December 7 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 27, 2013
The young Irish actor playing the “obnoxious” lead singer in a new London West End musical has a contrasting role in his spare time. Oh yes he does.
For when Killian Donnelly is not belting out swear words and soul songs, he is penning gags and knockabout, singalong fun for a Norfolk fairytale panto.
The 29-year-old is one of the stars of the new Commitments stage show currently polishing up in preview performances ahead of an October 8 official opening.
He takes the role of Declan “Deco” Cuffe, the talented but arrogant main singer of the dysfunctional bunch of Dublin mates who form a soul covers band in a story that was a successful book and movie.
But in his spare time he is writing the Snow White panto for Sheringham Little Theatre.
It is a schizophrenic split the 29-year-old is becoming used to having written and advised the venue’s Jack in the Beanstalk last year, while appearing in the Billy Elliott musical in the capital’s theatre land.
The actor and singer, who has also played roles in the Les Miserables stage show and film, says he is enjoying the dual roles - one in the 1,400-seater Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, and the other at the 180-seat Little Theatre on Station Road.
“Deco is a big and obnoxious, but with a voice that sings fantastic songs, and is hilarious.
“I know the film and book like that back of my hand, so when they were looking for people to appear in a Commitments stage show workshop two years ago I scrapped a Greek holiday, auditioned and got the part. We worked on shaping the script with the writer (Roddy Doyle), director, and musical director.
A German Grimm’s fairytale dating back to 1812.
It features a beautiful girl, jealous evil queen, a bunch of quirky woodland-dwelling dwarves - and a plot of child abandonment, poisoning and the classic handsome prince fairytale ending.
The 1937 Disney version - with Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey - included classic songs such as Heigh Ho, Whistle While You Work and Some Day My Prince will come.
An urban folk tale written by Roddy Doyle in 1987.
It centres on a bunch of unemployed young Dubliners’ bid to create a soul band.
Guitarist Liam “Outspan” Foster and bass player Derek Scully recruit Jimmy Rabbitte as their manager.
In the 1991 movie version the band forms, has success, but with love trysts and rows set against a soundtrack of top soul songs such as Mustang Sally, Try a Little Tenderness and In the Midnight Hour.
Roddy Doyle has been heavily involved in putting together the current stage show.
“When the main show auditions came around I freaked out because I did not get any calls - but it turned out I already had the part.”
He landed the role of Deco - played by ponytailed Andrew Strong in the movie version - part in March, but had already agreed to pen his second Sheringham panto.
However a lot of the groundwork is done early, in March and April, so he could get ahead in to get the script “90pc up and running”.
“We are working on changes to the Commitments show from 11am to 5pm, then doing a preview show in the evening. I swap emails with the Little Theatre about the panto - but from October when the London show is in full swing, I can get to Sheringham on my days off.
“I love doing the panto - it frees your mind from the Commitments and keeps me grounded. And I love the intimacy of the Little Theatre.”
He was approached to do last year’s panto by Katie, the teenage daughter of Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson. They were keen to get Killian on board at Sheringham, having seen him as the dashing Raoul in the Phantom of the Opera, and knowing that he wrote pantos too. So the youngster tried a cheeky Tweet - and he agreed.
Mrs Thompson said: “It is tremendous for us to have someone of his calibre giving us support. He always has time and energy for us, and never makes us feel we are second best.
“He is also an inspirational figure and great role model for our young people.”
Asked if there was any similarities between the two shows Mr Donnelly said: “There are some scraps and rows among the dwarves but the language is nowhere near as bad as the Commitments.”
■Snow White runs at Sheringham Little Theatre form December 10 to January 4. Information and tickets on 01263 822347 or www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com.
■The Commitments is at the Palace Theatre London from October 8 (preview shows running until October 7 at half price) Contact 0844 874 0790 or www.thecommitmentslondon.com.