Friday, 2 October 2015

Big Interview: David Bedella

David Bedella is currently reprising his performance as Kevin in In The Heights.

Luke Sheppard's production has transferred to the King's Cross Theatre following its triumphant sell out run at the Southwark Playhouse last year.

David recently reprised his celebrated portrayal of Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show at the Playhouse Theatre, starring alongside the show’s creator Richard O’Brien. He has previously played the role on and off to huge acclaim in the West End, on tour around the UK and in the US with Meatloaf since 1992.

David created the role of Satan/Warm-up Man in Jerry Springer The Opera first at the Edinburgh Festival, then at the National Theatre, in the West End and on film for the BBC. For his performance, he won the 2004 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He later reprised the role at the Sydney Opera House and at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

David’s extensive theatre credits also include: Roger De Bris in The Producers (UK tour), title character in Sweeney Todd (Twickenham Theatre), Putting It Together (St James Theatre), Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy & Wilson Mizner in Road Show (both Menier Chocolate Factory), Billy Flynn in Chicago (West End), Molokov in Chess In Concert (Royal Albert Hall), Maxwell Fortune in Chasing Fate (Birmingham Hippodrome), title character in Hedwig And The Angry Inch (Heaven), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Broadway) and Ciaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar (US Tour).

I recently spoke to David about why In The Heights is such a special show, what makes the creative team so incredible and how it felt to step back out on stage as Frank N. Furter...

Was it an easy decision when you were asked to return to In The Heights?
Absolutely! It was a very easy yes! Most of us were involved from the beginning because we loved the piece, loved the message, loved the cast and loved the music so everything was from the heart. It was a small production and we made no money so it wasn’t about furthering our careers or about financial gain, it was all about our love for the show. Second time around we’re faced with many of those same issues [laughs], we’re in another small theatre and none of us are going to get rich doing this but we get to revisit a show which has touched our hearts to the core and I’m thrilled to be doing it a second time.

David in In The Heights at the Southwark Playhouse

What has the vibe been like in rehearsals? It must feel fresh with some new faces in the cast?
The nice thing about returning to a project is that you really do start from scratch. Nothing can be recreated; it has to be done anew. You are given new energies, new thoughts and new reactions from the people who are doing the show for the first time. It is going to be a brand new production.

Luke Sheppard and Drew McOnie are two of the hottest directors and choreographers working in theatreland right now. What are they like to work with?
The truth is they’ve got instincts that are infallible which is so much fun to work with. I had trouble in the beginning understanding that a man of my age with thirty-five years of experience in the business was going to be directed by someone in their early twenties [laughs]. I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this for so much longer than you have’, but the truth is they are teaching me a lot along the way. That speaks volumes about the kind of intuition they have about performing and how to bring the heart to the audience. I think they’re terrific and I think we’re very lucky to be under their leadership. 

David in Rocky Horror
In The Heights is so bold and so different to any other musical that has ever been staged in London. Why do you think audiences over here went crazy and fully embraced the show?
The truth is, the show is about love. I know a lot of shows are about love, but this touches family – both the families we are born into and our chosen family. It looks at the struggle to find that kind of love and support we all need to get through life. It covers universal themes which everybody can relate to – it really touches people. Also, we don’t have much Latino influenced theatre in London. The music is so fresh and brings an emotional flavour to the piece. 

These few weeks have been absolutely crazy for you, doubling up with performing Rocky Horror in the evenings and rehearsing In The Heights during the days. Have you been able to take anything in?
Erm… it’s been a bit like a rollercoaster ride I have to say [laughs]. You can probably hear that I’m talking very slowly because my brain is so exhausted [laughs]! My body is aching, the kids were laughing at me the other day because I was in rehearsals with an ice pack on one knee and a heat pad on the other. It’s been non-stop; when I was doing Rocky Horror I was home just long enough to sleep, take a shower and go back out again. I also had to train at the gym because the body, at fifty-three years old, does not look the same as it did when you were in your twenties. I have to work very hard to have the figure to pull off a corset. It’s been very successful! It’s every actor’s dream to be doing these kinds of brilliant pieces and I feel blessed and very lucky to be getting such accolades for both. 

