Interview: Peter Duncan real life role in Northampton

Peter Duncan in Million Dollar Quartet
Peter Duncan in Million Dollar Quartet
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Simon Cowell and musical theatre you might not think of as natural bedfellows.

But with the arrival of the Tony award winning musical Million Dollar Quartet at Northampton next week, one of its stars Peter Duncan, compares his character to that of The X Factor judge.

The former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan said of his character Sam Phillips: “He was a little bit like the Simon Cowell of his day.

“This is a true story and Sam was a real person. He brings these four legendary musicians together in the studio, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley for a one off night.”

But I ask Peter is there a difference in the approach between playing a real person and a fictional character.

He said: “I think with whatever part you play, you have a little look at the society that he is surrounded by and that gives you the perspective on who you are playing.

“I don’t think there is a great deal of difference in the approach that I have.

“Because this is what is called a jukebox musical, the biggest challenge is making sure that the story and the emotion of the characters still comes through around the songs.”

Audiences can expect to hear a score of rock hits, including Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Fever, I Walk the Line and Great Balls of Fire. But will Peter be singing?

“Unfortunately not,” he said. “Although there is a medley of songs right at the end of the show which I get to perform in.”

He is an Olivier Award-nominated actor who first came to attention as a presenter on the television show Blue Peter.

As well as his illustrious career on stage, which includes the title role in Barnum, television credits include Demolition Dad, Doctors and the BBC series Duncan Dares.

Peter has also created original pantomimes at Hackney Empire and Broadway Theatre as well as writing and directing Oxford Playhouse’s annual Christmas production.

While he might be best known for presenting Blue Peter for two spells in the 1980s, he is still recognised for something he did before the first of his spells.

His legendary performance in the cult film Flash Gordon.

Peter said: “I am in the film for about one minute and 38 seconds. It’s not embarassing to be asked about it because it was nearly 40 years ago.

“I was up at a sci-fi convention and Sam J Jones, who played Flash, makes a living from having being that character.

“I did wonder along with some of the other cast att that convention where it could go to next. And then I thought Flash Gordon the musical.

“If Queen could let us have the theme song to open it, we could then write some original songs to appear afterwards.

“I might need a little more clout for it to happen. I fancy having a villainous part in the musical, maybe the Peter Wyngarde part in the movie.”

It was just months later but does he prefer acting or presenting?

Peter said: “I enjoy every opportunity I get given, I enjoyed being the chief scout and even some of the reality TV shows I’ve done.

“I did Tumble and I did everything I could on that show. If I had done it 20 years earlier, I might have gone further on that show but I did what I could.”

Audiences can be a fly on the wall of fame and history when Million Dollar Quartet takes to the Derngate stage,

The show runs at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate from Tuesday April 18 to Saturday April 22.

There are performances at 7.30pm each evening with matinee productions on Wednesday April 19 and Saturday April 22.

Tickets for the show cost betwee £17 and £38.

These can be booked by calling the box office on 01604 624811 or by visiting www.royalandderngate.co.uk where more information is available.