“I would love to play the role of BRITNEY in We Will Rock You! Why?? Because he’s the cool character and only does Act 1!! Haha!”
Simon Ray Harvey is a talented young actor who trained at Bird College and has since appeared in several big productions, such as Flashdance (UK tour), Chicago (Adelphi Theatre), Fame (Aldwych Theatre) and Love Never Dies (Adelphi Theatre).
Simon is currently starring in the long-running hit musical Billy Elliot (Victoria Palace Theatre), wowing audiences as the popular character Mr Braithwaite who is “a miner/music lover/dancer all in one!”
Despite his very busy schedule, Simon was happy to be interviewed. I’m sure you’ll enjoy what he had to say!
Have you always wanted to be an actor?
I started off dancing at the age of 4 and trained mainly in that until I joined the NYMT production of Bugsy Malone playing the role of Leroy, with the likes of Michael Jibson and Sheridan Smith. After that I knew I’d end up wanting to be an actor.
Did anyone in particular inspire you?
The only actor to have really inspired me and still does to this day is Denzel Washington and I’m lucky enough to have met the man in person and shook his hand; I didn’t wash my hand for at least 3 days, haha!
You studied at Bird College of Performing Arts. Did you enjoy your time there?
I really enjoyed my time at Bird College, that training is invaluable!
While at Bird College, you were part of several European tours. What was your favourite production?
My favourite tour was when we went to Guimaraes in Portugal and taught some local under-privileged children, it was very humbling.
What do (or don’t) you like about touring?
The only professional tour I’ve done was Flashdance the Musical on which I probably had the most enjoyable year of my career. I was lucky enough to create the role DR KOOL and play the part with freedom of however I wanted to portray him. Touring is difficult at times as you change venues every week but every Monday is an opening night!
You recently appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies at the Adelphi Theatre. I thought it was a fantastic show and a lot of theatregoers are still sad it had to close. Why do you think it wasn’t as well-received as the Melbourne/Sidney production (2011/2012)? Would you like to see LND return to the West End?
I think Love Never Dies wasn’t the finished article over here and maybe it was rushed slightly. It was a great experience to be part of such huge show. It was sad to see it close but was inevitable, I guess. I’d love to see it come back the finished article.
You also starred in the popular musical Chicago when it was still at the Adelphi. Would you like to share a few memories with us?
Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre 2002, wow – what a year that was for me. It was my first job out of college and I had to leave college 2 weeks early to start rehearsals for it. I was 18 , bright-eyed and eager to learn. Boy, did I have to quick! The infamous strict dance captain Miss Vanessa Leigh Hicks was straight on my case, but she was a softy at heart. I’ll always have Chicago close to my heart as it was the show I always wanted to be in and I was lucky enough to do it straight away!
You joined the cast of the long-running hit musical Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre last November. Are you having a great time?
I’m loving my time at Billy Elliot, the company are great! I was meant to open last November but I got injured 2 weeks before opening night and was off for 12-13 weeks! So I opened in February instead, that was a tough 12 weeks!
Billy Elliot is a very touching story, laden with emotion and set against the backdrop of a difficult period in recent English history. It’s pretty much my favourite musical and makes me cry every time – but also laugh. That’s where your character comes in: Mr Braithwaite is always very popular with the audience. Please tell us about Mr B and your experience of playing him!
So….MR BRAITHWAITE! Haha, I chose to take the role on from a younger point of view as the people that have played the role before myself have been a lot older, so I couldn’t choose the same acting decisions as they did. To me, he’s a miner/music lover/dancer all in one! Hence his big old speech about THE BALLET RUSSE!!
What’s it like to be performing with incredibly talented kids every day?
The kids are fantastic and they work so hard and are very professional! I only wish I had half their talent when I was their age, they’re destined for great things!
How would you describe life backstage at the Victoria Palace?
Life back stage at the Victoria Palace! It’s organised, fun, hectic and run like a machine. It has to be because we have such a large amount of kids in the show.
What is your favourite song?
My favourite song in the show is Kings near the end of the show, it’s such an emotional moment. You really get into the character and feel united as miners on stage.
If you could go and see any West End musical or play tonight, which one would it be and why?
If I could, I’d go and see Matilda! I’ve heard such amazing things about it and my friend Hayley Flaherty has recently joined the show so I should get my ass over soonish really!
What is something embarrassing that has happened to you on stage?
When I was in Fame at the Aldwych Theatre, I was playing the role of MR MYERS and was doing a scene with Ricky Rojas who played the role of JOE VEGAS, when we both corpsed really badly on stage and couldn’t stop laughing and the audience realised and then they started laughing and gave us a round of applause!!
What other roles would you love to play and why?
I would love to play the role of BRITNEY in We Will Rock You! Why?? Because he’s the cool character and only does Act 1!! Haha!
Is there anyone you would like to work with?
I’d very much like to work with James Corden – his play One Man, Two Guvnors was fantastic!!!
You have appeared in several music videos. What’s it like to be part of a music video production?
Music videos are long gruelling days!! Stop, start, stop, start! It is fun though and at the end of the shoot you see the final product there and then!
What do you like to do to chill out?
To chill out, I like to watch TV series and movies. I LOVE True Blood!!!! You must watch it!!
And a few quick-fire questions for you…Cat or dog?
Career highlight so far?
Career highlights?? Joining Chicago, creating the role of DR KOOL, playing MR BRAITHWAITE.
Football or tennis?
Your favourite song?
Favourite song?? One Republics “ALL THIS TIME” (Mine and my lady Zoe Birketts song! Soppy!)
Cinema – The Woman in Black or The Iron Lady?
The Woman in Black.
Pizza or pasta…or just some salad?
Pub or Night Club?
Ballet or Opera?
And anything else you might like to add, maybe a message to your fans?
I’d like to say thank you to all theatregoers who have been nice enough to send me well wishes throughout my career so far. Hopefully I’ll have another 10 years of success in the West End for you to follow me on.
Thank you very much for this great interview, Simon and all the best for your future in the West End!
Follow Simon on Twitter @SimonRayHarvey
Interview by Sandra Palme (Twitter: @LondonTheatre2)