s the first time Dreamgirls has toured the UK, so knowing I’m the first iteration of this character a lot of people would have seen live… That is fun.
How did you prepare for the first UK tour of Dreamgirls?
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Making sure all of the cast are on the same page regarding the story we are telling plus delving into the history of the time. It wasn’t an easy/accommodating time to be black, even for this ‘villain’.
What was it like playing Collins in RENT at Hope Mill Theatre and being directed by Luke Sheppard?
My lord, it was amazing. I initially asked to be seen for Benny, as I thought every man and his dog would be vying for the role of Collins. When I was asked to sing for Collins, I was excited if not a little scared and the rest is history. I’ve never loved a person I’ve played as much as Collins. He brings the best out in me ON and OFF stage. Also, Luke Sheppard is an absolute force to work with. He understood the material so much and his love for it was apparent in his meticulous detail and heart.
How was it getting back to the production after COVID stopped performances?
It was a shock to the system, actually. Testing that stamina and feeling so emotional… it was a lot. But rewarding.
Can you tell us about playing George Washington in Hamilton and do you have any stand-out memories from performing at the Victoria Palace Theatre?
What a role! In my career, I think this has to be the biggest pinch me moment so far (joint with Curtis in Dreamgirls). I am a huge admirer of all of the original creatives for Hamilton and to be given the chance to portray a character with such an important past and detrimental effect on history, on America and the world… it was a huge ask but one I relished. I’ll never forget it.
How did you find the experience telling the Hamilton story?
Everyone involved knew the task was monumental and how many fans the show already had once it reached London. It was very much a team effort because if one cog isn’t working, it has a ‘domino effect’ across the whole company and story. Every member stepped up ten fold. It was a joy.
Having been part of the original cast of Bat Out of Hell at Manchester Opera House and the London Coliseum, what are some of your highlights from your time playing Jagwire?
Working with the inimitable Danielle Steers and meeting Meat Loaf! Plus, the first time you hear a group of stupidly talented musicians (orchestra size) bring Jim Steinman’s music to life?! It’s magical!
You made your West End debut at the Aldwych Theatre in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, what was this like?
It was my first West End ‘gig’ and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the experiences of Beautiful. Who can complain about hearing the songs of King, Goffin, Weil and Mann every day?! So great.
Can you tell us about some of the other stage productions you’ve been part of which has also seen you workshop new shows?
I’ve been part of many a workshop (I workshopped a role that was eventually played by Olivier Award nominee Tyrone Huntley in Leave to Remain), as well as Dick in Dick Whittington at the Lyric Hammersmith. I love that venue. They are one of the current pioneers for inclusivity and ‘experimental’ work. Another job that has a special place in my heart is Tiger Bay, which I performed at the Wales Millennium Centre. I adore the theatre, the staff, the cast and the music.
How was it being involved with West End Musical Drive-In during the time theatres were closed?
It gave so many artists their chance to perform again after such a hard year, as well as supplying much needed respite and entertainment to the fans who have been so supportive and patient in their wait to get back to the theatre. Long live West End Musical Drive-In.
We understand you are part of Apollo Xperience, can you say more about this?
Yes! I am one of the male leads in a new musical enterprise and entertainment company for Apollo Music. We’re a live music act with lots of ‘sister’ bands whose repertoire spans from soul to acoustic easy listening, motown to club floor fillers.
What was your episode of Doctors like to film as Alex Verney and how were you involved in the storyline?
BBC’s Doctors is filmed in my hometown of Birmingham, so that was a professional pull alone. Alex was a young father who wanted to start a new life in Australia who had many a disagreement with his partner and mother. Chaos ensued. ‘Ambitious man with troubles’ seems to be a casting at the moment, too.
Where does your love of acting and performing come from and how did you start?
That’s a hard one. It feels like when you’re asked to remember the start of your dreams, you never can but you know it happened. I have always loved telling stories, dressing up, playing characters, pushing the realms of *my own* reality and delving into the psyche of someone I may not even understand or someone I want to ‘elaborate’ on. As a young boy, you couldn’t keep me away from the cinema or theatre. Nothing’s changed much 😂.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career and do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
I’m a dad of three beautiful and exceptionally special children, so the majority of my time not working is put into them. Otherwise, you’ll find me watching lots of talented friends onstage, or I’ll be geeking out in the cinema. It’s such a cliché to say your job is an obsession, but, I can’t stress that enough in regards to myself.