“The outback, it’s insane.”
Jason Donovan is back from his technicolour bus ride around Australia with the I Will Survive first leg, about to heading back to the UK to film Superstar, a talent show looking for a cast member for Jesus Christ Superstar, before joining up with the IWS team in Las Vegas for the final episodes. It’s a weird specialty, but if there is an expert in stage musical talent shows, Donovan is it.
And he loves this show.
“I’ve had a great, great experience,” he extols, “It could only happen in Australia I have to say.”
“The key to it is Australia and Priscilla and this whacky concept of all these colours against the rocks and the dust and the sand. The outback has been very responsive to the show. I have to say I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Channel Ten have taken a big risk with this show and I just hope that that raw emotion of the whole journey comes across.”
Unfortunately Australia hasn’t bought a ticket to ride the Priscilla bus en masse with him ... yet.
Pitched in direct competition with Seven’s The X Factor, which is winning the night comfortably Monday to Wednesday, I Will Survive is struggling in the ratings with audiences of just over 500,000 (about half the presumed target), suffering for being scheduled against a juggernaut that is clearly aimed at a similar audience.
Still, Donovan thinks their show will find the better talents overall, though the X Factor kids have a good starting point.
“I think musical theatre has become a little bit more cool these days,” he explains. “With Johnny Depp and Sweeney Todd, the genre of Glee, the High School Musical movies. Look at Russell Crowe, he’s out there he loves singing in bands, he started in rocky horror and currently shooting Les Miserables. You’ve got Hugh Jackman who jumps between The X-Men and doing his own show on Broadway. It’s not uncool anymore. It’s all about entertainment. I think if you can find a niche somewhere as a dancer or a singer or an actor that’s a good place to build a career from.
“What I say to these guys is you don’t have to be the best singer you don’t have to be the best actor you don’t have to be the best dancer. Hugh Jackman is not the greatest dancer in the world and probably not the greatest singer in the world and maybe not the greatest actor in the world but when he walks onto a stage there is something very commanding. There’s a confidence about him. There’s something. You can’t take your eyes off him. That’s the magic we’re trying to unearth in a show like this. Someone who can take on the world stage and have a currency.”
Donovan’s own currency in Australia still stems from his time on Neighbours, which has lead to some interesting encounters in the middle of Australia.
“Someone the other day looked at me in a road house and said ‘Are you ... are you ... Jason McLaughlin?’” he recounts. “And I think that sums up my entire outback experience. I said ‘I didn’t get the gold Logie but I’m quite happy being Jason Donovan.’”
The reply that came back might just highlight that an X Factor win, or even a chart hit, might not leave Australia remembering you. Well not perfectly.
“Oh Jason Donovan! We loved you. You were the guy that sang Mona weren’t you?”
Everyone remembers Hugh Jackman and if I Will Survive can deliver someone even a fraction as talented, it is certainly worth watching.
I Will Survive airs Tuesday and Wednesday at 7.30pm on TEN.