The musical Save The Last Dance For Me starts its run at the Assembly Hall next Monday and according to its star, Antony Costa, it will have audiences jiving in the aisles all week. Eileen Leahy chats to the former Blue boy band star about his love of the theatre, being an underdog and why he has swapped his pop microphone for musicals
Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline of Save The Last Dance For Me?
It’s written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the duo behind the hugely successful West End show Dreamboats and Petticoats, and is about two sisters who go on a holiday for the first time without their parents in 1963. They meet two American Air Force guys: Curtis, played by Wayne Robinson and Milton, whom I play. They invite the girls out to a dance at their base and the younger sister Marie (played by Elizabeth Carter) falls in love with my best friend Curtis. He’s black and she’s white so it’s really a tale about their relationship and how it is viewed by others in the very conservative early 1960’s.
It’s been dubbed a ‘jukebox’ musical – can you explain what that means?
The emotion and drama of the love affair that unfolds between Curtis and Marie is played out against a soundtrack of famous Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman 1960’s hits including Viva Las Vegas, Can’t Get Used To Losing You, Save The Last Dance For Me and Teenager in Love. It’s called a ‘jukebox musical’ because all the previously released songs are familiar to the audience and there is no original soundtrack.
So how did you get the part?
I auditioned for the role of Milton last year and Bill Kenwright, the show’s producer, whom I had worked with on Blood Brothers, offered me the part there and then. It felt good to be undertaking something creative with him and his team again.
What do you love most about performing on stage?
The fact that every role is different and the audience is not there to see just you. When I was performing with Blue in concert people were all screaming for us, but in a musical or play it’s just not like that. They’re there to see the show and not just one individual and I like that. It means I’m not the centre of attention and the pressure is not on me. I can really enjoy performing and have good fun with it.
When was the first time you appeared on stage as an actor as opposed to a singer?
Professionally it was Blood Brothers in 2007, but when I was at school and did Cabaret that’s when I initially got a real buzz for acting: I loved every minute of it. I’ve also done a nationwide tour of Boogie Nights and really enjoy making the audience happy. When they’re clapping along and singing you know you’ve done something right.
Would you say you like the anonymity acting can give a performer?
Yes. If you’re in a band like Blue people are there to see just you, but with theatre work it’s all about the story, the content and the actors. That’s what I enjoy the most: I like being an underdog. I like proving people wrong and getting applauded for something I’m not very well known for.
How far are you into the Save The Last Dance For Me nationwide tour?
We’ve only really started it, but the great thing is every town, every show is so different. We’re really looking forward to coming to Tunbridge Wells and seeing what people like about it. We finish in October but we’ve already had some extra shows added due to its popularity, so that’s a real confidence booster. I’m lucky, I’m working with a very good team who are all really talented.
You’re doing six nights at the Assembly Hall. What can audiences expect from the performance?
To come along and have a really good time. They’ll definitely have lots of fun thanks to the fantastic live music and great atmosphere. Save The Last Dance For Me gives you pretty much everything you could possibly want from a good night out.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like discovering different towns, going for lunch and just chilling out. I also try to get to the gym on my days off, but to be honest this is such an energetic piece of theatre, with so much dancing and singing, that I’m able to get my work out while on stage!
What are you plans when you finish in October?
I’ll have about ten days off and then I’ll go straight into doing panto. I’m in Jack and the Beanstalk in Gravesend and looking forward to it. With pantomime you can break a false wall, have some banter with the audience, but with straight theatre you have to have that barrier with them: They have to believe what they are seeing.
Have you got any plans to reform with Blue again?
Maybe one day, but we’re all in our mid-30’s now so who knows? We’re still very much the best of friends, though, and talk to each other nearly every week. It’s nice we have been able to get together and do a few gigs but right now I’m just concentrating on myself.
Do you have a dream musical you’d like to appear in?
I’d love to do Jersey Boys – that would be a fantastic one to tick off my CV. The story, the acting, the music, I just love everything about that show. I have been working on a few other things but I can’t really talk about them so you’ll just have to watch this space!
COSTA’S CAREER CV
2000-2005 Antony Costa and Duncan James form Blue. They encourage friends Lee Ryan and Simon Webbe to join them and a new boy band is born. The R&B/pop influenced quartet enjoy five years of hits which include All Rise and One Love.
2005 Antony appears in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Here! He lasts 14 days in the Australian jungle.
2006 Do You Ever Think Of Me is the name of Antony’s first solo single which he releases in February, and it charts at No 19. A few months later he competes in Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up in order to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest with It’s A Beautiful Thing but fails to win.
2006-2007 The West End producer Bill Kenwright casts Antony in his production of Blood Brothers, for which he receives plenty of critical acclaim.
2007-2008 Antony embarks on a nationwide tour of Boogie Nights and shortly afterwards tours with his solo album.
2009-2010 Appears in Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime for the ﬁ rst time, which leads to him touring with the production Popstar: The Musical.
2011 Reunites with former bandmates from Blue and they represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song I Can. They come 11th with 100 points.
2013 Blue release their fourth album, Hurt Lovers, and join the Big Reunion Tour with other bands including Atomic Kitten, Liberty X and 5ive. [sic]
2014 The quartet go on a national and worldwide tour, but afterwards decide to call it a day.
2015 Antony auditions for the part of Milton in Bill Kenwright’s production of Save The Last Dance For Me.
2016 In March Antony and his fellow performers kick off their nine-month tour of Save The Last Dance For Me.