Alan Morrissey on Meeting Carole King & Starring in London’s Beautiful

first_img Alan Morrissey is a well-known TV name in Britain from series like Holby City who has branched out of late into musicals. He co-starred opposite Tony winner Cynthia Erivo in I Can’t Sing! the X Factor Musical at the London Palladium, and for the past 18 months, has starred opposite first Olivier winner Katie Brayben and now Cassidy Janson in Beautiful, playing Gerry Goffin, the lyricist and songwriting partner to onetime wife Carole King. The ebullient performer took time early one recent evening to talk with about playing real people and sharing a stage with some mighty female colleagues. How has the experience of being in Beautiful changed since it opened in February 2015?I’ve had that time to try and understand Gerry [Goffin]. I’ve spent the better part of two years of my life being him every night or trying to get to a version of him that I feel happy with. Being a perfectionist myself, I’ve not yet managed to achieve that but I try every night, and so much of him has spilled over into me that I am now writing lyrics myself. I’ve really fallen in love with him.Is this kind of long run new to you?I’ve done over 600 shows and am contracted to the end of November. This is the longest I’ve ever done the same show every night, and it’s a testament to our director [Marc Bruni] and the amazing actresses I’ve got to work with on the job that every night we try to give an audience something that should feel as fresh as if it did at opening. Gerry sadly died [in June 2014] before the West End production opened, but he did see the show on Broadway. I was so sad that I got so close to potentially meeting Gerry, but it was not to be, and I guess you can only know what you have around you. In my case, that was Doug [McGrath], the writer, who was there throughout the whole of our rehearsal process, and Marc Bruni, our director, who from the beginning said he wanted this to be the U.K. version of Beautiful so that we weren’t trying to replicate what they had on Broadway. How did that affect your performance as Gerry?It’s strange to have to try and portray someone whom you will never get a chance to meet, but that meant I had to get at the core of him from what was in the text, which is very different to meeting someone. In some ways, you would think there would be less pressure because the actual person is never going to see your portrayal but in fact, because of the circumstances, there was a lot of pressure—not intentional pressure but a real desire in me to get that right—to pay homage to this beautiful man.Carole King was in the audience and then onstage at the West End press night, whereas on Broadway, she waited many months before attending the show in person. It was amazing when [Carole] turned to me at the curtain call and said, “You really captured him.” We came offstage and she pulled me to one side and said, “You’ve found something of Gerry as if he’s really there; one can see how much you care about him.”Did you then seek out any specific advice?I had a lovely chat that same night with Carole and Gerry’s daughter Sherry, who was amazing. I said, “Look, as far as I’m concerned, I know we’ve had the press night but if you have any notes, I would love to hear them,” and she pulled me into a corner and spent 25 or 30 minutes just talking about Gerry—what he was like when he wrote a song or the confidence that he had or his buoyant charm. She said to me, “You’ve done a really good job of finding his humor,” which she said was very dry and dark at times and quick-witted. Those words have stuck with me, and I’ve fought to try and bring those qualities to the forefront. Was Carole’s songbook part of your upbringing?Oh, yes! My mum was big into the Carpenters and her introducing me to that kind of sound led me into my own personal discovery of Tapestry, which I got on vinyl and really became a part of my life. What’s extraordinary is that my dad’s favorite song was “Up on the Roof,” and I get to sing the initial part of that every night. My dad passed away before this show ever happened, which is sad because this is one he would have been really proud to see me part of. It would have been a really good talking point for the two of us, but we never got that chance. Are you surprised to find yourself having now done several musicals, after a career in TV and non-musical stage roles? I honestly feel as if I’m living the teenage dream I had when I was about 15. The very first show I saw that inspired me was Blood Brothers. It made me laugh and cry and go, “That’s what I want to do.” Then I found a passion for Shakespeare and new writing so to suddenly be nine or 10 years into an industry and stumble into musicals is kind of like returning back to a dream I had when I was really young and getting to live that. We must mention your 2014 London musical I Can’t Sing!, in which you starred opposite a comparatively little-known Cynthia Erivo, who is now a Tony winner. Well, I mean, that was inevitable! Cynthia has the most phenomenal voice and is fiercely ambitious and kind of lives her life for the job. She takes care of herself to such a high degree that she’s like an athlete at the top of their game. What are your memories of that show, which put Simon Cowell and the X Factor industry on stage?Cynthia and I have really fond memories of our time together on I Can’t Sing! because it was such a passion project. Here we were in a brand new musical where we were getting new scripts and jokes every day but also losing songs, and Cynthia and I stuck together through the whole thing. I feel as if I’ve been so blessed to come from acting straight into musical theater playing a lead at the Palladium opposite Cynthia and then to end up with an Olivier winner in Katie Brayben and now on to Cassidy, who’s an established musical theater star: these are some of the best people in the industry!You have acted opposite some very gifted women.Which I think has only made me a stronger, more comfortable performer. It seems like I’ve become this soundboard for talented people, And if that means I’m not one of those actors who gets noticed, I take that as a compliment. I strive for the performance where people go, “I just thought that guy was real.” They connect with it, and it resonates with them, but they don’t necessarily see the craft behind it.Sounds good.I think so, and if that remain the case for the rest of my career, I’m going to be a very lucky man.  Alan Morrisey in ‘Beautiful – The Carole King Musical'(Photo: Brinkhoff Moegenburg) View Commentslast_img

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