HE found success in a reality TV show, now Shannon Noll is about to debut on the UK stage in Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds, playing a pastor who’s struggling to deal with reality… of Martians invading. A far cry from “C’mon Aussie, C’mon.”
War of the Worlds the musical. How did you get involved with this? I’ve read you were in an Australian production of it in 2007…
Yeah, Michael Chugg put my name in for the Australian tour, I think just because mine and Phil Lynotts’ voices are fairly similar (Lynott played the same roll in the first musical version in 1978). Gravelly type, a rusty sort of voice. So yeah, I watched the DVD of the last UK production and went yeah, no that’d be cool, I’d like to have a crack at that so did the Australian tour and Jeff offered me this role to do the UK tour so for sure, why not.
Back in 2002, when you were unknown, could you have ever imagined it that this is where you would be, fighting aliens in London?
I know. I was in a sheep shed and not really thinking about the future at all.
Must be so surreal…
Yeah, it is pretty wild, especially on the kids and that. So when you’re actually looking at your kids it’s easier to take stock of what is actually going on, otherwise you never really look at it…now feels like it’s actually happening.
You’ve turned down other roles in musicals before. Why now?
With this one it was obviously a UK production so something that was fairly, individual. I was sorta jumping in, with a big role, with people who didn’t know anything of me, so it was going to be a very, very honest and straight down the line judgment.
Given you’ve played the role before, was much preparation needed do it again?
Well, I’ve done a fair bit, it’s just a habit. It’s funny; I can put the rehearsal CD on for the drive to the gym. It’s done by the time I get there. So I hope I’ve done enough!
So tell us a bit about the character you’re playing, Parsons Nathaniel…
Well, he’s a pastor, so he’s a father. So he’s struggling with reality, he’s trying to stay true to his faith. He’s going, this is the devils work. This is the devil punishing the wicked and all that sort of stuff. But his wife is trying to make him understand that they are not devils, but he just won’t have it and he’s lost faith, lost his mind because he can’t fathom what is going on because he knows what he’s looking at, that its aliens and all that, but he’s going no I won’t have that, these are the devils, not Martians. He’s lost the plot completely, basically.
Interesting. How do you find playing that role?
The best part about it I think is that all the, in Phil’s voice when he did it and it’s in his dialogue as well so you can sorta get an idea of where the character is mentally from, so it’s a really great guideline. When you’re doing a movie there is no-one to copy, get an idea of. But there is in this case so it’s really beneficial to be able to do what Phil did and take it from there.
You’re going to be exposed to a whole new audience, what’s that like?
Yeah, I’m petrified of course. I think, you know, doing something different, you’ve gotta challenge yourself, try new things and that’s what I’m doing, in a big way. But I’m looking forward to it and really excited.
So is a musical theatre career on the cards?
I don’t know at this point, you know nothing is off the cards but I think you keep your options open and see whatever comes your way.
You’re arguably the most successful Australian Idol graduate…
Yeah I mean, I think on numbers it is that way…
Where do you see the future of the show in Australia? You’ve done so well and you didn’t even win!
I know. I think there will continue to be more talent out there, there will continue to be people to be unearthed but look you know, make good decisions, it’s all about platforms, it’s not a guarantee, it’s a foot in the door and a lot of people have those opportunities in different situations, whether it’s Triple J unearthed or any other talent quest, it’s what you do with it
You used to get compared to Jimmy Barnes. Do you think you’ve finally shaken that tag now that you’re out on the world stage?
It’s a great compliment, you know Jimmy’s an amazing Australian superstar, tried and true and you know. Look, I was uncomfortable with that as probably he was, only because it was early days and I think I’ve broken away from that whole thing now, I think. People don’t say that as much anymore, you know I was proud to have been considered, but knew I wasn’t as worthy of that, never wanted to be, I just wanted to be me, then there are no expectations and that, you just do whatever you are going to do, but you are judged on who you are.
You’ve had to bounce back from a few run-ins over the past few years back home. (Noll had a much publicised spat with comedian Wil Anderson in 2006.) Does that make you stronger as a person and a performer?
It’s saddening that people have to go through that sort of stuff. You know that’s the life we lead but you know you learn to not let it affect you as much…you learn how unimportant it is, and how important other things are. That’s the only way to properly digest it and get past it.
So what’s next for Shannon Noll?
After this, bit of an Aussie tour, doing acoustic shows in Australia, which will be in conversation as well… a 15 minute question time in the middle of it, the audience get to ask questions.
Is that something new?
Yeah, I’m the only one that’s ever done it before, they can ask questions, whatever they want. Probably will get some hairy ones, but nothing hairier than what I have got before. It helps the fans get a real sense of who you are, it’s really enjoyable from my point of view and it seems like the fans like it too.
The War of the Worlds will return to London’s O2 Arena on June 20 and 21. Cost is Adults £15, Concession/Children £12. Details and full tour dates at www.thewaroftheworlds.com
Now I Run, the second single from Noll’s debut UK album, will be released on June 21.