Like eventual winner Lee Mead, Any Dream Will Do finalist Daniel Boys was already a professional actor when he entered the BBC One reality TV competition to cast the lead in the current West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Since Boys was voted off on the series’ sixth live knock-out television sing-off last May, he has appeared in the star-studded presentation of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd - along with Welsh tenor Bryn Terfel and West End favourites Maria Friedman, Philip Quast, Daniel Evans and Emma Williams – as part of the reopening festivities at the Royal Festival Hall.
Boys now stars in the UK premiere of the 2006 Off-Broadway hit I Love You Because, which has a limited season at the fringe Landor Theatre. Billed as a “modern-day musical love story”, I Love You Because centres on two New York brothers - greeting card writer Austen Bennett (Boys) and his slacker brother Jeff - and the girls they fall in love with.
I Love You Because has music by Joshua Salzman and book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham. The pair met, and began writing the songs for the show, while on New York University’s graduate writing programme for musical theatre. Boys is joined by Richard Frame, Debbie Kurup, Cameron Jack, Jodie Jacobs and Lucy Emma Williamson in Robert WcWhir’s production.
Prior to Any Dream Will Do, Boys’ West End credits included Roger in Grease at the Victoria Palace and Rent at the Prince Edward, where he alternated with Adam Ricketts in the leading role of Mark. He reprised the role in a 2006 European tour of the Jonathan Larson musical. Boys’ other credits have included Sunset Boulevard, West Side Story, The War of the Worlds and the pantomimes Peter Pan, Jack and the Beanstalk and Snow White.
Date & place of birth
Born 26 March 1979 in Yateley, Hampshire.
Lives now in
Greenwich, south-east London.
Guildford School of Acting.
Why did you want to become a performer?
It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I remember being at primary school and loving doing all the school plays. I’ve always loved singing and acting. I don’t know where I got it. No one in my family is an actor or singer except my grandfather. My parents took me to see musicals, though, including Starlight Express.
If you hadn’t become a performer, what might you have done professionally?
When I was younger, I was obsessed with farms and farm toys so maybe I could have become a farmer! I also would have liked to have been a veterinarian, but I’m not smart enough.
First big break
I’d say that was one of my first jobs, which was understudying Adam Ricketts as Mark in Rent. I became the alternate when the show came into the West End and got some great reviews. That was an amazing opportunity. Last year, I understudied Russell Watson in the world premiere of Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds, and I got to go on on the first night. It was a very high-tech show. We had Martian fighting machines that hovered over audience.
How did Any Dream Will Do affect your career?
I’ll put my hand and admit that this time last year when the Maria programme was on, I was one of those saying, I can’t believe reality TV is taking over. I was against it. But then over the past year, I started getting really frustrated going up for roles. It seemed like, unless you were a soap or TV star, you just didn’t get a look in. So I thought I’d give in and try. I told friends I felt guilty about it, but they said I shouldn’t. The truth is, it’s worked - I have more of a profile now than I ever have.
What were you high and low points on Any Dream Will Do?
The high was just meeting Andrew Lloyd Webber. He’s world famous, and ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with Joseph and Starlight Express. To sing to him every week really was a dream come true. But I don’t think the public really got to see how stressful the thing was. We only had three days to learn two group numbers and a solo number, you don’t see your family and friends, you’re all living together. And of course being criticised on live television, that was hard. I felt like I was in this constant battle with the judges who kept saying I was too nice and had no charisma. I do have charisma, I’m not just nice. The most frustrating thing was that we didn’t even get to choose our material. The judges said, we need to see the angry Daniel, and then I got a cheesy pop ballad to sing!
What do you think of reality TV casting in general?
It feels like soon the whole of the West End will be cast by reality TV, which would not be good. But the public obviously likes it. Maria Friedman and I were talking about it when we did Sweeney Todd. We were saying that, on the positive side, these programmes are creating musical theatre stars again and they’re getting people into theatres. It amazes me that the whole X Factor thing is still going because nothing ever happens with those people. At least when you win on these shows, you get a West End contract for a year.
Other career highlights to date
When I was younger, I saw Grease ten times so to get a part in that … well, I was over the moon - and I sang “Mooning” in the show! And meeting so many influential people has been incredible – being friends with John Barrowman, working with Maria Friedman, Daniel Evans and Philip Quast. Just the fact that Andrew Lloyd Webber knows my name now.
At college, I got to work with Ken Caswell, who used to be the associate director of Les Miz. He was fantastic, but I think he’s retired now. I’d love to work with Trevor Nunn – who wouldn’t? – or maybe Sam Mendes.
