By Chris High
With a career spanning fifty years, legendary entertainer and actor, Tommy Steele, is set to hit the stage of The Liverpool Empire once again, playing the title role in Lesley Briscue’s lavish adaptation of Dr. Dolittle from December 6th.
Tommy, who has a long association with Liverpool, can’t wait to perform in the city once more. ‘My first stage roll was at The Royal Court in Liverpool. Goldilocks and the Three Bears in 1957 and it was really playing in that production that sold me on show business,’ Tommy explained. ‘I come back every year just to check that Eleanor Rigby, my statue in the city, is okay for the summer. Liverpool is very close to my heart and next year is going to brilliant for the old place. Dolittle is the sort character I’ve not played, probably, since Hans Christian Anderson. He isn’t a pompous stuffed shirt in this at all, like he is in the film version, but he’s still a crackpot who carries a bit of a punch.’
And Tommy, whose last stage role at the Empire was in Scrooge, promises audiences lots of spectacle. ‘There are some wonderful effects and it’s a song and dance man’s dream to be in. There are some great numbers and it is the type of show that has Disney written all over it.’
Having enjoyed such a long career, it might be surprising to find that Tommy still gets nervous before every performance. ‘The worst time is when you’re standing in the wings waiting for your first cue and you can hear the audience, just before the orchestra strikes up for overture. It’s at that time I’d be thrilled if someone tapped me on the shoulder and said there’s no show tonight for whatever reason. Of course, when you hit the spotlight, that disappears and you’re in the most wonderful place in the world. That happens every night and its what I thrive on,’ Tommy said.
Tommy was formerly a Merchant seaman and it was here that he took his first tentative steps into the entertainment industry. ‘I was lucky being on a ship with another sailor who knew how to play guitar and who taught me. Another stroke of luck was to be playing in a coffee bar in London singing a song called Blue Suede Shoes I’d heard in New York a few days previously. In the same coffee bar were members of the press who asked me what style of music it was and I said, well its called Rock ‘n’ Roll. Then, before I knew it, I was being billed as a Rock ‘n’ Roll star and my career as a singer took off from there. I’ve been very lucky.’
So what does Tommy Steele have lined up over the coming months? ‘I’ll be doing Dolittle throughout next year. Once you get a hold of a really good show like this, you don’t let it go if you can help it,’ he said.
Dr. Dolittle review from the Liverpool Empire Theatre - December 2007
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