Double D's at City Recital Hall
Trevor Ashley is set to return to the Sydney stages this week with an exciting BRAND NEW show that looks back at his two decades in the business. Carly got to speak with Trevor earlier in the week about his career and what to expect from his upcoming show...and, spoiler, it sounds FABULOUS! Have a read and get your tickets QUICKLY if you still can!
You speak about your desire to not to be conformed in any way as a performer - what joys and challenges has this brought you throughout your career?
I think that it has certainly kept my performing life very diverse in the way that I have been able to play roles, like Thenardier in Les Mis and then also dress up and be a woman and do pantos, and then also do concerts and all kinds of different things. As well, of course, as all the directing and other bits and pieces that I do – there are just so many things I guess that I like to do and it keeps it going. It has been wonderful in the way that I have had the opportunities to do all of these different kinds of things, but I think that, you know, there are definitely still challenges. Sometimes people just don’t know what to do with me! It’s like ‘what do we want to do with him now?’ or ‘how can we fit it into this?’ or not?!
Well, personally I’d love to see Australia do La Cage aux Folles soon! I saw both your Opera House performances and I think we are definitely so ready!
Ohh, I’d love to do it one day! That’s a show that is definitely very high on my list! It’s one of those iconic roles that I would just love to take on.
So look, there have definitely been challenges but it has always been very interesting and it has definitely been the reason that I have decided to drive so much of my own work. In that respect, the biggest challenge is always just being so far ahead in your planning but still being in the moment in your work. I am always needing to consider what I want to do and what I want to achieve about 18 months in advance, and that is quite a difficult thing to do that. You just always have to be so far ahead.
You’ve taken on a lot of divas throughout your shows. Who has been your favourite and why?
It’s definitely a toss up between [Shirley] Bassey and Liza [Minnelli]. I think that Diamonds are for Trevor is probably one of my favourite things I have ever done and I am so proud of it as a show. But then Liza has really taken me all over the world! I have gotten to do her in so many places all around, I got to do Liza in Vienna for god’s sake! It has just been so amazing really that I have got to go and be her, and now she makes her New York debut in February. So there is a lot going on. I love singing both the song books but also Liza can be such a whack job that it is just so much fun to be her. I just love both of them! I couldn’t pick between the two.
I love that you have picked those two – they are just so different!
They are different and just so fun to play!
So further to that, how do you begin the process of taking on a new diva? What’s the journey from concept to performance?
For me a lot of it comes down to the fact that I find voices that suit me that I can actually do and that I find. You know, even if I really wanted to do Madonna, I couldn’t because I just don’t sound anything like her! So for me, it’s about how close I can get to the sound and the look and the whole thing. But then, most of the people that I do are people that I have loved and watched for years anyway. So it doesn’t generally take me a lot of research or watching more clips or what not, because I have seen them for so many years because I am such a fan! So then it really becomes about trying to build the version of them, and finding the funniest and most clever way of being them.
I am doing like 2 new ones in this show on Saturday and so it will be a lot of fun to do them because I haven’t tried them out before. I’m keen to see how the audience enjoys these particular girls.
You’ve performed around the world in venues from nightclubs to the Sydney Opera House to the West End. What has been your career highlight thus far? And with exciting projects ahead, like NYC, what do you hope the future looks like too?
As I said, I think Diamonds are for Trevor, at the Opera House last year, was definitely one of the highlights of my life. That and a Night of Liza on the West End which just had one of those reactions I guess, similar to Diamonds, that was just overwhelming. And I really hope that that will just continue.
So then NYC is the next step for that with Liza!
Yes! Although doing Liza in New York is going to be pretty nerve racking…
I was going to say – are you nervous? Are you excited? Terrified? All?
Look, there are a lot of people coming who know her. It’s a strange feeling of going, well look I hope I don’t offend them or anything but I hope that they are very entertained! I just love doing Liza and doing the show and I think that doing it in NYC will be really exciting because it has so many ‘in-Broadway’ jokes that I think that they will get it. So, it is scary but I think, look you never know, but yeah, exciting! I have been able to do her everywhere else but never in her home town but I hope it will be great…even if it is a little scarier.
But for the future, I am hoping to continue expanding my company and doing more producing and presenting of other artists. There will be more things coming in the next few weeks about this and I guess we will just see what happens but I am really excited about the bunch of different artists that I am working with. Sometimes I’m performing in the shows and sometimes I’m not. So it’s really exciting to be able to do that side of things as well.
So that’s an exciting stay tuned, watch this space kind of thing?
Yeah, the plan is definitely to have a lot of that happening and there are certainly a bunch of things in the works.
Why is this show one that’s so important to you and what can audiences expect?
Look for me this one has been really fun to put together because I am doing things that I don’t normally do. I’m playing a boy in Act 1 and a girl in Act 2, so for me that is fun to do because I haven’t been able to be both on stage previously. So this is a real proper look back at my career thus far. I am going back to my first cabaret shows that I did back in 1998 and doing bits from that. Then I’m doing bits from my Pop Princess shows which I did in the naughties, and there’s bits from all the musicals that I have done and there are new songs, new divas and favourite divas. It is a real mixture of all the things that I have managed to do in my career and some really great stories. Lots of great behind the scenes stuff that people don’t know about – like lots of stupid things that have happened to me whilst I have been doing a show.
There’s always something isn’t there – there’s no great show without a good back stage story.
No, exactly. And lots of back stage gossipy things that I am going to reveal – everything from the Hairspray auditions, to how I got Priscilla and how they changed that. There are a lot of great stories that I have from the last 20 years.
The most terrifying thing is that I have been doing it for 20 years!! But I am sure that everyone will get a kick out of me going back and going through by back catalogue. And it’s a great bunch of songs! I am really thrilled to have put it together. And James Simpson who is the wonderful musical director, has put all of this together with brand new arrangements of everything so he has been very busy! And I’ve got some of my boys who have been with me for almost 20 of those years playing so that is really exciting.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Oh god! Hang on….you know what, I’m going to say that one of my favourite things was the Original Broadway Cast of Matilda
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Greece. Definitely Greece.
Dream role to perform?
I loved playing Edna Turnblad. I really did.
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Oh that’s terrible…I cant think of anything…I like cooking.
You’d be amazed at how many people go, ‘what, there is something beyond theatre?!’
Oh man, I know!
What’s next for you after this show?
Hopefully more of doing what I love to do! I hope to find something new and different and hopefully that will be happening soon.
Congratulations Trevor on your two decade celebration from all of us at Theatre Travels!
Sat Sept 22nd at Sydney's City Recital Hall - Double D's