With a stage career spanning five decades, who better to advise the celebs on ITV's new entertainment show, All Star Musicals, than the one and only Michael Crawford. Here, he tells us about his role as mentor and what he REALLY thought of the performances...
Theatre legend Michael Crawford on coaching celebs for ITV's musical extravaganza, All Star Musicals…
TV Times loves telly. We also love musicals. So when we were invited to the recording of ITV’s new one-off show, All Star Musicals, our jazz hands were most certainly at the ready.
Hosted by Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, the show sees seven celebrities perform a well-known song from a popular West End musical. Taking to the stage at the iconic London Palladium are Coronation Street actress Lucy Fallon, Blackadder legend Sir Tony Robinson, Emmerdale actor Michael Parr, former athlete Denise Lewis, actress Rebecca Front, Long Lost Family host Nicky Campbell and Miranda star Sally Phillips.
Guiding the celebrities throughout rehearsals is a man who knows a thing or two about musical theatre: Michael Crawford. Best known to TV audiences as beret-wearing buffoon Frank Spencer in the classic sitcom Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em, Michael’s enjoyed a stage career spanning five decades, appearing in such musicals as Barnum, The Wizard of Oz and, of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.
As TV Times take our seats in the theatre, the audience are in fine voice, singing a whole raft of showtunes as they wait for curtain up. After the show, we caught up with Michael Crawford, 75, for a quick chat…
Tell us about your role as mentor on All Star Musicals?
Michael Crawford: "The word mentor is far too flattering for my liking; I just saw myself as a helper, there to offer advice and pass on tips that I’ve been given throughout my own career from the likes of Gene Kelly, who was a wonderful teacher. When I first met all the celebrities I was scared stiff because I’ve never done this sort of thing before. They were so nervous but I said: ‘Trust me, I’m just as nervous as you are!’"
What did you make of the talent in general?
MC: "All the celebrities were delightful. No one was competing; they were all just there to do well. And they all did do well, in different ways."
What was Freddie Flintoff like to work with? He opens the show with a musical number – how do you rate his performance skills?
MC: "I really enjoyed working with Freddie, who called me his 'wingman'. Freddie’s so charming and had the audience wrapped around his little finger. In time, he’s going to really develop as a performer – he’s just got a very natural skill. I couldn’t work like that – I’d have to rehearse for months!"
Freddie - who'll be starring the stage production of Fat Friends - opens the show with a special performance
We don’t see you sing on the show but, given the chance, what would you like to have performed?
MC: "Playing the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera was a wonderful thing to have had the opportunity to do and my favourite song is still Music of the Night. It’s a beautiful song and I love singing it – but I reckon I’d have to work hard on it now. It was rather nice not to have the pressure of performing."
TV audiences know you best for playing Frank Spencer. Did you enjoy reprising the role for a special Sport Relief sketch last year?
MC: "I was like a pig in a farmyard filming that, it was great fun. Working with Michele Dotrice, who plays Betty, is always superb and she’s one of my very, very best mates. Frank is unlike any other character and I love playing that real innocence he has. It’s a joy."
Can they Razzle Dazzle 'em?
How Michael rates the star performers…
Lucy Fallon (Coronation St's Bethany)
"Lucy performs her number up high on a podium with a stillness that actually gives her such power. Her performance is just extraordinary."
Michael Parr (Emmerdale's Ross)
"For lots of musical theatre performances, you’ve got to be empowered and become a character. Michael’s got the walk and the attitude – he’s brilliant."
Sally Phillips (Miranda star)
"Sally’s singing a very iconic song. As a comedian she wanted to do it a certain way but I said she mustn't fight the way the song is written."
Tony Robinson (TV presenter and actor)
"Tony had a good energy and a cheekiness about him, so we wanted to use that. He was so eager to listen and learn and was a real joy to work with."
Denise Lewis (Retired athlete)
"We compared what Denise would do as a hurdler to what she needed to do to run up and down stairs on stage. She tap dances too, which is hard work!"
Nicky Campbell (Presenter of Long Lost Family)
"Nicky was very nervous about moving and singing at the same time. But he’s got a lovely voice and totally blew me away with his performance."
Rebecca Front (Love, Lies & Records star)
"Rebecca’s singing a very soft and gentle song about losing love. The lyrics have to be real – that's how you tell the audience your story."
All Star Musicals can be seen on Christmas Eve at 6.40pm on ITV.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!