Tommy Steele: I want to be King Lear

Scrooge The Musical.
Scrooge The Musical.
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“You don’t get bored when you have such great material to work with”, and show businesses veteran Tommy Steele should know, having thrust himself once again into the lead role for Scrooge The Musical.

The 76-year-old, who first found fame in the 1950s, shows no signs of slowing down, and is embarking on a tour of eight venues across the country from now until January in a role he has made his own over the past eight years.

Originally dubbed ‘Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley’, Tommy has topped both the singles and album charts, starred in Hollywood films, is an accomplished songwriter, sculptor, and stage actor.

After so long in the spotlight it would be understandable for the septuagenarian to feel the strain, but when asked if he tires during tours he defiantly snaps back: “No, not at all, it’s 12 weeks of pure delight. It’s also nice to do one week at a time.”

He added: “Scrooge is a bit like King Lear – you have to be a certain age to play the role but still be able to be on your feet for two and a half hours.

“But when you come somewhere like the Blackpool Opera House with 3,500 people, there’s a fantastic atmosphere.”

During the show, Tommy belts out 12 songs as the miser, who is convinced by the ghosts of Christmas past to change his ways.

He said: “With this part I get to sing, perform and act, and it’s all my favourite.

“You always put your own take on a character, and I play Scrooge as a real nasty piece of work for the first 20 minutes, and then gradually I come to play him as Tommy Steele.”

He added: “With Scrooge there’s wonderful words that Dickens has given you, you get a great score, and great production from Bill Kenwright.

“It’s also a pleasure to go around the country with a big company around you.

“Every time I go out on that stage I feel like action man.

“You get people aged from eight to 80 coming to the shows, and they come and they’re mesmerised by it.

“It’s such a wonderful story, and because of the time it comes out, it’s like its pantomime.

“It’s got the spirit of Christmas to it with all the ghosts, and that’s a wonderful thing.”

He will bring his singing, dancing and acting talents to the Blackpool Opera House from Monday, December 16 until Saturday, December 21.

He said: “I’ve brought a lot of new shows to Blackpool, and the audiences are very honest.

“People don’t keep anything from you in the north, and that’s a good thing.

“As a performer you want to know the truth about how something has gone, and without being rude, a Lancashire audience will let you know if a gag hasn’t gone quite right.”

The first performances of the musical had to be cancelled at the last minute after Tommy suffered an injury in rehearsals.

He said: “I cut my leg and I needed stitches. The doctors said I’d be unable to jump around the stage for two weeks, which was a shame but now I’m ready to go.”

Tommy first found fame aged as a teenager as the frontman for rock and roll band the Steelmen, whose first single, Rock With the Caveman reached number 13 in the UK Singles Chart in 1956.

He is widely regarded as Britain’s first rock and toll star, and has claimed in the past that he once took Elvis Presely on a secret tour of London in 1958.

The claim is disputed by the owners of Prestwich Airport in Scotland, the only place in Britain that Presley is known to have set foot.

It has also been disputed by a former member of the Memphis Mafia, who lives with Presley at the time, who claims it was him, and not the singer who Tommy took on a tour.

Tommy now refuses to talk about the claim, saying that he made a promise not to discuss it anymore.

When asked how things have changed in the music industry since his and Elvis’s introduction, he claims that he’s now out of touch the reality TV aspect that has come to the fore.

Talking about X Factor, he said: “I’ve never seen it. It’s usually on at a time when I’m on the stage.

“It was completely different when I was coming through. At that time they had one particular person in mind who they signed up, and that was it.”

Tommy now works 14 weeks of the year and now harbours dreams of one day playing King Lear.

He said: “I’d love to do it, but I think I have to wait another 10 years for that”.

Scrooge the Musical

Blackpool Opera House from December 16 to 21.

Performances from 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets from £19.50 to £34.50.

Tel: 01253 625252