He’s best known for being part of Hear’say, the pop act that won the precursor to The X Factor, Simon Fuller’s Popstars, but Noel Sullivan would sooner cut off own his leg than reunite with the band that became a one-hit-wonder with ‘Pure and Simple’. Now a West End star in We Will Rock You and Priscilla Queen of The Dessert, Noel talks to Robert O’Connor before coming to Dublin with the cult musical, Rock of Ages.
Hi Noel, you’re a pretty seasoned theatre pro now. Did you just walk into Rock of Ages without an audition?
I had to audition nine times! People say to you, “Oh, it must be easy,” and think you automatically get offered stuff like this, but it’s not like that at all – you have to fight tooth and nail for roles. I worked really hard and singing those rock songs was something new and a challenge. I’ve earned my stripes, I didn’t go in there all like, “I’m Noel and I used to be in this pop band Hear’say.”
Speaking of Hear’say… if you were offered to appear on say, The Big Reunion, would you say yes?
NO! I would sooner cut my own leg off. I understand doing those shows if you had a really successful run for five years or something to revisit. You need a great back catalogue, like Five for instance. I mean, what would we perform? Our greatest hit? I also think there are too many wounded relationships there for it to work. Also I haven’t left the industry. I’m still here performing to a few thousand people each night, so I don’t crave it. I look at people today and think, “Wow, you’re famous for being from Essex and wearing a size tiny bikini,” and it’s kind of sad, you know, to be famous for having sex with a footballer or something.
There’s nothing wrong with that having sex with footballers though, right?
Oh no, nothing at all! If that’s what you’re good at then fine, it’s a talent I’m sure.
Anyway, you finally have a solo album of your own now, don’t you?
Yes! The time felt right. It’s a collection of songs from shows I’ve been a part of over the years, and then I worked with a girl who’s recently been working with Ed Sheeran as well. There are original tracks on there that fit quite well amongst the covers, and I’ve put a new spin on some of the songs, like my version of ‘You’re The One That I Want’ from Grease.
So, you’ve played a bunch of characters in the West End, but who would play you in the Hollywood biopic of your life?
Oh bloody hell… that’s a question! Probably that kid from Slumdog Millionaire. You know, it’s funny cause I’ve gone for auditions for Indian roles and they’re all like [adopts Indian accent], “You are not brown enough,” so that hasn’t really worked for me. Hmm… oh, it could be someone really awful either, like Peter Andre! Yes… it would definitely be someone like Peter Andre.
What is your proudest moment?
Probably at the We Will Rock You opening night when Brian May joined us on stage. It was a moment of realising that despite everyone saying that I was finished after Hear’say, my hard work had paid off and I was back, in a new area of the industry. After that directors looked at me in a different way. It’s funny because people think with other shows like Priscilla Queen of the Dessert, that it’s just fluff and camp, but those shows are hard work too.
Five famous people, living or dead, you’d invite to a dinner party at your place?
Well, not Brian May as I’ve already had him and that’d be a waste of an invitation really wouldn’t it? We’ll have Michael Jackson, Stephen Fry, Stevie Wonder, and my mum, because she wouldn’t want to miss all of that… oh and Marilyn Monroe…
Are you still there, Noel?
Oh, sorry! I was just thinking what it might be like to have Marilyn Monroe to dinner and what I might say to her. It would be quite a singsong after dinner with all those talents, wouldn’t it?
It certainly would. So tell me who are the two biggest influences on your life?
I would have to say my grandmother and my mum – emotionally. I’ve never really looked up to anyone or followed in anyone’s footsteps. I’ve never had an interest in fame or celebrity as such, even when I was in Hear’say it wasn’t something I wanted or enjoyed. I suppose at some point a role could come along that would push me back towards that kind of fame, but I’ve had time to learn how to deal with it, so I’d be prepared.
What are the easiest and the hardest parts of theatre living?
There is no easy part. You miss your home comforts, and you get homesick. Then your body clock gets a bit messed up – you don’t get up until at least 10.30 in the morning and then you’re going to bed late. But you have to remember as well, like any workday I suppose, you have good performances where you are high afterwards and then you have one’s where you think “oh that wasn’t great”.
We’re sure every performance you do in Dublin will be great, Noel.
Thanks, I’m looking forward to it!
Rock of Ages opens in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre for a five-night run starting September 15. Tickets priced €20 – €45 via Ticketmaster. Visit Noel Sullivan’s official website, and follow him on Twitter.
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