On my recent trip to the UK, I was thrilled to run into the delightful Mr Daniel Gourlay and managed to squeeze in a quick coffee and a chat. He was so full of life and passion for what he does that I thought he would be a brilliant subject for an interview. Young, handsome and talented with his first West End credit under his belt, he certainly looked like someone with the proverbial “world at his feet”! Here is what he had to say about his first West End Show and life in the fast lane!
CHRISTINE: Well it must have been an absolute thrill to get your first West End Gig in a show like LOVE NEVER DIES? Were you surprised when you got the call and how did you celebrate?
DANIEL: I was over the moon when I found out. The best thing was finding out the same day I auditioned, as it is rare for that to happen it was really nice not having wait a week or two. I rang everyone I could think of from my girlfriend to her mum, to waking up my mum in the early hours of the morning and my best mate. I would guess the best way of describing it is I was on Cloud 9.
CHRISTINE: Meeting and working with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber?
DANIEL: Meeting and working with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was a great experience as he is a very nice man and a wonder to work with and for. When I first saw him I must admit I was star struck, as I was so used to seeing him on his TV show and pictures of him. Then when we finally met, I thought I was dreaming…… but he is a really wonderful man and you can always have a nice conversation with him.
CHRISTINE: The show is one of the most extravagant I have ever seen in terms of production values. What was the most exciting thing about working on such a set? And what are the difficulties?
DANIEL: I think my favourite put of the set would have to be the Phantom’s lair. It was just so beautiful on stage and amazing to look at. I was never in any of those scenes, so I was able to look at the beauty of it! Another one was the Hotel scene – just the way they were able to make what they had look like a hotel and then also a balcony when it turned around. I guess the difficulties of the set would be the revolve – even though I came to love working on it! But when you are an acrobat in the show and you have do tricks on it – while it is moving – that was quiet difficult and challenging!
CHRISTINE: Being your first West End Show, what surprised you about the whole rehearsal process?
DANIEL: You know what – I was actually surprised at how easy it was. I guess the best bit was that we were rehearsing on the actual stage as it was a cast change and not a brand new show. So we never had problems with them bumping in the set or anything. The only times we weren’t on stage was when they had matinees and we were in a local studio. Another good thing was how nice everyone was, so being new to it all you settled in quite quickly.
CHRISTINE: The whole “scene” over in the UK is so much bigger than in Oz – what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of the size and numbers of people involved?
DANIEL: I guess the advantage is that there is just so much going on all the time. You have all the shows auditioning for the West End, you then have touring productions, off – West End productions and international productions. The disadvantage, is that every year come the summer time, you have all the college students coming out fresh and ready to go, so the number of people auditioning doubles which makes it a lot harder.
CHRISTINE: You studied dance for years with Conroy’s Dance Centre in Brisbane, QLD. What skills do you think you got from there that have helped you here in the UK?
DANIEL: I guess the skills I come out with from Conroy’s was that they made me an all round performer. So not just saying I am a tapper or a ballet dancer, but that I could say I can do every style of dance to a high level. Also as I came to the end of my time there, they really helped in preparing me for the industry and life ahead.
CHRISTINE: Are there any skills you wish you had paid more attention to or that you are keen to expand upon now and why?
DANIEL: I would have to say my vocals! Even though I think they are at a good enough standard, I know I have to work on them a lot more, as I have learnt from being in Love Never Dies, that everyone here can sing amazingly. And the repertoire kids come out of college with here is amazing – about the thickest book you could possibly think of. So my aim is to work on that and make myself vocally just as good as the person standing next to me.
CHRISTINE: I noticed that you performed some very impressive acro in the show. Do you think that acrobatic skills are an advantage when going for jobs over here?
DANIEL: Acrobatics is a skill I think everyone should try and have up his or her sleeve, as it could be the thing that gets you the job over someone else. And to tell you the truth there are not many people who can do it well! If you have some really nice neat tumble passes compared to the other people in the audition room that helps too. So I would say it is never to late to learn – and if you can get some tumbling under your belt, you never know when it will come in handy for auditions or a job.
