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Rob McVeigh on making the transition from screen to stage

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Rob McVeigh appeared in the 2007 BBC television series Any Dream Will Do, where he was chosen to be in the final 12 to appear on the live Saturday night shows. He finished in seventh place. In the first of our Screen to Stage series, we catch up with Rob as he prepares to appear in Over the Rainbow: The Eva Cassidy Story.

How intense was the TV programme?
Basically the show was very intense. The weekly routine was that we’d finish the live show on Saturday night, and then on Sunday morning we’d be back at the BBC picking next week’s songs and starting to learn them. If we were lucky, we’d get Monday off – and then Tuesday was group rehearsal day, learning routines and working on the dancing.

On Wednesday we’d do the challenge that formed part of the live show, Thursday was another chance to work on the song, Friday was tech day at the BBC – which takes a lot longer than people imagine as everyone has to learn which cameras to work to. Then on Saturday it started all over again.

Then, as it happened, you’re eliminated and it’s all over – what happened next?
Well, the balloon popped massively for me because I was in a sort of limbo situation, not knowing what to do with myself. The good thing was that I got a private meeting with David Grindrod, who is probably the biggest casting director in London, and he sat me down and talked about agents and stuff like that and what I should come to expect next.

It was weird because, straight away, I had offers for panto coming in and I had no agent at the time. So, although the balloon had popped, that was when all the exciting things started to happen really.

How much of a help was appearing on the show?
It was absolutely a massive help for me as my main goal was to get an agent. I used to think that was the hardest thing to do. Of course, it’s not like I was really trying before the show. I was a full-time builder, I had a great job that paid well, but I saw this as my opportunity to maybe get somewhere.

I’m not going to knock my talent, ‘cos there must be something there, but I had a lot of luck as well. But I think that’s just life, it’s a game of luck, especially in this business. Right time, right place, right face and it works.

So now you’re on the stage eight times a week, how does that change your life?
It makes life so disciplined. I’ve been working constantly for the last two years or more, going straight from one show to another – and it’s still like it now as I’m booked right through to next year. It’s an amazing thing to have.

I talk to friends and they say “I’m doing this for three months”, but then there’s nothing. Most times when I’m doing a job at the moment, I know I have something next which is a bit awkward ‘cos you don’t want to rub it in people’s faces but, then again, you’ve got to be happy for yourself.

How much have you learned about live theatre?
I’ve seen each job as a new challenge and a new experience and I gain whatever I can from them. Right now I’m doing Over the Rainbow and I’m working with people who have, some of them, been in the business for 20 years.
There’s a guy on stage with me who’s worked with Michael Jackson, he’s been in T he Lion King, and to work with these people makes me realise that this is more like an apprenticeship really.

A great thing I was taught when I was on the TV show was that you take whatever you can from the professionals who have already done it because you never stop learning. I think that is the most important thing for me right now.

What’s next for you?
Well, I actually did a summer season last year on the pier in Cromer. It’s one of the last traditional variety shows left in the country, and I’m going back again this year. It’s a fantastic production as we have two different shows, with alternate acts in each. As well as doing my own act, I also work as part of the ensemble – so if they do eight different songs with routines, it’s all singing and dancing for me.

I’ve been improving my dance with a great choreographer called Dianne Cooke, who really worked me last year and she truly brought me out of myself. I used to think I danced like my dad, but now I have much more confidence in my ability. It’s a great honour to be asked back to Cromer, but talk about disciplined – you’ve really got to be disciplined for that.

Two shows a day?
Oh yes, two shows a day and it’s hilarious ‘cos when we start we do the rehearsal for two weeks and then we do show one while we are rehearsing show two during the day. Then as we start alternating shows one and two, we also start rehearsing for the kids’ show we do in the holidays so sometimes it can be three shows a day, especially on Saturdays in August.

Rob McVeigh is appearing as Dan Cassidy in Over the Rainbow, the Eva Cassidy Story until 18 March 2012 and will then feature in Summer Seaside Special from 16 June to 29 September 2012 and Schools Out Seaside Special from 27 July to 31 August 2012 at the Pavilion Theatre, Cromer Pier.


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