What was it like to venture back into the crazy world of Rocky Horror once again?
It was explosive! People were so happy to see it again and welcomed me back with open arms. I’ve done it for so long now but really did think I was completely done with it and had hung up my shoes. So to revisit the show again, even just for a short time, was wonderful. 

Sharing the stage with Mr Richard O'Brien must have been something else?
He’s good fun! We’re old friends because he took me under his wing back in 2006, the first time I ever did The Rocky Horror Show for him. We stayed in touch outside of the show and have been really good friends, it’s a dream to come back together with someone you play with outside of work – he and I shared a dressing room! We have mutual friends so go out for drinks and dinner together, I feel pretty lucky!

David in The Producers 

Rocky Horror audiences are always crazy, but this time around must have been out of this world? Especially for the charity gala that was broadcast to cinemas around the globe!
It’s like a sea of love and adoration coming at you. It’s as close as I’ll ever feel to being a rockstar. You stand onstage and have hundreds and hundreds of people screaming at the top of their lungs – even if you lift an eyebrow or something ever so slightly they go mad. It really is so much fun and I enjoyed it so much!

How did you find your time in The Producers earlier this year? You were working alongside another amazing company!
It was great! I was hanging out with the likes of Jason Manford and Cory English who have comedy in their bones, onstage and off we spent most of our time laughing. Then we had Mel Brooks’ material – I think it’s the most I’ve ever laughed over a six month period in my life!

I’ve got a bit of a stagey question for you – 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?
Wow… the first one to pop into my mind is ‘Gold’ from Once. It’s both exciting and emotionally moving. I cry every single time I hear it. For years I had been asked the question ‘What is your favourite musical?’ and I always said ‘I can’t answer that question!’ until the day I saw Once. When I saw Once I thought to myself, ‘This is it, this is my favourite musical of all-time!’ I love that song.

David with Dominic Anderson in Rocky Horror
My second one would be… hmmm… ‘Finishing the Hat’ from Sunday In The Park With George because I love how it goes from being somebody who refuses to let out what they’re really feeling to somebody exploding with what they’re really feeling and the pain of losing out on love because you can’t let out what you’re really feeling. I find it so beautiful and so heartbreaking… and obviously Sondheim had to be in there somewhere [laughs]! 

For my last one let’s go with 'I Am What I Am' from La Cage aux Folles. It’s just brilliant! I rather feel it’s my theme song [laughs]!

What does it mean to you to have such loyal, dedicated and passionate support behind you from theatregoers?
To tell you the truth, it’s a bit like a drug. You get addicted to that kind of love. I hate to use the word adoration, but in a way it kind of is that. You know before you even step out on stage that there are people out there who simply adore you and it feels so good, it must be the reason we keep doing what we do. We have a drive to express what’s inside and to get that out to people – that’s the main part of what we do, but obviously there’s a payoff which is love and adoration coming back at you. When I’m not working I miss it and I find myself working out ways to get back there again – whether that’s a good or bad thing I don’t know, but it’s a driving force and something I love. 

When I first went out on stage a couple of weeks ago to do ‘Sweet Transvestite’ for the first time the applause went on and on and on and on and, just when it started to die, somebody screamed out “We’ve missed you David!” and then it started all over again. They let me know that the applause wasn’t just for Frank N. Furter, it was all of the fans saying “We acknowledge you and we love you and we have missed you.” It was incredible, so few people in life get to feel that and there it was – it was just beautiful!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

In The Heights runs at the King's Cross Theatre until Sunday 1st November 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2:  Robert Workman
Photo Credit 4: Manuel Harlan

1 comment:

  1. I'd never heard of David before I saw him on the Sky Arts RH Show... and now I'll never forget him. If this interview is truly reflective then he possesses a charismatic magic that few have ever had. I was very lucky to have seen the broadcast of this show.