CHRISTINE: The UK is renowned for offering a lot of work opportunities to dancers in a wide variety of genres? Can you tell us about these opportunities and how the scene differs from Australia in that way?
DANIEL: Well not just having Musical theatre you still have the Music video scene, the corporate events, the concert tours and then TV – just the same as Australia! I think the thing that definitely differs from Australia, is that they have Pantomimes here in the UK ( something that has been around for a very long time).It is something that if you are not in work over Christmas you are able to do and will always look great on your CV. It’s also a real lot of fun and something for the whole family. I do believe it is something that Australia is missing and I do believe they should definitely give it ago.
CHRISTINE: It is very sad that LOVE NEVER DIES closed a few weeks ago as it was an amazing production? What are your plans now? And what do the cast of such a big show generally do when they hear the show is closing? How much notice did you all get?
DANIEL: It was a sad moment when we found out, as I didn’t want it to end ha ha! But as the say – “ one door closes and another one opens.” So once we found out we all started auditioning for what ever we could the next day. We were lucky in getting our notice, as we got 10 weeks – usually you are lucky if you get 2 weeks! There have been shows in the UK where the cast has done a performance and then they have brought them all on stage afterwards and told them that, that was their last performance - so it can be a very hush industry. My plans now, are that I am lucky enough to be coming home to do LazyTown again. It’s a show I enjoyed the first time I did it in Australia and to do it again over Christmas will be great. I am very excited.
CHRISTINE: Auditions are a common occurrence in the West End. How do you prepare and do you find them intimidating at all? What is your advice on doing a good audition?
DANIEL: Auditions come around a lot, and you start to know what shows are coming up, when and where etc, as you know from the previous year when you did them. I guess I prepare myself the same way pretty much for every audition. Going in wanting the job of course, but walking out knowing that if I don’t get the job, it is because I wasn’t right this year! A lot of the shows have been around for years and the casting directors know exactly what they are looking for, so if I don’t get the role I know it may just be because I didn’t fit the particular “look” required! I guess and advice I can give, is as long as you know you have done the best you could do, and couldn’t give anymore, then it is all in the casting director and panel’s hands.
CHRISTINE: Generally what do you find are the strengths in Aussie dancers and the strengths in British dancers? And do you find them different in their approach to class / rehearsals / performance at all?
DANIEL: To tell you the truth I don’t think there is that much difference in the two, but what I have noticed is the attitude kids in the UK have towards auditions – and I think that is the difference from the first day they leave college. They are ready to hit that first audition – no matter how sick they are, they still give it 100 percent, as if they don’t, they know that the boy or girl behind them is ready to take the job. And with so many people auditioning for the same thing, if you don’t go in with that attitude, you will not get the job! I think that is the difference and it’s the same in class and rehearsals. If you want to get noticed, regardless if you are having an off day, you still give 100%. But in saying this you do have to remember that the industry in the UK is much bigger than in Australia.
CHRISTINE: Finally I have three questions for you:
1. What would you say have been the highlights of your career thus far?
I would have to say getting my first West End contract. Just to be able to travel into such a beautiful city and work on the West End every night was a dream come true. Also meeting the one and only Sir Andrew Llyod Webber, not many people can say they have met him.
2. Who are your inspirations and why?
I would have to say Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, because they are two performers I aspire to be like one day. What they brought to the stage and screen is what I would love to do – or if not already do.
3. What do you aspire to in the future?
To hopefully be a lead in a big musical and to choreograph a big musical! They are my next two dreams that I am working toward
Once again it is great to be able to talk with such great Aussie talent, flying the flag for us on the other side of the world!
So – let’s hear it for Daniel and wish him all the best for the future. I look forward to hearing what he gets up to next and look forward to seeing him back on our Aussie shores for a while.
Who knows where his energy and enthusiasm will take him in the years to come,