For a large part of 2012, David Hunter was involved in the auditioning process for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for the lead role in the Arena Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. Having been selected for the ten finalists and the televised programmes with live voting, he reached the semi-finals.
He is now in rehearsals joining the cast of Seussical as Horton The Elephant at The Arts Theatre, from 4th December to 6th January. The show is a welcome addition to London theatre.
Seussical has music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Co-conceived by Eric Idle, it is based on the works of Dr Seuss.
David took time out from rehearsals to answer some questions about himself and his career.
You trained at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. How did your training best prepare you for life as a professional?
I think more than anything, LIPA gave me the chance to work alongside other creatives, like-minded or otherwise. Being directed by several directors in a range of different shows began to build up my performing experience and with experience comes the confidence to bring more to the table. I’m not sure you can “teach” acting, but you can certainly give it the opportunity to flourish and develop in the right environment. That’s the value of drama school in my eyes.
Fronting the band Reemer, you toured the UK with McFly, The Feeling and Scouting For Girls. What was the highlight of your time with the band?
Being in the band was an incredible part of my life. I suppose the highlight has to be that arena tour with McFly, hearing 20,000 people singing a song you’ve written, straight back at you is a bizarre and wonderful feeling. The little, intimate gigs were often just as exciting though. Just different.
Having performed in One Man, Two Guvnors, what can you tell us about your time in the play?
One Man, Two Guvnors was such a massive success, it was simply a privilege to be part of that original cast. James Corden was electric in that show and watching him every night was a total joy.
You took part in ITV’s Jesus Christ Superstar, reaching the semi-finals. What were your most memorable moments?
I suppose the most memorable moment was the night I was in the bottom two with my mate Tim. I had to perform ‘One Day Like This’ by Elbow to try and stay in the competition. I stepped on the stage in front of my family, the studio audience, the judges and the millions of people at home, knowing it might be the last time, and just gave it everything. It’s still my favourite performance because I can see exactly what I was thinking when I watch it back.
How difficult was it for yourself or others to have to sing when chosen for the ‘sing-off’?
Really tough. We all lived together for a couple of months before we were even revealed as finalists, so we’d got to know each other really well. Knowing that good news for you would be bad news for your friend is a strange feeling. It all seems fairly trivial now, but at the time you build it up to be a life or death moment!
What did you learn about yourself from taking part in the Superstar experience?
I learned that I have real stamina! The schedule was relentless and with live shows every day of the week and not a lot of sleep, we were all running purely on adrenaline by the end. I’m amazed we all survived it, vocally.
Having made it through to the semi-final and not the final, Andrew Lloyd Webber had some very positive comments to make about you. How important was it to get this feedback from him?
It’s always great to get good feedback, whoever it’s from, but Andrew is a genius and you can’t help but crave his approval. He said some lovely things about me and I’m very grateful that he gave me the chance to be a part of that show.
You recently performed in a charity performance of Tommy at the Apollo Theatre. Can you tell us about that?
Tommy was an intense experience, we worked for about a month for just one night of performance, but the cast were fantastic and I felt really proud to be standing alongside such well-established West End performers. Daniel Boys, Hannah Jayne Fox and Glenn Carter are people I’ve looked up to for a long time. Glenn played Jesus in the West End, on Broadway and in the movie, so I studied him pretty rigorously during Superstar. He was wonderful.
You are currently in rehearsals as Horton The Elephant in Seussical at The Arts Theatre. Can you tell us about your character and how he fits into the storyline?
The story follows Horton as he tries to protect a tiny world on a speck of dust! He’s a wonderful, warm-hearted, morally upright guy and it’s a pleasure to play the part. The show on the whole is an actor’s dream because it’s beautifully written and instantly relatable. I’ve been a huge fan of the writers (Flaherty and Ahrens) since I performed in Lucky Stiff at LIPA. They are phenomenal writers.
Which part of the character are you enjoying developing the most?
His transformation through the show. He really matures over the course of the piece and finds courage in himself that he didn’t know he had. He’s a bit of a pushover at the beginning, but by the end he’s ready to take a stand for the things he believes in. Finding where those changes happen and how quickly is really interesting.
What attracted you to the role and the musical?
I’ve loved the musical for a long time and as soon as I heard it was making the move into the West End, I was straight on the phone to my agent to try and arrange an audition. The show’s been seen on Broadway, but never in the West End, so the chance to be a part of the original cast was very exciting too.
Jesus Christ Superstar was about you as an individual, how does it feel to be back in the group of a cast?
Fantastic. I love rehearsal processes, getting to know other actors and seeing what they can do. Obviously in Superstar I was surrounded by other contestants, but being in a cast is so much different because you really get the sense of a team driving towards the same goal. We all want the show to be a great success and that’s a lovely environment to work in.
Do you see yourself more as an actor, a singer or both?
I’m a real split between the two I think, but I definitely approach any text as an actor. I never open my mouth as a singer without thinking about the story.
Why should everyone come along to see Seussical?
It’s a great show! And perfect for Christmas. I always liken it to good Disney, in that it will appeal to everyone. By all means bring the kids along because they will love the show, but bring them as an excuse rather than a reason! It’s a fun, entertaining and touching piece of theatre.
Any message to say to followers of your career?
Just a big old Thank You! It’s always incredibly humbling to see people taking an interest in your next move and supporting you all the way. I still chat to people who used to come along to gigs for my old band and it’s amazing that they’ve stuck around to support me. So, a big Thank You to all of you!
Interviewed by Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Monday 26th November 2012