Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Co Tyrone actor Fra Fee on his work with legends Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman

BLOSSOMING CAREER: Fra Fee has landed some fantastic roles
BLOSSOMING CAREER: Fra Fee has landed some fantastic roles
STAR OF THE BIG SCREEN: Fra Fee played Courfeyrac in Les Miserables
STAR OF THE BIG SCREEN: Fra Fee played Courfeyrac in Les Miserables
TALENT: Fra in Les Mis stage version
TALENT: Fra in Les Mis stage version

He's shared the screen with Hollywood legends Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.

Now Co Tyrone-born musical theatre star Fra Fee has landed the title role in Candide, London's Menier Chocolate Factory's Christmas production.

On a visit home to Northern Ireland, the 26-year-old from Killyman, spoke to Sunday Life about his blossoming career and hopes for the future.

Fra has come a long way since his amateur dramatics days with CRAIC Theatre in Coalisland and the Bardic Theatre in Donaghmore.

He played Courfeyrac in the 2012 feature film Les Miserables, directed by Tom Hooper, for Working Title Films, and will next be seen in Voltaire's Candide at the award-winning Menier Chocolate Factory, off-West End theatre, from November 22 to February 22.

"It's all very exciting and terrifying at the same time," Fra said.

"It's a show I've known for years, I was in a student production at university.

"It hasn't really been done since the national production in 1999, so I am excited to be part of the revival, particularly at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

"It's gained an amazing reputation over the last 10 years.

"To lead the team at that venue is overwhelming.

"The production will be re-imagined to be a bit more of a chamber piece, even though it's epic in scale."

Extraordinary

Also in Candide is Olivier award winning David Thaxton, who Fra also starred in Les Miserables with.

"I also did an opera with David when I was about 17," Fra explained.

"And Scarlett Strallen, a big musical theatre star, is in Candide too.

"There is some extraordinary talent in the show."

Educated at St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon and the University of Manchester, Fra has been working steadily since finishing a postgraduate qualification in musical theatre at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

In the last year he has played Florizel in Howard Goodall's professional world premiere of A Winter's Tale, he took on Young Buddy in Follies at the Toulon Opera in France and in August was a guest soloist for BBC Radio 2's Friday Night is Music Night.

Sharing screen time with Hollywood A-listers Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman in the film version of Les Miserables, also starring Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, was a career highlight, he learned a lot from. "Les Mis was a brilliant learning curve for me, to be able to observe these guys was unforgettable," Fra said.

"Russell Crowe takes his job incredibly seriously.

"In Les Mis, Russell was perhaps the most insecure out of everyone, as he hadn't done as much singing as the others.

"As far as screen actors go, he is up there with the best and can express a lot doing very little.

"It was an acting master-class for me."

"Hugh Jackman is a really lovely man," Fra added.

"He was a real gentleman and a proper trooper, with an unstoppable voice."

Fra's family still lives in Co Tyrone and of his three sisters, two are based in Belfast and the other in London.

Theatre

He is the only actor in the family, but sister Claire Murray, has just moved back to Belfast to establish Blunt Fringe Productions theatre company.

"Claire has gone into the production side of things," Fra explained.

"She used to live in London and loves the Fringe part of the industry, where shows can often be more interesting, so has moved back to Belfast to work on that.

"Her show The World Goes Round will be at the Lyric Theatre from January 14 to 18."

Signed to agent Cole Kitchenn, the south east London-based actor and singer was home last month to perform at the John Hewitt pub in Belfast with some of Northern Ireland's other young musical theatre stars --Barry McGonagle, Christina Bennington and Marion Jordan.

Their performance was part of series of 500 Arthur's Day gigs across Ireland.

The concept of Arthur's Day has faced criticism this year, for being a cynical marketing plan, but Fra is supportive of the idea.

"I think it's giving performers, production companies and groups a platform and that's invaluable," he said.

"Anything that promotes that should be applauded."

Fra explained his career dreams "change constantly" and that he would love the opportunity to work at home more, adding that he will be involved in Blunt Fringe Productions staging of The Last Five Years in the near future.

"I would love to do a play next and give my singing voice a rest," he added.

"A brand new musical would be great, some straight theatre too and more screen work."

Mad

Fra enjoys escaping London life and getting home to spend time with his family, relax in Belfast pubs and catch up with relatives.

"I don't get home that much but I have been over more this year than in previous years.

"My family are always very good about getting over to London to see me.

"When I am home, I love chilling out. I have five nieces so it's nice to see them.

"It's refreshing to come home and wind down, as London can get mad at times."

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