Favourite musical writers
I love Boublil and Schonberg show, I would love to do one of their shows. I know it was a huge flop on Broadway, but I’ve listened to The Pirate Queen and thought the music was green. Les Miz I think is looking a little tired now and maybe needs to go, but you still can’t deny that it’s absolutely beautiful. I also really like Jason Robert Brown. I wasn’t a huge fan to start with but now I am. I auditioned for Parade.
What role would you most like to play still?
Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. I think that’s the best piece Andrew’s ever written. The music is so much meatier. His songs are usually very simple melodies - and they’re fantastic – but the music in Sunset Boulevard is more complex, and it captures the period perfectly.
What's the best thing you've seen on stage recently?
It wasn’t very recently, but I saw His Dark Materials at the National two years ago and thought it was one of the best pieces of theatre I’d ever seen. I love the books anyway, but I found the plays absolutely captivating. Because I’m an actor myself, when I go to shows sometimes, I can’t help noticing if the cast are looking bored or whatever. That wasn’t the case here. The performances were inspiring and the designs, especially with the daemons, were so clever. I was mesmerised.
If you could swap places with one person (living or dead) for a day, who would it be?
I’d love to swap with the Queen, just to see what her day-to-day life is like. I can’t imagine her walking round making a cup of tea or what it must feel like to rule a country.
Favourite holiday destination
I love the Greek islands. I’ve been quite a few times. My favourite is a little tiny island called Paxos. The sea is so blue and I love the very relaxed way of life there.
I’m reading the final Harry Potter. The films are rubbish but I love the books. I was dubious at first. If there’s a book that everyone’s reading, I’m usually sceptical. But these are so well written. You really are brought into this world of wizardry. The disappointment with the movies is that the world on screen is too different from the one my imagination has created, and I don’t think Daniel Radcliffe is right either. I may feel upset when I finish reading this last one, but if I’m honest, I’m a little Harry Pottered out.
I’ve become obsessed with Facebook. And, if I come across an actor I don’t know, I’ll Google them. I also like to look at the gossip on Whatsonstage.com and DressCircle. I like hearing what people are talking about – but I’ve never posted anything!
Why did you want to accept your part in I Love You Because?
Basically, I got given the script and then I looked on the show website and listened to the music. And I just thought it was a great piece with really beautiful music. It’s about love and finding that one person. It will appeal to lots of people because the subject matter is something we all can relate to.
Tell us about the character.
Austen is – I hate to use word - a geek. He writes poems for naff greeting cards. He loves the job and he’s happy in life. But in the first scene, you find out that the girl he’s been with for years is sleeping with someone else. His brother tells him to go out and find someone completely wrong for him to get over it and he ends up falling in love. In rehearsal, I find myself thinking, ah, Austen’s so sweet, I feel sorry for him because people are so horrible to him. But he’s a loveable character.
In the US, it was billed as a gender-swapped retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
I know, but we don’t like to say that. It’s really nothing to do with it. The only slight link is that Pride and Prejudice is about sisters trying to find men, and in this, me and my brother are trying to find women. It actually reminds me of an episode of Sex and the City and Friends rolled into one. It’s sexy, funny, real and very American in the sense of that dry Friends-like humour.
What’s your favourite number from I Love You Because?
There are a few. The opening number, “Another Saturday Night in New York”, is fantastic. I get to sing two songs: “Goodbye” and “Maybe We Just Made Love”. If I had to pick one favourite from those, it’d be “Maybe We Just Made Love”. Austen has had this drunken night with a girl and gone to bed with her. It’s something so alien to him, he’s never done that before, so he’s convinced he’s in love. It reminds me of some of Jason Robert Brown’s songs.
What’s the funniest thing that happened in rehearsals?
Richard Frame plays my brother and he’s always got us in stitches. We just laugh because of way he says his lines, his comic timing is brilliant. His character keeps getting words wrong. In one scene, he finds an abacus in a trashcan and he says, look I’ve found an albatross. It doesn’t sound that funny, but the way Richard says it, it is.
This is the UK premiere of a new musical that’s been written by two guys who met while at New York University’s graduate writing programme for musical theatre. Do you think there’s enough happening to support new musical writing in this country?
No I don’t. In the States, they cherish their musical theatre writers and stars. Here, something has changed in the past 15 to 20 years. We don’t cherish or respect musical theatre at all. Most people will just go to see a musical if their favourite soap star is in it. It’s very sad. I’m not sure what can be done.
I Love You Because opens on 26 September 2007 (previews from 19 September) at the Landor Theatre, where it continues until 20 October.