Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: James Fox

By Matthew McCreary

The Welsh singer and former Eurovision hopeful will be donning his moptop wig next week to play Paul McCartney in hit Beatles musical Let It Be at the Grand Opera House.

Tell us more about Let It Be

It's a chronological theatrical concert of The Beatles music, from their early days at The Cavern Club in Liverpool right to the end. It's essentially the concert that never happened because the band stopped touring around 1966.

Is it biographical or is it all just about the music?

It's pretty much the music, but the story of The Beatles can be told so well through just that. A lot of these jukebox musicals have a story shoehorned in there, but this leaves it up to the music to tell the story.

There are a lot of costume changes in there, so there is a multimedia aspect with big screens setting the timeline, playing ads from the television at the time, to put you back into the timespace while we get changed.

Is it tempting to try and emulate Paul McCartney exactly, or can you bring something new to his character?

That's the struggle because it is essentially an impersonation. With most acting jobs you have to put your own stamp on to it, but this is different as it's an endless study to get as like Paul McCartney as you can, because that is what people are coming to see. People know what to expect so you've got to tip your hat to that.

Are you fan of the band yourself?

Of course! It's hard to grow up liking music as a kid and not be influenced by The Beatles. Even artists I am influenced by, like Sting and Billy Joel, would reference them, so it's hard to not be a fan.

What do you think is the enduring appeal of the band?

I wish I knew because I'm a songwriter myself!

Is it quite a diverse crowd at the shows?

Yes, that's the appeal. This show was only meant to last for three months, but it's been in the West End and Broadway since. We've had people in the audience who would have seen The Beatles at The Cavern Club and from The Beatles fan club coming to watch, along with their children. It spans all generations.

You also represented the UK at Eurovision in 2004. Why do you think we've been struggling a bit in recent years?

I was disappointed with finishing 16th when I competed, but that's a relative success now, especially from the year before me when we got nothing. The songs have been good, the artists have been good, but I think the UK should stick to what we do well, which is just singers and songs. The big production numbers are not what we do best. This is the country that gave the world The Beatles, so trying to give it an eastern European flavour isn't what we should be doing.

We've also seen some rather unusual acts in recent years, such as Finnish death metal act Lordi, or this year's winner Conchita, haven't we?

You couldn't predict it, could you? It wouldn't surprise me if we won it next year or if we came last – it's a real lottery.

Do you see yourself carrying on with musical theatre for the foreseeable future?

I've only ever done music and acting since leaving school. I'd be happy working back in a piano bar in Blackpool – as long as I'm doing music or something entertaining. You never know what's round the corner, I'm just lucky to have been involved in it for so long!

  • Let It Be is running at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, from Monday to Saturday, June 9-14. For details, visit www.goh.co.uk

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