For a whole generation, just hearing the words Mark Curry is enough to conjure that evocative warm glow of a childhood spent gluing Tracy Islands together and collecting milk bottle tops. Yes, even after numerous television and stage appearances, and now a starring role in one of the West End’s most popular shows, it’s still impossible to introduce Curry as anything other than the Blue Peter presenter Mark Curry.
From the sounds of Curry’s Q&A answers we don’t think he’d mind, with his new role as the colossally successful musical Wicked’s The Wizard a new but equally brilliant way to bring joy to family audiences.
He reveals all, from the sacrifices you make for a life on stage to the moving good luck charm he’s never without before a performance, below…
What drew you to appearing in Wicked?
The Wizard is an intriguing character and I was really attracted to the mixture of charm, energy, enthusiasm and the darker depths he has. Also, stepping into such a phenomenally successful show is a thrill. I’ve never done a West End musical before so this is a dream come true.
Wicked is now celebrating its 10th year in the West End. Why do you think it is so successful?
Wicked has the ‘wow’ factor. It’s a spectacular musical with wonderful orchestrations, singing and lyrics. The story can be appreciated on so many levels. Do people choose to be good or bad? How do people cope with being ‘different’? The whole show is constantly moving and changing. You will appreciate something else in this piece every time you see it.
Wicked is a hugely popular show with families. Did you go to the theatre as a child?
I wasn’t taken to any professional theatre productions, but I would watch local amateur shows a lot and long to be up there! However, I had an ‘Auntie’, a close friend of my mother, who took me to London in 1970 to see Ginger Rogers in Mame. I just loved it. I was about 10-years-old and we met her at the stage door afterwards. She swept out in full make-up and a long fur coat, signed my programme and gave me a kiss. How totally showbiz is that!
As a former Blue Presenter and now the star of a family musical, is entertaining family audiences something you’re particularly passionate about?
It’s terrific that Wicked appeals to young and old. It’s not a children’s show particularly but the whole family can come along and have a wonderful experience together. Any show which appeals to a younger audience is so significant because they are our future theatre going audience who will take their children or young relations along.
What first sparked your interest in performing?
When I was seven-years-old I passed an audition for a children’s TV show called Junior Showtime and I stayed for six years! Up to that point I had just mimed to pop songs at home or pretended to be John Steed or Emma Peel from The Avengers, throwing myself around the house, acting out the fights I’d watched on telly. So this TV show was a great outlet for my weird behaviour!
Do you have a favourite type of performance?
Well, I’m loving being in Wicked because I really enjoy musicals but I’ve had some cracking parts in plays over the years too. It depends on the role. There has to be something to get my teeth into for me to want to do it. The Wizard is not a particularly big role, but his personality is complex, his scenes are important and he has a smashing number, Wonderful.
Your screen work catapulted you into the public eye. Is that something you enjoy?
I’ve always really enjoyed presenting on television and on radio too, particularly on live shows. I love the buzz, thinking on my feet and the fast pace. Also, interviewing people is fascinating for me; hearing someone else’s story.
If you could create a fantasy production to star in, who would you cast, who would direct and what would it be?
Something which is a real company show, where everyone has their moment. Sondheim’s Company maybe. It’s brilliant. I played Larry in the Southwark Playhouse production a few years ago and it was magical.
I’ll play Larry again and I can think of several actors I would cast but don’t want to upset anyone by leaving them out! My mate, the supremely talented Bonnie Langford, would have to be in it. Peter Duncan too because he’s great fun. Liza Sadovy, currently, Madame Morrible in Wicked, would be a superb Joanne, but so would my wonderful friend Susan Penhaligon even though she doesn’t think she can sing.
Director? Someone patient, creative and kind. A difficult combination! Perhaps Thom Southerland who has just taken up residency at Charing Cross Theatre and Petra Siniawski who is the Associate Director on Wicked. They would work well together.
Are there any unsung heroes in theatre you’d particularly like people to know about?
The production team, crew and wardrobe on Wicked are so dedicated and hard working. Yes, the show needs some first rate performers, but it also requires strong and enthusiastic back up. At the end of each performance, those of us on stage can see and feel the audience appreciation. I wish we could bring on the team who make Wicked happen so that they could receive the applause they deserve too.
Have you made any sacrifices for the sake of your career?
I think every theatre performer sacrifices a bit of their social life. Just when most people are enjoying a meal out or a night in front of the telly, actors are working.
Last year I toured the UK from January to November so I missed out on visiting my second home in Spain. It was tough on my partner as he had to go out there on his own. Also I love playing tennis on summer evenings but not this year because I’m in Wicked. No complaints though, I love what I do and am grateful to be working.
What would you choose as a last meal?
I think I’d be too depressed to eat anything if I knew it was my last meal, but it would be a delicious roast garlic chicken with fresh veg and a glass or two of Rioja. I’d eat both chicken legs.
What one book, film and album would you recommend to our readers?
I’ve just read The Power Of Now. I think it’s life changing. Everyone should watch Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. It’s a riveting story and every actor should study her performance, she’s totally truthful, real and ‘in it’. If you love the music and lyrics of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, listen to any Dionne Warwick album where she’s singing their songs. Nobody performs their stuff better than her in my opinion.
Do you have a pre-show routine or any rituals?
I always turn up the volume on my dressing room tannoy before the show to hear the audience vibe. It helps get me motivated, especially during a long run. I also have a bracelet my late Mum bought me and I always give it a quick kiss for good luck before every show.
What do you do when you’re not performing or rehearsing?
I love playing tennis and I love coffee shops. Hitting a ball for an hour or two is fantastic relaxation for me. Sitting with my partner or a best mate, enjoying good coffee and maybe brekky is something to be savoured too.
What ambitions would you like to fulfil?
I would like to do more acting on television. Maybe playing a tough Northerner – Emmerdale, are you reading this?! I would also really enjoy my own radio chat show, full of interviews with people telling their stories.
If you weren’t a performer, what do you think you would be?
I’d like to say a tennis pro but I’m not talented or dedicated enough. It’s a good life if you can win matches though. I would have been a good teacher for primary school kids. They are so enthusiastic about everything at that age and top rate teachers can really make a difference.