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Career Chronicles - Allan Stewart

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Allan Stewart is playing ‘the world’s greatest entertainer’ Al Jolson in Jolson and Co - The Musical at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh and King’s Theatre in Glasgow. His careers has included pop music, television presenting, comedy and  over twenty pantomimes - often as the Dame. More recently he has starred in Marie Jones’ Stones In His Pockets and played Roger De Bris in the touring productiong of Mel Brooks’ The Producers. Allan is married to Jane and has two children: David (19) and Kate (14).

What inspired you to start a career in the theatre?
I have been performing since I was 10 years of age, so I really have never done anything else. My father was a very funny man and although he never entertained professionally he encouraged me to go into the business.

Describe your job.
My job is the best job in the world. I get paid for something I would do for nothing. What can be better than walking onto a stage and making people laugh? I still love it after all these years and count myself as very lucky.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Most people, if they were honest would say that when they watch as great performer on stage they would change places with them at the drop of hat.

And the worst?
The job can be lonely at times. As I travel around the world I often wish my family were there to see the wonderful places I go to. So when you find yourself on a wet Tuesday in November sitting in a motorway café you forget you are in show business.

What’s the proudest achievement in your career?
My proudest moment is that I am still, after 45 years in the industry, topping bills all over the country and living a very good lifestyle. Longevity is one of the hardest parts of this business.

Most embarrassing moment?
I was working in a big theatre club near London early in my career and I was wearing a beautiful velvet dinner suit. In the middle of a comedy routine I noticed the bass player wasn’t paying attention and was looking at the floor. I went over to him and realised he was reading a dirty magazine. So I decided to embarrass him. As I bent down to pick up the magazine my trousers ripped from the back to the front. I couldn’t hide the fact and the audience roared for about five minutes. I eventually had to carry on the rest of the show, which included a big ballad, with my trousers in tatters. Very embarrassing but hilarious.

Who in the industry do you most admire and why?
As far as comedy goes I really admire Billy Connolly. Over the years, he has taken the art of observation to the Nth degree. He is capable of doing two sidesplitting hours one night and then the next night doing another completely different two hours. He is a genius and a wonderful actor.

What would you do if you didn’t work in the theatre?
I can’t think: I am not very good at anything else. As a kid I fancied the advertising world and I think I might have been quite creative in that direction. But I’m sorry to say I am a ‘ham’ and can’t contemplate another career.

Key Dates:
1966 - Recorded with George Martin (of Beatles fame) and released single on Parlaphone label.
1972 - Album released and first appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
1974 - Own TV series on Scottish Television.
1983 - Three series of Copy Cats for LWT.
1989 - National TV quiz show Chain Letters.
1996 - Take over lead in Jolson the Musical at the Victoria palace in London and later in Toronto.
1999 - Start long association with Kings Theatre in Edinburgh including 13 pantos.
2009 - Premiere Jolson & Co at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh followed by a national tour.

- Joseph Pike


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