A man from Dublin who sings his way to success. Remind you of anyone? It would be fair to say that you could indeed call it a case of life imitating art – or should that be art imitating life? – that this month will see Boyzone star Ronan Keating take on the role of everyone’s favourite musical heartbreaker Guy in the Olivier Award-winning Once.
Yes, as far as we know, a hoover never proved pivotal in his rise to fame as part of one of the 90s most popular boy bands, but his journey from the hometown he shares with the hit production and a passion, not to mention talent, for song writing certainly puts him ahead of the rest in terms of finding common ground with his character.
It’s a head start that Keating will no doubt be comforted by in the run up to the first time he takes to a very different stage at the Phoenix Theatre on 17 November, when he’ll take his turn starring opposite long-running Girl Jill Winternitz in John Tiffany’s stunning production of the film to stage adaptation.
Intrigued to find out more, we quizzed the hugely successful singer about his rollercoaster journey from number one hit singles to his first ever, self-declared number one choice of a West End role.
How did your part in Once come about?
I’d been a fan of the story and music since the film was first released in 2006 and know Enda Walsh [the show’s writer] and Glen Hansard [Once’s composer] as they’re from my hometown of Dublin. I’d also met Barbara Broccoli, the producer, when I saw the show in the West End, so I guess everything sort of lined up and they asked me if I’d like to take on the role.
Will it be particularly special to be a part of a show set in your home town?
Absolutely! Dublin has always had a rich musical heritage so it’s great that it is showcased in the show around the world.
How do you feel about making your West End debut?
I have to say, it’s the most nervous I’ve ever been but I’m really excited too. It’s been a real challenge to learn the songs on guitar but I’m loving the experience of being taken out of my comfort zone.
How are you preparing for the role?
Lots of practice! It’s been great for the last few weeks in Australia [where Keating has been working as a judge on X Factor] as I’ve been able to work with the Once creative team who are in Melbourne preparing to open a new production there. So on my days off from X Factor in Sydney I’ve been commuting up to Melbourne and back for rehearsals.
Have any of the show’s previous leading men offered you any advice?
Not really. Obviously I’m used to being on stage and in front of an audience so at this stage I’m just looking forward to getting into the full cast rehearsals when I’m back in London in early November. I think that’s when it will start to get very real for me.
What’s your favourite number in the show?
Along with most people, it would have to be Falling Slowly. It’s such a beautiful song and one of those rare duets that I could never imagine getting tired of singing.
What are you most looking forward to about the run?
It’s my first experience of the West End so I’m very excited about that and I’m also strangely looking forward to having the routine of doing a run of shows in the same place for a while. It will be the longest I’ve ever spent in one venue over the last mad 20 years of travelling around, doing what I do.
Will the discipline of performing eight shows a week be a very different challenge for you or has life in a band prepared you?
I’m well aware of the challenge it will be vocally as well as physically and mentally, but I’d like to think I’m in pretty good shape and ready for it. Doing two shows a day, twice a week is going to be tough, but again, I’m looking forward to the challenge.
If you had to star in another musical currently playing in the West End, which show would you choose?
I really can’t think of a better musical than Once. The songs are beautiful, it’s a simple love story that everyone can relate to and it’s set in the best city in the world!
What is your favourite show you have ever seen?
I’ve been lucky enough to see lots of great things but I have to say it was a real buzz to see my band mate Keith [fellow Boyzone member Duffy) in Bill Roche’s play A Handful Of Stars in London earlier this summer.
Who or what has inspired you?
As with any artist, you get inspiration from lots of people and experiences as you go through life. Personally I think your greatest inspiration comes from your kids as you see them grow day-by-day, year-by-year. That is truly inspiring.
You’ve worked with some incredible people in your career. Who has been your favourite person to work with ever?
It’s hard to pick one person from the past 20 years. I guess, though, since losing Stephen [Gately] I realise just how special the times were that we stood on stage together. He had a passion for performing that was unquestionable.
Have you made any sacrifices for the sake of your career?
I think anyone who has to spend time working away from his or her family understands what a sacrifice that is. But I’m lucky that they’ve always stood by me and it’s allowed us to experience some amazing times together over the years.
Do you have any regrets?
I feel like quoting Frank Sinatra… I’ve had a few, but then again few too to mention!
What would you choose as a last meal?
I’d hate to think I’d ever be in that position! I guess it would be a choice piece of steak with a lovely glass of red.
What one book, one film and one album would you recommend?
Book: Jonathan Livingston’s Seagull; just a very simple book but an amazing, emotive idea.
Album: Astral Weeks by Van Morrison; a record that was the soundtrack to my younger years as it was always on in my family home.
Film: Once; check out the movie then come and see the stage show!
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Be true to yourself.
Do you have a pre-show routine or any rituals when performing in concert you’ll bring to your stage work?
Some Throat Coat herbal teabags and vocal exercises before I go on. Maybe I’ll have to also come up with something new to get ‘into character’!
Does your West End debut mark a new beginning for your career?
Music will always be my passion but I’d love to have the chance to do more acting alongside that for sure.
If you weren’t a singer and performer, what would you be?
I was planning on following my older brothers on a sports scholarship to the US. I’m not sure that I would have been good enough though so would have probably ended up in an Irish bar in NYC!
Once plays at the Phoenix Theatre until 21 March 2015, with Ronan Keating joining the cast from 17 November. You can book tickets through us here.