Thursday, 21 August 2014

Michael Xaiver | Interview

Michael is currently leading the cast of The Pajama Game as Sid Sorokin at the Shaftesbury Theatre. his other credits include Captain Von Trap in The Sound of Music at The Open Air Theatre, Oliver in Love Story at The Duchess Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre (Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical), Wolf/Cinderella’s Prince in Into The Woods at The Open Air Theatre (Olivier Award nomination for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical), Curly in Oklahoma! (Chichester Festival Theatre), Sir Galahad in Spamalot! (Palace Theatre), Rock Hudson in Rock (Manchester Library Theatre, Liverpool Unity Theatre and Oval House Theatre), Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s Theatre), Sky in Mamma Mia! (International Tour Original Cast), Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), Miss Great Plains in Pageant (Vaudeville Theatre and King’s Head Theatre), Nankipoo in The Mikado (UK Tour), Chris in Miss Saigon (Original UK Tour) and Prince Florizel in Sleeping Beauty (Corn Exchange, Newbury). Michael is a proud ambassador of the charity Action for M.E. He is also director of the Musical Theatre Sunday school West End Masterclass.

How did rehearsals go for the Pajama Game?

Rehearsals went really well, we only had three weeks so it was pretty intense. Richard Eyre was brilliant and really supporting of me joining the company and so was Stephen Mear and Gareth Valentine. They were fab to work with. 

In one sentence, how would you sell The Pajama Game to audiences?

Fun, frivolous musical comedy with fantastic singing, dancing and acting! Its a great night out! 

The show has already had a run in Chichester, what was it like for you to come into a production thats already had run? 

Its difficult to go into a production thats already had a part played by another actor because the other actors expect it to be played a certain way and they have that in mind when they’re rehearsing you. You have to put your stamp on it and make it your own. Luckily I’ve had great support from the company and from Richard (Eyre) loved what I did with it so that helped, thank God! 

If you had to chose one moment in your career to relive, what would it be and why?

It would probably be walking down the red carpet with my family at the Oliviers. I was nominated for two in one year and it was just an amazing night! I was so worried about having to perform twice that year that I didn’t get the chance to actually sit back and enjoy it! 

Am I right in thinking you didn’t actually want to pursue a career in Musical Theatre whilst studying? Looking back do you think you made the right decision?

Wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t want to pursue a career in musical theatre, I studied as an actor and didn’t really think about musicals as such! I then moved to London and got a job in a musical and my career headed in that direction. Now I don’t think it was a bad idea to study acting, I just happened to sing as a kid so that helped but I think acting is the core of everything you do in performance so I think it was a great thing. 

You have a history of being in classic musicals that are loved by so many people (The Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, My Fair Lady to name a few). What do you think makes the perfect musical?

If we knew that we’d all be millionaires! I think the story and the connection of song is the most important thing for a musical. How you tell the story through song and obviously the story itself has to be good and structured probably. The way the songs enhance and support the story is really fundamentally what makes a great musical. 

And whats it like to perform in such iconic Musicals?

Its great but its also very intimidating. Captain Von Trapp for example, everyone knows the Christopher Plummer performance from the movie so its trying to strip that from your memory and create your own take on that iconic role. The musical themselves are great to be apart of because everyone knows them; people know the songs and are familiar with them in different ways but with that familiarity people bring a warmth to it as an audience when they come and see an iconic musical. 

You have been in two productions at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park(Into the Woods, The Sound of Music), Whats it like working in a space like that? 

I love working outside at the Open Air Theatre, every night is different because of the weather and not only for the performers on stage but the audience react differently because of it too and its just magical. I love being outdoors and I love acting so it marries the two together! I’d work there every year if I could, its a great space. 

The Sound of Music was a beautiful production and was received incredibly well by the critics. What do you think was so special about that particular production? 

I think it was given such great reviews and lorded by everybody was because it was brilliantly directed by Rachel Kavanaugh. She has a great vision for being able to understand the essentials of what it is to tell the story. Most of the story is about land and connection to country and to be able to see physical trees and the land beneath you creates a really strong connection to the story. It was also due to the brilliant team: our MD Stephen Ridley, brilliant choreography by Alistair David and an amazing performance by myself! And of course, Charlotte Wakefield (Maria) was pretty good too! It was a combination of everything, I’m very proud of that production and really miss it, actually. 

Having received two Olivier Nominations in the past it must have been very exciting to be the presenter on the ITV stage in Covent Garden, How did that opportunity come about?

I got offered the presenting job because I presented a UK Theatre award the previous year and Julian Bird (Chief Executive of Society of London Theatre) liked the way I presented it and thought I would be good to present on stage with Claudia Winkleman for the actual Oliviers so thats how that came about! Pretty cool actually! 

How was it doing it this year?

Presenting it this year was great as well, Myleene Klass was great fun and it was just more relaxed because I knew exactly what to expect. We had to go live to the Opera House which was a little scary, we had to stand in the audience and people wanted to take selfies for ages. We were only meant to be there for a few minutes before but we ended up standing there for 15 minutes before we went live which wasn't too much fun! But it was an amazing night! 

What are your highlights from the awards this year?

Its been a while since the awards, I’ve forgotten what happened! It was a great event, Zrinka Cvitešić winning for Once was brilliant because its one of my favourite musicals. Obviously I wanted Charlotte to win for The Sound of Music, in fact I kind of wanted everyone to win! Sonia Friedman being the driving force behind so many winning shows was also very cool. 

Are there any parts you would want to play in the future? Musical theatre or otherwise?

I never really desire to play any particular roles, I guess there are a few in my head but really I try not to think of that. I think if something comes into my life then its meant to be and I’m grateful for it. I don’t want to try and strive for roles because then its just frustrating if you don’t get cast in them! I’d love to do Hamlet, thats one I’ve always wanted to play. I’d love to do some Shakespeare! 

Other than The Pajama Game, Have you got anything else you’re working on?

I run a school called West End Masterclass, it sounds really nerdy but its a great to give back to the future of musical theatre. There are some amazing students in the school and its great for us to give the opportunity to the students to work with people in the industry and train for a future in musicals. I’m very much committed to that at the moment. 

Follow Michael on twitter: @michaelxaiveruk

Michael and Charlotte Wakefield in The Sound of Music, Michael in The Pajama Game and Michael in Into the Woods 
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