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Hymns, arias and hustlers

NOEL Sullivan opens as Freddy, the Jack-the-lad, new kid on the block, hustler in the touring premiere of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, as an established musical theatre star, but it all could have been so different – his first appearance in Birmingham was with Welsh National Opera.

Although perhaps still best known as a member of Hear’Say, the 2001 product of Popstars, the forbearer of X-factor and its ilk, he has quietly built a solid reputation and career as a stage performer.

Credits include West End shows Love Shack and What a Feeling, Danny Zuko in Grease and Galileo in We Will Rock You and he is no stranger to Birmingham having appeared in shows such as Flashdance, Rock of Ages where he played Drew and Tick, a role he shared with Jason Donovan in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

He also hosted two TV shownoel sullivans in Las Vegas and appeared in Channel 5’s reality show Trust Me – I’m a Holiday Rep.

But Sullivan already had an impressive CV long before Popstars.

Trained as a chorister, his first job was as an understudy for Welsh National Opera – appearing at Birmingham Hippodrome

He said: “I came from a musical family. My grandmother was a cellist and she trained with the Paris Conservatoire so I grew up in a musical household. My mother loved soul and stuff.

"I went to choir school and my first professional job was with Welsh National opera, I was 13-14. I sang all through my childhood.

In the money: Noel Sullivan as Freddy

“After my A-levels I toured the USA with The Black Mountain Male Chorus of Wales who are now Only Men Aloud, they won a big competition and are doing very well for themselves.

“My choral background served me in good stead for future performing.”

Sullivan, the lad from Cardiff, also appeared in the USA with The Twelve Irish Tenors. He said: “To be honest none of them were Irish, or tenors, but the Americans didn’t know that.

"I worked in Las Vegas for nine months then went to Los Angeles and someone got in touch with me and said this group were performing in Reno, in Nevada. I wanted to extend my trip to the States for a little while so I went and sang with them."

They might not have been Irish, or indeed tenors but Sullivan added with a laugh: "They were all British though, with really cod Irish accents, but apparently that was good enough.

Sullivan, with college options took a year out after A-levels and when Popstars came along took the jump.

“We were the guinea pigs for the well-oiled machine that is X-factor. It was a great experience, not something that was for me really but when that finished (18 months later) musical theatre was where I knew that I wanted to be.

"I didn’t just bowl into the West End though, I made a conscious decision to earn my stripes within that world and it has taken 14-15 years to get to this point, but I am thrilled with the roles I am getting to play now.”

And the latest is Freddy Benton. “If you know the film it is Steve Martin role. He’s a brilliant character. He barges into the French Riviera and finds Lawrence who is suave and sophisticated, has been running his business for years and has a beautiful mansion.

“Freddy is living hand to mouth, picking pockets and getting the odd 20 bucks from anyone he can and he sees Lawrence and a bit of hero worship sets in -  he’s like ‘I wanna be you’.

“It is just a fantastic farce. From that moment on Lawrence takes him under his wing and they end up having a bet. Whoever can extract $50,000 from a chosen target the other has to leave and hilarity ensues.

"We find ourselves in ridiculous situations but I don’t want to give too much away. All I can say is it is an evening of glamour and sophistication and then we come in and tear it all to shreds. It’s a bit cheeky, a bit dirty and a bit naughty – a few bits are close to the bone but I think we manage to play it just so.”

Roger Clarke 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Michael Praed, Noel Sullivan, Carley Stenson and Mark Benton runs at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham from Tuesday 5 may to Saturday 16 May before embarking on a national tour

Tour Details - http://www.scoundrelsontour.com/


Mark Benton - living the dream Carley Stenson - following the passion

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