Love Shack

Take 3 ex-members of S Club 7, Steps and Hear'say. Add 35 classic pop hits and a newie from ex-Take Thatter Gary Barlow. Spread a little fairy dusty and a magical tale of engagements, stag nights, break ups and marriage courtesy of Two Pints Of Lager & A Packet Of Crisps writer Danny Peak and you have Love Shack. Launching it's World Premier at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, Designer Magazine caught up with Jon Lee (S Club) and Natalie O'Donnell (Les Miserables, Mama Mia) to talk about the musical and their roles as the couple Sam and Joanne.

Q: Do you mind just filling us in about Love Shack and what the show's about?
Jon: It is a brand new show that has been put together by Kim Gavin and Danny Peak and has been produced by Tristan Baker. Basically it's a fun show featuring all the pop tunes you know and love, including "Love Shack" obviously. It's basically the story of 5 friends, myself and Natalie getting engaged, splitting up and then all our friends helping us get back together.

Natalie: The thing about being in any new show is always exciting creating something that has never been done before. One of the reasons I came over here to the UK is because in Australia you only get touring productions of something that's been successful previously in the UK. I really wanted to be part of creative something new and with this one its so dependent on the types of personalities that you have and everyone being brave enough to pull a gag when they want to. It's a lot of fun.

Q: Natalie, have you had to master the English accent for the show?
Natalie: An interesting question. Initially I wasn't sure so I started doing half and half and the producer came up to me and said you can actually stick with your Australian accent. The story is we grew up together as kids, I went over to Australia and when I came back we met up again.

Its funny really because sometimes when I'm on the tube there's a particular London accent that sounds quite Australian. Maybe it's the fact that everyone raises there voice at the end of every sentence now.

Q: Everyone knows you as Jon Lee, the flexible acrobatic master of S Club, but it was actually musicals that you grew up with. Is this musical different to what you've done before.
Jon: Definitely. Everyone's got a view of musicals as someone standing at the edge of the stage going waoaahhh, the whole diaphragm breathing thing, and this show isn't like that. It is a pop musical, so apart from the scenes and stuff, it is a mini concert in a way. It's all tunes that you know and you love and at the end there's a big finale where you can get up and have a boogie with us.

Q: After S Club 7 why did you decide to go back to musicals?
Jon: Musicals is where I trained and where I started out. It's somewhere I'm very comfortable being. The pop thing is focused on you. It was Jon Lee as me, whereas this is in character so each show I can be someone different. When everyone's like "He's a tw*t" I can say it's not me, it's my character (laughs)

Q: How did you feel about the death of the S Club brand after S Club 8 turned into I Dream?
Jon: S Club 8 were never majorly anything to do with us. It was this separate group that was formed on the back of S Club. We had a good time and they're really lovely kids.

Q: Would you ever return to pop?
Jon: At the moment it's gone and buried, but it's one of those things you never say never. I might need a few bob in a few years time.

Q: The one thing we need to know is...are we going to see a return of those Jon Lee acrobatics?
Jon: Of course you're going to see the Jon Lee acrobatics. Its not a real show without the acrobatics. I remember in S Club it was always the thing where I was back flipping. It ended up that even in the ballads I was back flipping.

Q: Have you got any memorable Stag Night stories of your own?
Jon:  Non memorable (Laughs). A couple of years ago we went over to Dublin for my brothers stag do. We had such a good time.

Q: When we think of pop classics we think of Daphne & Celeste, Scooch and Mero which in a perfect world would be part of Love Shack - The Musical. However we're not in a perfect world, so what are your favourite songs from the show?
Jon: The girls get to sing "Express Yourself"...I'm really jealous of that. But the guys do a version of "Psychedelic Soul" by The Temptations which is cool. Vocally we both do an acapella version of "Telephone Line" by ELO. That's really funny because we all come out of a club and we're supposed to be a bit drunk.

Natalie: The thing that I like about the show is the story is written so well. I feel that sometimes when you get musicals with pop songs they can look a bit thrown together, whereas with this the songs actually carry on the story. You could take the songs out of it and the story would still stand up alone.

Words: Alex McCann

Love Shack is at Manchester Palace Theatre between 24th Feb and 5th March
The show then tours nationally till the end of June
Love Shack ticket hotline: 0870 126 3612

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Love Shack - The Extras

As well as chatting to Jon Lee and Natalie O'Donnell, Designer Magazine also caught up with writer Danny Peak and ex-Hear'say member Noel Sullivan. Imagine this as Designer Magazine's online equivalent of DVD extras

Danny Peak on a new kind of Musical
"I was never involved in the Two Pints Of Lager...the musical. I'm one of a group of the writers for that so sadly I wasn't involved in that. I have done things in theatre's, and when you do a sitcom episode it is filmed in front of an audience, but this is my first theatre piece on this scale.

It is a little more adult than some musicals, but it's not like Two Pints Of Lager & A Packet Of Crisps. There is hardly any swearing, so compared to that it is fairly clean. In terms of writing it, I aimed it at people like myself in their 20s and 30s. But I know the first night my mum has booked out the theatre for friends and family so I hope there's something for them in it as well"

Noel Sullivan on his solo career
"It's going really well. I've been in the studio for the past 11 months working with some friends of mine. Basically just taking my time with it. I had a couple of offers when I finished with the band and I just didn't feel I was ready. I can't write music and sing about stuff unless i've actually felt it. I was only 19 when I joined the band so I just felt a little more life experience and enjoying myself. At the moment the music i'm making sounds like Earth, Wind and Fire - real funky disco."