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Musical theatre beckons Rufus for West End show
IF you haven't seen Rufus Hound's latest show, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, being promoted then where have you been? The former stand up comedian and co-star Robert Lindsay have been merrily plugging the show which is coming to Aylesbury before it débuts in the West End.
Rufus talked to Freetime about how he tried to convince directors he wasn't the right man for the job and how he is now so excited about it he feels like a "giddy school girl."
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based on the legendary 1988 film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, directed by Frank Oz. It will be the UK premiere of this new production, which has been reconceived and reimagined for the UK stage.
I spoke to Rufus when he was in rehearsals of the show, which is directed by Jerry Mitchell. He said: "I think in the British theatrical tradition, for a couple of weeks you are sitting around, chewing a pencil, talking about your motivation and your character and where they went to school. "Then there is Jerry Mitchell- 'You go here, you stand there, say your first line- go'.
"It is interesting. I have never done any musical theatre before. The whole process is always going to be new to me. Having spoken to incredibly experienced people on this project- it is new to them too."
And he's starring with a great cast with Robert Lindsay, Samantha Bond, Katherine Kingsley and John Marquez.
Rufus is relatively new to the world of theatre, and it is his first stab at musical theatre. He starred as Francis Henshall in One Man Two Guv’nors for the UK Tour and at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2012 and 13 and Neville’s Island at Chichester Festival Theatre last year. So how did he feel when he heard he was going to be working with someone like Robert, who is a dab hand at musical theatre, having been in Me and My Girl and Oliver!, and has been on our TV screens for years.
He said: "It is a funny old thing isn't it? When you turn up to work with someone who has accomplished that much, I am 34- in my mind he is three different dudes.
"Wolfie- one of my mum and dad's favourite sitcoms through to him being on G.B.H- that is the one I really saw him do.
"And then most recently and the one most people know him for- My Family. "Then with all of that he's this guy who was in Me and My Girl and has these massive accomplishments in the theatre world. "I walked in to meet Robert to meet a kind of legend, then you realise he is a bloke- he's just a guy interested in doing very good work.
"He is very down to earth and he is also a bit snazzy."
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based in the French Riviera where the decadent world of sophisticated conman Lawrence Jameson (Robert) is set to come crashing down with the arrival of larger-than-life Freddy Benson, played by Rufus, - a conman of an entirely different order.
Soon realising the town ain’t big enough for the both of them, the two find themselves going head to head in the con of their lives, pulling out all of the stops in a bid for the affections of millionaire soap heiress Christine Colgate. But Rufus, who recently told Jonathan Ross on his show he was going to run to be an MEP, said he actually went along to the auditions of the theatre show to convince them he wasn't right for the role of Freddy. He said: "What happened for me was I was doing a play down in Chichester with John Marquez, who is also in this cast.
"He was auditioning but that process hadn't yet been done for him.
"My agent phoned and said 'Do you want to go for this one? They really want to see you'.
"I laughed at him. I really like musicals, I saw the Book of Mormon last year, and I am pretty sure it is my favourite thing I have ever seen.
"I was raised on Les Miserables. My nan's favourite thing in the world was Phantom of the Opera. "I said it is not my thing. My agent said he told them that but they were really keen.
"They had seen me in One Man Two Guv'nors- the casting director has seen me do that and thought I would be amazing in this.
"But just because that is what someone things it doesn't meant they are right.
"People are wrong about things all the time."
He was persuaded to go along and meet the team.
Rufus said: "You go to an audition to show them, this is what I can do. I was going to show people what I was unable to do.
"It was the opposite of what an audition is about."
He worked with the musical director and he sang one of the big numbers in the show.
He said: "I just loved it. In that giddy school girl, clapping your hands, giggly way. "I just thought as much as I don't think I am able to do this if I get offered it I can't imagine anything more fun than being out on stage eight times a week."
But he made sure the deal included singing lessons and also lessons to help him perfect Freddy's American accent. He said the show is full out entertainment, with amazing dance scores. Rufus, 34, said before the show he didn't really care for dance, even though he has previously won Let's Dance for Sport Relief dressed up as Cheryl Cole and also Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special in December last year. But he said: "It is just unbelievable. When it's meant to be funny it's very funny, when it is meant to be sexy it is super sexy.
"It is how to use people dancing to tell the story. I have never known anything like it. "It feels like it is telling the story through dance- it does not stop moving."
He has starred in the films The Wedding Video and Big Fat Gypsy Dancers but started out in the spotlight at a stand up comedian. Rufus said: "It has been an interesting shift for me really. I started out, like most people, making it up as I went along.
"I worked in an office doing PR. I did various temping jobs.
"I didn't like any of them. "I worked at the Science Museum in London teaching kids science. I really enjoyed that.
"I started doing stand up and that kind of thing. "Doing all that kind of stuff- it was just standing up and people looking up. "That's what I learned to do at school."
He said he realised what turned him on was performing for people- making them laugh and entertaining them, and he explained why theatre started to appeal to him.
He said: "What I want to do is in being in things that my sense of self respect increases by doing.
"Not in a gritty heavy way- not in a political way...
"I am talking about falling over and making people laugh.
"But being the best at falling over in a show that is the best it could be and the best I could ever be.
"That is the thing I want to keep doing."
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from February 26 to March 1 at 7.30pm with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm before going to Savoy Theatre on March 10. Tickets for Aylesbury are £20.50 to £50.50 from 0844 871 7607 or visit www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury
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