East Midlands Theatre writer Phil Lowe caught up with Leicester born Martin McCarthy today for a phone chat about about his theatre life and his role as Drake the Warbucks’ family butler in Curve’s forthcoming production and tour of the musical Annie.
Phil: Hey Martin, how are you?
Martin: All good thank you. And you?
Phil: Great thanks. I guess you are in the middle of technical rehearsals at the moment.
Martin: Yes we are and it’s going really well so far thanks.
Phil: Cathy Robinson, one of our East Midlands Theatre reviewers is coming to review Annie next week on the press night 28th Feb. I can’t make the show this time but I did see you twice in The Wizard of Oz. I came to see one of the previews and was there on press night to review the show for What’s On Stage. Plus I sat in on one of your later rehearsals courtesy of Nikolai Foster and Curve.
Martin: Great stuff
Phil: Looking at the programme from The Wizard of Oz I see you are a Leicester lad and that you trained at the Dixon-Woods School of Dance in Oadby Leicestershire.
Martin: That’s right yeah. I trained there from the age of six actually. Then I stayed there until I went to Italia Conti in London.
Phil: What attracted you to dance at the age of six? What was it about the world of dance that excited you at that tender age?
Martin: It was funny because it wasn’t something I would normally have gone into at the age of six. Obviously at that time there wasn’t many boys doing dance there. There was only one boy in each class – kind of thing. I was actually staying at a friends’ on a Friday night so I went to her dance class with her on the Saturday morning. I sat and watched and then the teacher, Miss Michelle suggested that I get up and have a go. So I got up and found I loved it and carried on. And I’ve not stopped since!
Phil: So, coming back to Curve – you’ve done some productions with Curve before. Remind me about those.
Martin: This production of Annie will be my seventh time at Curve now which is incredible. First time was touring with Calamity Jane which was with Jodie Penger and I was Joe/dance captian. Then I did Legally Blonde which was a Made At Curve production in which I played Carlos. I then became associate choreographer on it and we took the production to South Korea which was amazing! That’s the fab thing about Curve: the Made at Curve productions often get another life like, for example, The Wizard of Oz is going to The Palladium for the summer and then doing a UK tour. I also worked on Grease, West Side Story and On Your Feet.
Phil: Martin – I think they like you!!!
Martin: Yes!!! (laughs) and it’s also lovely that Curve is in the artistic centre of my home town as well. Then the support for me from friends and family around the city is great too.
Phil: Are you staying with family while you are doing Annie?
Martin: Not really. When I finished at Italia Conti I moved out of London to where I live now which is in Market Harborough. It’s a great base when I tour because it is in the middle of the country.
Phil: Looking at the production of Annie and I see that you will be playing the character of Drake the butler to the mega rich Warbucks family in their mansion. Does your character have any comedy aspects to him?
Martin: It does actually because towards the end when he finds out that Mr and Mrs Mudge aren’t really Annie’s parents he has a comic side because he goes to attack them in a comedy way. However Mr Warbucks intercedes. It is a tiny bit of out of character comedy but his role in the mansion is that of a straight and formal family butler.
Phil: Is Annie going on tour after the short run at Curve?
Martin: Yes it is going on tour. As we go around the country it will have different Mrs Hannigans. For most of the tour we have Craig revel Horwood and Paul O’Grady does some venues as well as Jodie Prenger. Then in Scotland we have Elaine Smith. It’s gonna have variety which is nice and we also have three sets of kids. All these cast changes will keep us on our toes! We have three Annies and six orphans who will tour with us. They are all very different and they’ll all be a nice mix of different young people.
Phil: So going back to the start of our chat. What’s been happening in the technical side of things over the last couple of days before you open on this Saturday (25th Feb).
Martin: Yesterday we did our Sitzprobe where we had the band for the first time which was incredible. That was led by Josh Griffiths with orchestrations by George Dyer. Both are brilliant and George is doing great work on the orchestrations to erm I suppose jazz it up a bit as well as keep its traditional charm. The we were on the stage yesterday evening and we were doing a big number called NYC which is where Mr Warbucks is taking Annie to the theatre to see a Broadway show. They see a production of Anything Goes together.
Phil: In the past you’ve understudied some key roles…
Martin: Yes. In Annie I also understudy Rooster who is Miss Hannigan’s brother and he’s the one who pretends to be Mr Mudge. I’m very lucky have these opportunities. When I did Curve’s White Christmas I was the understudy for the Bob Wallace character and I got to play him. In 42nd Street I was in the West End for two years and I understudied and played Andy Lee for a good chink of that time and I was also dance captain on that. It was a great experience dance managing 50 plus performers. I’ve had quite a varied career in the theatre as well as choreography and associate work.
Phil: How old are you now?
Martin: I’m actually gonna be 40 this year so I am 20 years in the industry in 2024.
Phil: It sounds like you are having a great career.
Martin: Yes, I have been very lucky. I choreographed Crazy For You at the Gothenburg Opera House so it has enabled me to go abroad and be international which is has been great. I’ll never forget my Leicester roots of course.
I wish Martin all the best in Annie and his career and we at East Midlands Theatre look forward to reviewing Annie the Musical next week.