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Mark Halliday On ... Rat Pack Live

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Rat Pack Live comes to the Lowry in September. The show has been touring for many years and we caught up with one of the original cast members - Mark Halliday to talk about his career, Manchester, Jersey Boys, touring the world and Dean Martin - the part that keeps on giving.

You got your first break in Manchester. How?
I was working for a publishing co in Manchester, running a sales team, and one of my team asked for the afternoon off to go to an audition at the Palace theatre, which was just by the office. On a whim I went with him to see what it was all about. When we arrived my colleague was too nervous to actually go into his audition. I took a look at the sheet music for the song he was going to sing. It was one I knew quite well, so I thought 'what the hell. No one will know if I make a fool of myself.' I took his spot and a month later I was performing in my first professional show, which was Me an My Girl at the Lincoln Theatre Royal. The rest is history!

You have starred in many musicals. What's been your favourite and why?
I have loved my job over the years and it's taken me to some incredible places, like spending 2 years in the Caribbean working for Disney for example. I still think my favourite show was performing in the west end production of The Rat Pack. It started my love affair with swing and big band and has ended with having my own company and shows which I love.

You have worked with Alvin Stardust. What was that like?
Alvin is quite simply a legend. A truly lovely man and very talented. His wife is also a great and compassionate lady whom I have very fond memories. A few years ago, I saw that Alvin was doing a solo show at the high Wycombe swan. I was in high Wycombe on another show and went to see him. It was a great show! I snuck backstage afterwards and saw him and it was great to catch up. Would love to see more of them.

Since playing Dean Martin, you have travelled to many exotic places. What's the best and worst thing about touring?
Good question! When you start touring, all the flights and posh cars taking you to and from is really exciting. The more you do it and end up with difficult flights and cancellations and landing at 4am to do a show that evening, it quickly loses its glamour. I have to say though, that I've had brilliant times on the road. Been to amazing places and met some incredible people. I actually met my fiancée on tour! We were performing a show in Germany a few years back and we are getting married next year. She's a very talented girl who is also one of the Andelini Sisters who feature in the Rat Pack show. It's great that we get to work together sometimes or we would never see each other! Ha ha!

You sing many classics in the Rat Pack show. What are your favorites that you never tire of performing?
Even with the classics you sometimes feel 'do I really have to sing that again?!', but when the band kicks in and you see the amazing effect these songs have on an audience, it reinforces how incredible these songs and writers really were. That they can still have this reaction after all these years. I would probably say my favourite Dean number has to be "That's Amore", but my favourite all time swing song is definitely "New York, New York." Done properly that song can win over any audience, anywhere in the world.

Why do you think people still love the Rat Pack?  
The music is steeped in history and encompasses some of the greatest melodies ever written. For some, it's the theme tune to their lives. For younger people, great performers like Robbie Williams and Michael Buble have done a great job of introducing this material to a new generation. It seems, in my experience , that this music unites people from all different backgrounds and age groups like nothing else I've ever encountered. Sounds dramatic, I know, but what other music has ever got your grandad, your mum and dad and grumpy teenagers on the dance floor together at family parties, arms round each other singing along in a kick line?

You are coming to Salford in September. Will it bring back memories of your big break?
My family still live in Wilmslow and surrounding areas, so it is still very much my home turf. It does always bring back good memories though and I will always be grateful to the guy who decided it wasn't for him that day and got me my first break.

What have you seen on stage lately that you loved?
Without a doubt the best thing I have seen in years is Jersey Boys. Brilliantly executed book with some incredible music and top performers. A must see!!

Finally, why should people see the Rat Pack Live at the Lowry?
If you have ever wanted to see the original Frank Dean and Sammy, these guys are incredible at recreating this experience. Each of us has spent a very long time studying the originals and then does a great job of making it their own. With us, you get some of the best songs ever written, while encapsulating the cameraderie and comedy you have grown to expect from the legends themselves. We find something different in every show, so no two shows are exactly the same. We can honestly say that we enjoy every second of working together which comes across to the audience and makes the evening really special and very memorable. Couple that with a smoking hot band and you have a great evening with something for everyone.

Mark Halliday was speaking to Glenn Meads

The Rat Pack Live is at the Lowry on 7 September.


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