Jason Donovan: ‘Going on tour was easy, but I miss my family’

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Blue Lyrca, a glittery suspender belt and enormous fake eyelashes – Jason Donovan is currently touring the country as a larger than life drag queen in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

It’s topped off with a headdress of multicoloured peacock feathers.

Richard Grieve as Bernadette Jason Donovan as Tick and Graham Weaver as Felicia - Priscilla Queen of the Desert''Picture: Paul Coltas

Richard Grieve as Bernadette Jason Donovan as Tick and Graham Weaver as Felicia - Priscilla Queen of the Desert''Picture: Paul Coltas

The image of Jason playing the character of Tick in the musical seems a long way from the start of his career when he played Scott Robinson in the Australian soap Neighbours.

Starring alongside Kylie Minoque, they both shot to fame when they released the song Especially For You. Jason went on to have a successful pop career.

More than 25 years later and Jason, now 44, comes to the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, from May 27 until June 8 in the Australian musical.

When we speak you can hear wind whistling in the background. He’s walking home and enjoying a short break from the touring production.

He says: ‘The tour is going well I think. It’s in good shape and I think a lot of people are very surprised that the show has done so well. It’s not a traditional Lloyd Webber, Mackintosh or Disney-style musical..’

Priscilla follows three friends who hop onbroad a battered old bus searching for love and friendship. And it involves a lot of sequins, feathers and sparkle.

But it’s not the first time Jason has taken part as he played the same role in the West End in 2009, some 15 years after turning down the role of Adam Whitely aka Felicia Jollygoodfellow in the 1994 movie version.

He says: ‘It’s an Australian musical and I had worked with the director before, so that appealed to me.

‘The first time it was a 14-month run, which is a long time. Going on the tour now seemed like an obvious choice because I’d had a three year break from it.’

Jason adds: ‘It’s a great marriage between what I do and what I like to do.’

The singer and actor enjoys performing and telling a story through the music, but he does struggle being away while he’s on the road.

‘I don’t enjoy being away from my family but, you know, I don’t think any artist working in this industry can honestly just sit in London and make a good living.

‘You aspire to do different work and that normally means touring.’

Priscilla won four What’s On Stage Awards in 2010, two Broadway World UK Awards and Olivier and Tony Awards. Jason believes it’s so popular because it’s exciting.

He explains: ‘It’s a great example of why people love musicals. It’s like a concert. At the end everyone stands up and gets into it – you wouldn’t get that with something like Julias Caesar.

‘I think it has all of those elements which make it a great original picture.’

It wasn’t a big step for the actor after starring in BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2011 with professional dancer Kristina Rihanoff. He ended up reaching the final before finishing third.

Jason’s career has seen him in a variety of roles and he also starred in ITV’s flagship reality TV show, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

He was offered the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph And The Technicolour Dreamcoat in 1992, and it led to Jason appearing in a string of iconic musicals including The Rocky Horror Show, Chitty Chitty Band Bang and Sweeney Todd.

He’s now a DJ on Heart radio station and was recently on the judging panel alongside Mel C to find a star for Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End.

His father, Terence Donovan, was also an actor and Jason describes his career in the same industry as a ‘default’ choice.

‘I certainly didn’t set out to become a musical star for sure but, you know, I enjoy the work and I enjoy what music can bring to the audience.

‘I certainly want to do what I do. I’m very lucky in that sense. It keeps my kids in school and I like to work –that’s the bottom line.’

Jason is still working as a musician and last year released his sixth studio album, Sign Of Your Love. But he likes to keep moving and try different things.

He explains: ‘I think I’ve had a lot of special things in my life. I’m very lucky because there’s a lot of people who want to do the job I do and they don’t, but I’m here. I’m not sat behind a desk, I’m best doing what I’m doing.’

The biggest commercial success Jason has ever had with his music was during the 1980s after his stint in Neighbours, but now he’s older and wiser it doesn’t seen as significant.

‘The solo music success was a big thing to happen to me but, you know, it all pales into insignificance when you have children. Your family then becomes your whole life, nothing else matters.

‘I’m in a very different place now. But it’s all been very special and I’m very lucky.’

Jason recently joined forces with another heartthrob from the 1980s, Wet Wet Wet’s Marti Pellow in War Of The Worlds.

‘We had a lot of fun. I enjoyed that a lot because we had three shows and then one show off. It’s a lot more difficult when you have eight shows a week because the intensity of the relationships can end up being a little different.’

But he loves starring in Priscilla, and the tour is going around theatres in the UK until January 2014.

‘The rest of the year this tour is going from place to place.

‘I’m quite happy about it too because it’s a really fun show. It’s good to keep busy and it’s a show I know works well.’

Jason Donovan stars in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, from May 27 until June 8. Tickets: £27 to £35 on (023) 8071 811 or go to mayflower.org.uk.