Chris on stage at the Shaftesbury Theatre, 2019
Outside the Stage Door
In your act during The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway, you interacted a lot with our lovely audience. Are there any standout stories from these interactions that you’d like to talk about?
The audience was always a delight, the Shaftesbury is such a beautiful and warm room to play, it feels like everyone is super close, and I use lots of audience participation so always revel in those moments. I recall this bit where I would give someone in the audience a microphone and proceed to read their mind, telling them things about themselves there is no way I could know and at least 3 times we had people dropping swears of amazement, and me desperately trying to make the younger audience members forget what they’d just heard. I also love the fact that I ended my bit of the show (we were doing 12 a week) stripping down to a lycra leotard and gaining a standing ovation for looking utterly ridiculous / sexy.
Oh also quite often audience members would think of things for me to draw and then I’d try and draw what they were thinking of. The best of my drawings got stuck to the wall backstage, giving us a lovely little gallery. It wasn’t until the last show that we realised what we’d stuck them up with peeled off all the paint on the wall. So I’m very sorry to whoever had to repaint that wall.
We know that you’ve been a (fantastic) performer on the Shaftesbury Theatre stage. Have you ever been an audience member in the Theatre? What did you see?
SO many times. I was just thinking about what I’ve seen there and here’s what I can remember, Memphis (I LOVED THAT SHOW! Memphis Lives In Me is one of the best 11 O’Clock numbers ANYWHERE), Rent, Derren Brown, Hairspray (which I also saw in New York when it was at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway. In fact, that was the first Broadway show I saw and then last year I starred in The Illusionists on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre, funny that both The Shaftesbury and Neil Simon where I saw Hairspray I was later to go on and perform in. Turns our you can’t stop the beat), let me keep thinking, oh Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned, Rock Of Ages and Fame.
Our stage has seen many amazing performances over the last 109 years. Are there any shows that you wish you had seen, or would love to see again?
I’d love to see Memphis again. I still haven’t seen & Juliet, as soon as you reopen I’m coming to see that. I wish I’d see Rowan Atkinson when he played live there years ago,