Saturday, 5 September 2015

Big Interview: Joseph Giacone, starring in Our House at the Union Theatre

Joseph Giacone is currently playing Emmo in Michael Burgen’s revival of Our House at the Union Theatre. The Olivier Award-winning musical is inspired by the music of Madness.

Joseph’s theatre credits include: Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (Scandinavian Tour), Joe Vegas in Fame The Musical (UK Tour & Gordon Craig Theatre), Musical Starnight's (European Tour), The West End Men (Vaudeville Theatre), 8th Fold (Workshop), Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance (Brookside Theatre), Harry in The Picture House (Edinburgh) and Jackie Henderson in Whistle down the Wind (Aldwych Theatre).

I recently spoke to Joe about why he’s loving his time in Our House, what his dream show would be and why Fame holds a special place in his heart… 

Had you ever seen Our House before?
I had seen the show once before, I knew friends doing an amateur production at the Watford Palace Theatre. I went along to support them, but actually came away thinking ‘wow, that is an insane piece of theatre!’ Acting-wise, story-wise and the whole concept of what’s good and bad is brilliant.

So when this production popped up did you immediately go, ‘I want to do that’?
When this production came up and I heard they were auditioning I was so excited! First of all I was put up for the role of Joe Casey. I went into the audition and came out thinking ‘Oh god that was the worst audition ever’ but then within half an hour I got a phone call saying they wanted to see me again [laughs]. I had so much fun, and when I was offered Emmo I was over the moon! I’m having the best time with this cast, it’s an experience and a half!

What can people expect? It has a really good story compared to some other jukebox musicals!
It’s won awards for the story! It’s split between good and bad, so it’s a bit like the film Sliding Doors. Joe has to make a decision and then we see the good world and the bad world. It’s a story about making choices throughout your life, and whether the good choice is always the right choice. I won’t give anything away, but at the end there’s a big twist. It goes forwards and back in time, but I think people are sat there one hundred percent into it. It’s an intelligent piece of writing!

And then you have the music of Madness thrown in!
[laughs] Yes, the music of Madness is amazing – I am loving it! ‘Baggy Trousers’ is brilliant! That and ‘Our House’ are definitely my favourites. They are high energy numbers, I’m knackered but it’s just so much fun.

This is Michael Burgen’s second production at the Union having made his directorial debut on Loserville. What has he been like to work with in the rehearsal room?
In the rehearsal room he was a really good figure to look up to. He has very good ideas, he’s always done his research and done his work and knows how he wants to put it up on its feet – if an idea is in his head he will put it up in the space without fail. He sees how we interpret things and is happy for us to bring some ideas. As a director he’s been brilliant!

Joseph and the cast of Our House

Do you get more nervous performing in a more intimate theatre like the Union?
I am always so much more nervous about performing in the smaller spaces, but if I’m completely honest I prefer it! I love it because it’s so intimate so you have to be fully invested in your role… if not the audience will see right through it. When you’re on a big stage you play it right back to the gods, but in this venue you play it to the front couple of rows – because that’s literally all there is [laughs]. 

So you’ve just finished touring Scandinavia as Tony in Saturday Night Fever – was it a crazy experience?
We were mostly in Sweden and Finland which was very different to doing English theatre. It was a lot harder to keep the attention of the audience because they didn’t necessarily know English very well. The younger generations seemed to understand it and love it, but some of the older generations enjoyed the songs and dances but didn’t have any idea what we were talking about during the scenes. As a cast it put us on a bit of a downer, but then we went to see a Swedish production of Mamma Mia and understood that actually it’s really hard to watch a show that isn’t being performed in your first language. It was difficult at times, but it was amazing and I genuinely miss it! I miss playing Tony!

Fame was a big show for you, what’s it like to look back at the experience?
Looking back I will always have the biggest smile on my face when it comes to Fame… I miss it soooo, so much. We still have a little group going with all the cast, we’ve kept quite close and quite tight. Every once in a while someone will drop a message into the group and we’ll all have a big meet up and catch up. Looking back everyone has the best, best memories. For me it’s one of the biggest shows I’ve ever done! I wish I could go back – I had the best time playing Joe Vegas!

You made me come and see you do it in Stevenage before you did the tour!
[laughs] Of course – the summer before the tour I did it in Stevenage, I can’t believe you came to Stevenage [laughs]. That was the original eighties version, but then there were no legwarmers in Gary Lloyd’s production. Some people were a bit upset about that [laughs].

Joseph in Fame (UK Tour)
But it must have been really fun for you to be a part of a completely new version?
It was brilliant purely for that reason! In Stevenage we kind of had to do what had been done before, but with the modern updated version I could put my own stamp on Joe Vegas. I completely turned the character on his head. He was this cheeky, flirty guy and I had the best, best time playing him.

Looking ahead, is there anything you’re itching to do? If I could cast you in any role right now, what would you choose?
A dream of mine has always been to be in Jersey Boys. I’ve always wanted to play Frankie Valli, but unfortunately I’m a bit too tall. But, fingers crossed, one day I might be able to play one of the roles in Jersey Boys, it would be a big dream of mine.

I’m sending you to a desert island and you can take three musical theatre songs with you. Which three are you going to take and why?
Firstly I would take something from Jersey Boys… I’m going to go for ‘Can't Take My Eyes off You’ purely because it’s one of my favourite songs ever to sing because it’s just beautiful. I’m not even going to lie, this is a tough question! 

We don’t mess around!
[laughs] No you don’t! Erm, ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis purely because I would want to go home if I was stuck on a desert island by myself [laughs], but also because it’s a beautiful song. Finally I would take ‘Can’t Stand Still’ from Footloose because I wouldn’t be able to stand still and I love it! Oh and I need a fourth – ‘Can’t Keep It Down’ from Fame! 

I’m afraid you can only take three..!
Ok fine, I won’t take ‘Can’t Stand Still’. Sorry Footloose! ‘Can’t Keep It Down’ would keep me entertained and put a smile on my face. 

Finally, theatre fans are so loyal and so dedicated, what’s it like to have that kind of support behind you?
When I experienced it for the first time during Fame I couldn’t believe it, I was a bit overwhelmed! Usually when I came out of stage door I would just walk on by, but during Fame and Saturday Night Fever I was so overwhelmed by the support I got from people who had come to watch. With Twitter and Instagram and everything people are really supportive and it’s an incredible feeling! If I’m completely honest at first I was a little bit scared and completely shocked by the support. I love them all, I love them to bits!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Our House runs at the Union Theatre until 12th September 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2: Darren Bell
Photo Credit 3: Hugo Glendinning

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