After loving being part of Mel Brooks’ The Producers and thoroughly enjoying time on stage in Monty Python’s Spamalot, Joe is Frank Spencer up and down the country in a new theatrical version of the classic 1970s TV comedy, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.
Dates include the New Theatre Royal Portsmouth, March 19-24.
It sounds like perfect casting… and it happened very naturally with a perfect Frank Spencer moment.
“I was playing Spamalot in the West End, and I was King Arthur in three layers of costume, and it was incredibly hot in the dressing room,” Joe recalls. “There was a big fan that wasn’t working in there, so I was trying to fix it. I took it apart and put it back together again, and it worked for 30 seconds before the whole thing blew up!
“(The director) Guy Unsworth was there with Chris Luscombe, and Guy just said ‘That is just completely Frank Spencer!’ and the whole thing just clicked in his mind. We had been trying to find another project together, and it just seemed right. And so he contacted Raymond Allen who owns the rights and said that we would like to do it, and it turns out that Raymond comes along to my summer show every year, so there he was in the front row, and we asked him. We had a meeting and he said ‘Yes, let’s do it.’”
For Joe and the company, which includes Sarah Earnshaw and Susie Blake, a big part of the attraction is that it is a completely new script, written (and also directed) by Guy Unsworth.“It’s a new story about Frank wanting to go on a talent show and Betty is pregnant.
“I grew up with this show, and really Frank Spencer is my life. It feels like there is no acting required. But I am not doing it is as Michael Crawford with lots of ‘Oooh Betty!’
“I think the reason that worked for Michael Crawford is because I believe there is a lot of Michael in Frank Spencer. If you watch Michael in something like Hello Dolly, you can see a lot of Frank Spencer still in Michael, and that’s why it works.”
And that’s why Joe is keen to take a similar approach – by putting his own personality into the character of Frank.
“We will obviously still be keeping to the confines of the character, but the danger, the biggest problem would be to end up doing a bad impression of Michael Crawford.”
So what does Joe feel he needs to get across as Frank?“
I think it is his naivety. It is also his resilience. He just keeps on coming back. And it is also the exasperation. The show is also about Betty.”
Other stories by Phil: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2