The Bill star Andrew Lancel comes alive to The Sound of Music
“Every tour I have ever been asked to do, I look to see if we are going to Derry and finally it happened with the Sound of Music.”
So says an excited Andrew Lancel who has been a regular visitor to the city since he first came here to give a recital at St Eugene’s Cathedral.
“It’s the people that make a place special, but what a great location it is as well, easy to get about the place, great restaurants,” he says.
“There’s an honesty about the place and it’s going to be a great week.”
Liverpudlian Lancel is best known for his work as tough-taking DI Manson on the long-running ITV drama The Bill and also as Frank Foster on Coronation Street, a role which earned him Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards.
What makes the week at the Millennium Forum Lancel’s perfect storm is his reprisal of the role of Captain Georg von Trapp.
“It is first and foremost a magical show,” he says.
“There’s something very special about The Sound of Music and even though it is very well known, or maybe because of that, people still flock to it.
“First and foremost the music. It is a message of hope. For two and a half hours you can sit and just be involved in this magical journey of the good guys and the bad guys, hope, love and children. It ticks a lot of boxes.”
Although he had been involved in musical theatre before his breakout roles in television, his previous incarnation as Captain von Trapp was his first big West End musical production.
“I had been involved a lot with musicals earlier in my career and it was while I was directing a musical show that I met my wife, who was choreographer,” he recalls.
“Then when I did The Sound of Music first time around, there was no question in my mind that I was going to come back and do this show again.
“To me, the film and the stage show are the same but different. Same characters, same music, with one or two different songs, a couple that aren’t in the film which are in the musical, There’s something about the songs which is eternal as well.
“There’s something about the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein as well. I’ve got a theory about it. Most songs have an introduction and theirs grab you right from the start of the song and that gives them their own kind of magical power.
“I think people forget how funny it is as a show as well. There are a lot of laughs.”
Lancel was a mainstay of The Bill cast when it was axed from the ITV schedules in 2010, after seven years on the show, a time he remembers with fondness.
“The Bill was incredible for me, but it was a lot of hard work,” he said.
“I have always lived up north apart from a little while in London and I had just moved back to Liverpool when I got the part in the Bill and it was difficult to manage that with a young family.
“And DI Manson is a tough character to have played for seven years.
“I think The Bill is massively missed now. People think it is still on because it’s still constantly shown on repeats, but we finished it ten years ago.
“I will always be very grateful to The Bill, very grateful to the character of DI Manson, very grateful to the writers.
“And I don’t think it has ever been adequately replaced. There’s nothing on TV these days like it.”
The common thread running through Lancel’s work on Coronation Street, The Bill and The Sound of Music, is legendary produce Bill Kenwright - who also happens to be chairman of the football-mad actor’s club Everton.
“This is my tenth show now with Bill,” he says.
“Here is a guy who has been producing shows for 40 years. He creates that family atmosphere. It’s no wonder people come back time and time again to work with him.”
Lancel reckons that the family atmosphere at The Bill and Coronation Street is an essential ingredient for the success of a touring show like The Sound of Music.
“There’s a lot of similarities there and it is essential to have a great cast, as we have with this show,” he says.
“We have three sets of kids who audiences just fall in love with. They come on stage and they wow people every night.
“We have an amazing new Maria in Emilie Fleming. She’s very clever with the most amazing voice and a great stage presence. What she does is encapsulates all the things you would want in your Maria. But there’s also something very modern about her performance.
“There are so many crazy things going on in the world right now and I think that the message in The Sound of Music is particularly relevant.”
The Sound of Music is at the Millennium Forum from Tuesday February 4 to Saturday February 8. Contact the box office on 02871 264455 or go to www.millenniumforum.co.uk