My Top 5 Showtunes: Chris Peluso

The actor tells us the musical numbers he couldn’t live without

Chris Peluso
Chris Peluso
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Chris Peluso made his West End debut in Cameron Mackintosh's production of Miss Saigon. He then went onto star in the West End transfer of Showboat and is soon to star in the UK tour of Funny Girl alongside Sheridan Smith.

He now leads the cast of Maury Yeston's Death Takes a Holiday at the Charing Cross Theatre.

We caught up with Chris and asked him: "If you were stranded on a desert island which five showtunes could you not live without?"

1. "Old Man River" from Showboat

Getting to be a part of the West End revival of Showboat was a dream come true for me. Since studying this song's heartbreaking and poignant lyrics and soul stirring melody at the University of Michigan it has always had a special place in my heart. It is shocking to think that Oscar Hammerstein (and Jerome Kern) wrote such a scolding, heartbreaking criticism of race relations at a time when interracial marriage was illegal, segregation was allowed and racism widely accepted. Getting to listen to this song every night from my dressing room solidified its place as my favourite showtune.

2. "Maria" from West Side Story

West Side Story is my favourite score of all time. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim are truly the masters of songwriting. I have always loved West Side Story, in particular the explosion that is the song "Maria". I've certainly felt the pang of love in my time and saying the name of your significant over and hearing them say your name back does give you the most sensational euphoric rush of emotions. Especially when you are first falling in love.

3. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz

This one I can't necessarily explain. If I hear a good version of this song I almost instantaneously well up with tears. I suppose it's the reaching and longing melody coupled with the concept of yearning to achieve one's dreams. Part of my personal core beliefs includes reaching forward toward a better life for ourselves, our loved ones and future generations. I just love it.

4. "Anthem" from Chess

When I was in high school I utterly fell in love with this song's beautiful musical line. Anthony Warlow's rendition always drops my jaw to the floor. It was by far my favourite song to sing for years. I used it for my university entrance auditions and countless professional auditions when I was just starting off as an actor. The song's writers also wrote Mamma Mia! which was my first leading role in a Broadway show. So this is a song that carries a special nostalgic meaning to me.

5. "Barrett's Song" from Titanic

"Barrett's Song" was the first really challenging song I received by my very first voice teacher Roseanna Irwin. It made me want to be a professional musical theatre actor. I fell in love with Maury Yeston's beautiful and pulsing melodies and the challenge of getting his passionate lyrics just right. I'm thrilled to be performing in a my first Maury Yeston musical, currently playing at the Charring Cross Theatre. It's a hauntingly beautiful musical called Death Takes a Holiday.

Death Takes a Holiday runs at the Charing Cross Theatre from 23 January to 4 March with previews from 16 January.