An interview with Jane McDonald
"I love a staircase, call me old fashioned."
“You do sound like you’re in a toilet, Sam,” star of The Cruise and Loose Women Jane McDonald says. Such is the case when you’re ringing from an echoey room courtesy of working in a converted barn.
Toilets would come up again during our conversation, as we discussed her early days on the nightclub circuit, where the loo would often double up as the changing room. I suppose it could stop you getting too big for your boots. Other elements could see to that as well.
“In the early club days I’d be halfway through Barbra Streisand’s ‘Evergreen’ and all of a sudden the curtain would close because I’d gone over my time and the BINGO was on,” Jane recalls. “You can’t really become a diva when you’ve had things like that happen, and the BINGO paid your wages, that’s why I never kicked up a fuss.”
I admitted at this point that I had never played the game. “Sam,” the performer says, “once you get into it, you and your dabber, you’ll love it.”
She was as I imagined she would be, down to earth, what’s that due to?
“Everything happened to me a bit later on in life,” she answers, “and I’ve never really taken it too seriously. I’ve always felt that if it all packs up tomorrow I’ll go back to the ships. I just have a great time. I’m who I am and that’s it really.
“Trust me, I do have my diva strops,” she confesses. “Well, I wouldn’t say diva; I would say I’m very much a perfectionist. Although it looks like I make it up on stage, everything is completely rehearsed. I am quite hard to work for, but once you get me, I’m the best person to work for.”
Perhaps you have to be a perfectionist to keep working in show business, given its brutality as an industry. And if the theatre producers lost interest in her tomorrow and she returned to the cruise ships, this brutality would still exist if it’s the way it was when she was there the first time. “If you weren’t good enough you were off,” she tells me. “Your bags were packed and the next person was on.”
As it is, the theatre producers still want Jane. And she is soon to be appearing in That’s Entertainment, touring in May and stopping by Oxford’s New Theatre in the process.
“It’s fab,” she claims. “It’s very glitz, very glamour, and it’s got a light up staircase – I love a staircase, call me old fashioned.
“It’s got loads of dancers in it, beautiful costumes, fabulous numbers – it’s one of those old fashioned glamourous shows.”
It also does not come with the pressure Jane has seen off in the past. “The rest of the cast take a lot of the show, then I come on, sing the big number, take my bow and off I go,” she states honestly.
There was still time to ask Jane about any future ambitions, whether they be professional or personal. “Paying my mortgage off would be lovely,” she promptly responds. And then there’s another goal that seems to lie not quite so close to home (or at least house). “I wouldn’t mind doing Sunset Boulevard. That’s the one role I feel was meant for me. I was approached for it seven years ago and I should have taken it then but I didn’t feel I was ready for it – now I am.”
“Fingers crossed,” I say.
“You never know,” she replies, “but then they might say ‘no, she turned us down before, we’re not going back’!”
That’s Entertainment comes to New Theatre Oxford 17th-21st May. If you miss her there, you could try catching Jane in her own show, Making Memories. “I am coming down south,” she says of her tour, “but my Geography’s not what it should be and I don’t know if I’m coming anywhere near you.” Pretty close – she’s at London’s New Wimbledon Theatre on 5th October.
In hindsight I think an echoey room was quite appropriate. It reflects the idea that something else Jane said should resonate with anyone who thinks they have not made it until they’re in every paper and television show:
“No matter who you are, if you’ve got a job like a singer, where you’ve been blessed with a gift, and you’re making a living out of it, then you’re a success whether you’ve got fame or not. I always thought I was a success due to the fact I was doing something I absolutely loved.”
Related Articles: Sam Bennett interviews Russell Watson