Talking Theatre: Norman Pace Discusses Hairspray The Musical – Part 2

The UK tour of Hairspray continues at Bristol Hippodrome until March 10, featuring the iconic music and lyrics by Academy Award, Tony and Emmy winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

The musical comedy stars Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle and Layton Williams as Seaweed. Alongside award-winning comedian Norman Pace as Wilbur Turnblad, Matt Rixon returns to the role of Edna Turnblad and newcomer Rebecca Mendoza makes her professional debut as Tracy Turnblad.

Today we conclude our interview with comedian, Norman Pace who discusses playing Wilbur Turnblad.

Do you have a preference with performing live on stage compared to recording for television and film? 

I prefer stage. It is the party atmosphere and if you get a mistake then you have another 7 chances that week to make it right. There is a lot more pressure with television, the pressure is enormous when the camera is right there in front of you, in your face. You have very little rehearsal and there is a shorter time to give a convincing character performance, every time.  There isn’t the freedom to learn, discover the character and the different ways you can do it, like on stage. I find filming boring followed by a great deal of stress in short periods. 

A music routine from the UK tour of Hairspray which plays Bristol HippodromeA music routine from the UK tour of Hairspray which plays Bristol Hippodrome

A music routine from the UK tour of Hairspray which plays Bristol Hippodrome

Has musical theatre always been a genre you have enjoyed? What was it that inspired you go into musical theatre? 

It’s that feeling when you see musical theatre. When musical theatre is at its best it bypasses your brain and just grabs your heart and shakes you around a bit, it’s as good a night in the theatre as you will get! It was a natural thing for me to go into musical theatre really, I have a background in singing and acting. I used to sing in choirs and Gilbert and Sullivan Operas when I was an amateur. I learnt that if you want to survive in this business you have to use everything you know and since I can sing, I had to use that in my career. 

Do you have an all-time favourite musical or character?

My all-time favourite musical growing up was The Jungle Book! The film of The Jungle Book came out when I was a teenager and I remember I would sneak into the back way of my local cinema and watch free showings of films one after another because I loved it so much! I can still sing every word.

Would you like to play any of these roles?

I would love to play Alfred Dootlittle in My Fair Lady. That is the one that got away from me really. Gareth (Hale) played that role on the Cameron Mackintosh tour in 2006 and it is the only time I have been jealous of him! Hopefully one day – I am the right age to do it and I can certainly sing the two songs in the show. Hairspray has proven to me that I am physically able to get up there and do it every night, 8 times a week. 

A scene from Hairspray The Musical playing at Bristol HippodromeA scene from Hairspray The Musical playing at Bristol Hippodrome

A scene from Hairspray The Musical playing at Bristol Hippodrome

What do you consider your greatest achievement or highlight of our career away from the stage? 

Gareth and I, Hale and Pace, won the Rose d’Or Light Entertainment Festival Award in 1990 which meant that it gave us another 10-15 years on the television. As an international entertainment award, our show ended up being sold all around the world which meant we were able to go to Australia, New Zealand, Canada to perform. It kept up going for a long time. We have been back to Australia quite a few times to do our Cabaret show which we have refined over the years. We began as cabaret comedy sketch performers then we had to learn how to do television. What was in our blood was standing there and performing live in front of people.

2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the original film starring Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry (Blondie) and Jerry Stiller on which the musical is based, if you could adapt any film into a musical which one would it be? 

Tough question! Once Upon A Time in America, with Robert De Nero singing and dancing in it.