THEATRE - Rock of Ages

Noel Sullivan
Noel Sullivan

ONCE a member of the man-made pop group Hear’Say, Noel Sullivan tells GEOFFREY SHRYHANE about the ups and down of show business as he prepares to star in Rock of Ages in Manchester.

Noel Sullivan is a hail-fellow-well-met type of guy.

His broad, ready grin is his hallmark. Now, he’s giving a high-energy performance in the award-winning, smash-hit musical Rock of Ages.

Now for those with some years on the clock, Rock of Ages is a religious anthem. Forget that – the show of the same name is a sexy smash that has audiences laughing and dancing in equal measure.

Noel said: “I’m loving being in this show. It’s very colourful and I’m proud to say it took Broadway by storm for five years.

“I’m delighted to be in the touring show, and especially at Manchester Palace which is one of my favourite theatres. The audiences are really warm and friendly.

“The 80s-themed musical features over 30 eye-brow scorching tunes including The Final Countdown, Wanted Dead or Alive, Here I Go Again, Can’t Fight This Feeling and many more.

It’s the kind of nostalgic musical that is sure to put a smile on your face ... and the audience are usually on their feet long before the interval.

Noel told me: “It’s true that after Hear’Say broke up, I had to think long and hard about where my future lay. Somehow I felt I needed to earn my stripes in the business and over these years I like to think I’ve made quite a lot of progress appearing in various musicals which have toured and been so enjoyable.

“Of course, Hear’Say was an amazing experience. I was 20 when I won through and when it ended so soon, I felt disappointed. It was something of an emotional roller-coaster.

“I spent some time at home in Cardiff, and found a great therapy in the theatre. Theatres are the kind of places you can talk about anything and no-one bats an eye-lid. People listen to you then you all move on.”

Noel said he thoroughly enjoyed playing Danny in Grease.

“Grease was my first professional production and was in Jersey. I didn’t think it would be a cracking success, but it was and ran for many weeks. It was such a relief. I’ve played Danny several times – he’s a great character.

It takes me about half an hour to create Danny’s quiff. Very important!”

Talking about Rock of Ages Noel said: “It’s a juke-box musical full of classic 80s songs. There are dozens and dozens of songs. I don’t know how they’ve got so many in.

“It’s a kind of love story and at the end of act one nobody knows how things will work out. There are many moments of slapstick comedy. It’s a lot of fun and has a wonderful cast.

“It’s great to be opening in Manchester. The city is the second biggest in the UK and has a wonderful reputation.

“Things opening in Manchster have gone on to the West End and then onto Broadway. How good is that?”

Looking back, Noel says he comes from a very musical family. I always loved music and always sang. In fact I was a chorister.

“Suddenly I realised that my career lay in showbusiness, and so began my training. It’s a lovely world to work in is showbusiness.

“You are judged by what you’ve done and as I said before, it takes a vast amount of hard work to earn your stripes.

“Over the years, my theatre connections have built up. A dozen years of hard work have been worth it.

“Hear’Say was my big launchpad. I think it was wonderful experience. It was the first show of its kind and to end up a member of the group was almost overwhelming.

“Now others have followed ... such as the X-factor. So in a way, we were guinea pigs and I’m proud of what we achieved.

“But there was a kind of destructive element ... there was a lack of knowledge about whether it would be a success or not. We weren’t protected from this huge showbusiness world.

Now winners are looked after and whisked away. There was nothing like that with Hear’Say. But it was a good experience. I’ll always say that.”

Rock of Ages is currently on tour and is on at Manchester Palace Theatre for one week from tomorrow (Saturday, May 3).