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20 Questions: Simon Bailey - 'Stephen Sondheim's storytelling is masterful'

Actor Simon Bailey, whose credits include ''I Can't Sing'', ''Les Miserables'' and ''The Phantom of the Opera'', will star in Sondheim two-hander ''Marry Me A Little'' at the St James Theatre with Laura Pitt-Pulford

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Simon Bailey

1. Where and when were you born?
I was born in High Wycombe on the 12th of October, 1981.

2. What made you want to become an actor?
Initially it was something that terrified me at school, but once I was forced to do it, I realised that I loved it! I loved telling stories, still do - now more than ever.

3. If you hadn't become an actor, what might you have done professionally?
I was always very interested in journalism as my dad was a member of the National Union of Journalists. I very seriously considered sports journalism before I pursued an acting career.

4. First big break?
My first West End job was Romeo and Juliet - The Musical. The show didn't do particularly well but it got me into the West End at the age of 20. I was pretty proud of that. The press night of Romeo and Juliet was my 21st birthday - not a bad present really!

5. Career highlights to date?
I've been lucky enough to have had many, playing Enjolras in the 21st anniversary cast of Les Mis, receiving a gold album with Teatro, meeting the Queen on one of my two Royal Variety Performances, playing Raoul in the first ever re-staging of Phantom. Many more which I consider highlights but I won't bore you with them!

6. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
Sounds silly but I saw my neighbours' school production of Joseph when I was six and I knew it was something I had to do. I was so thrilled when I got to play Pharoah in the West End years later.

7. And the last?
I just saw Richard III at Trafalgar Studios and thought it was exceptional. Jamie Lloyd is the master and I love watching his productions. Martin Freeman was fantastic as was the entire cast.

8. Who are your theatrical idols?
When I was growing up, Michael Ball was my hero, I had all his albums and I grew up wishing to have a voice with that power. I'm not sure I achieved it, but he was basically my singing teacher!

9. What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"Crack on, love"

10. Why did you want to get involved in Marry me a Little?
What I love about MMAL is that these were the songs that were cut from their original shows! That blew my mind, because this material is so stunning and makes for a beautiful show. I also loved the idea of doing a two hander as I've never done one before and that scares me. You should always challenge yourself to do things that you're not necessarily comfortable with.

11. What do you think it is about Sondheim's work that people love?
Tricky. I think if you asked twenty people that question you'd get twenty different answers. For me, it's the way he elegantly and eloquently puts his thoughts down. His storytelling is masterful.

12. Favourite song in the show?
Again tricky! But I adore "So Many People".

13. Any rehearsal room mishaps?
Well, we haven't started yet officially, but with myself and my great friend Laura Pitt-Pulford doing the show, I'm sure we'll have to stop plenty of times due to laughter...

14. You've done a mixture of big West End shows (I Can't Sing!, Les Mis etc) and smaller shows ([title of show], Marry Me A Little etc). Do you have a preference and what differences do you find?
I don't have a preference but I do love the differences between the bigger shows and the smaller ones. I like the spectacle of big productions, but with the smaller shows you can't hide behind tricks, the audience is basically in your lap so there's no room for error of any kind. I love that.

15. What do you hope people take away from the show?
I hope they leave longing for these characters to meet in the future and fall in love! Also, how they look at their own views on love.

16. What's your favourite post-show hang out?
I used to have many! Now, I tend to go straight home after a show - I don't go out on school nights anymore (that often!).

17. How do you unwind?
I love to play racquetball and squash, go to the gym, play a little guitar. Also, I love going to the cinema by myself, it's very relaxing.

18. If you could swap places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
I suppose being Brad Pitt wouldn't be the most horrible thing.

19. What's your favourite theatre joke?
How do you make an actor complain? Give him a job.

20. What's next?
I couldn't possibly say ;)

Marry Me A Little runs at the St James Studio from 29 July until 10 August