As a boy Duncan Heather acted on the streets of York. Since then he’s entertained Shirley Bassey and now he’s back in our city with New Jersey Nights. He spoke to Chris Titley
“I did some street theatre there. I’m from Salisbury originally, down south,” said Duncan (pictured right). “It was when I was at school.
“I’m from a very sporting, footballing family. I never even thought about going into theatre. Then, when I was 11, a teacher joined my school who changed the school’s concept of music and theatre. I joined an after school group called Centre Stage, which my parents couldn’t believe. We toured to France, we did York, we did Ireland – doing street theatre for charity.
“Then I did York Races a few years ago. The place is just gorgeous.”
“She was there by royal appointment – the Prince of Monaco was there, Dame Shirley and about 700 billionaires. They’re not easily pleased. They’re all dressed in £1,000 ball gowns and suits, sitting there ready to judge you!
“The Sporting Club in Monte Carlo is a fantastic venue. Mid show, the back walls rise up, the ceiling goes back and it’s open, overlooking the ocean – it’s just crazy. When you’re mid song doing Les Mis and the walls come off, it’s something you will never forget.”
As a complete contrast he did panto with Brian Blessed. “Where do you begin? As much as he’s an absolute nutcase he is such a professional and a pleasure to work with. He almost didn’t need a microphone when he was Captain Hook.”
Duncan is one of the four leads in New Jersey Nights. But he wants to make the distinction very clear between this show and a famous musical.
“It’s not Jersey Boys. It’s totally respecting the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and it’s just a wonderful night out.
“We’ve all got a little bit of the Frankie falsetto, but when we speak about it in between the songs we become ourselves and our personality comes over. We’re simply celebrating the music.”
There are about 30 songs in the show, and people are often surprised by how many they know Duncan said. “There’s a few of the older ones at the beginning, like Rag Doll and Dawn, that some of the younger people don’t know. But we go through Oh What A Night, Working My Way Back To You, Let’s Hang On, and people are thinking ‘I knew just about every record’.”
Is it hard to sing the famous Frankie falsetto? “We’ve gone for four tenors, so our natural voices are quite high. It’s just something we’ve all been able to do, flick over to the falsetto pretty easily.”
At one point in the show he performs an acoustic version of Fallen Angel “which is a real sombre moment, but a highlight for me. We discuss how Frankie lost his two daughters back in 1980 – one died in a car crash, one of a drug overdose – and the speech is very dark then it goes into an acoustic version of that song.
“It’s a real moment. Just me, a spotlight, an acoustic guitar – a beautiful song. In this show it was important to have that rollercoaster. Rather than just hit them hard, we’ve got an a capella section and we’ve also got the big stuff like Let’s Hang On with the six dancers, the band. It’s a rollercoaster ride through all their records.”
The dance captain is Duncan’s wife Sam. They are looking to settle down and start a family soon, and he plans to do more solo shows in future. There’s one thing he won’t be doing, however.
“We always get it – when people see what we can do they always say, ‘you should go on X Factor’. You get it all the time. You say, ‘well yes, but also no, because I probably wouldn’t get past the first round and I’d be so frustrated because somebody that can’t sing will.’
“It’s producing some wonderful artists at the same time but I don’t think I’d be involved in that side of it. Theatre’s still more based on talent. Hopefully you guys will see that!”
- New Jersey Nights is at the Grand Opera House from Thursday, May 2 until Saturday, May 4. Performances start at 7.30pm
- Tickets cost from £10 to £35 and are available via the theatre website