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Derek Mooney

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Derek Mooney is joining us today to talk about his search for a new actor for Fame the Musical.

In a first for Irish television, Fame The Musical is offering one boy and one girl the chance to kick-start their career and land a job touring the country. The nation's young hopefuls put their acting, singing and dancing talents to the ultimate test in the hope of clinching the dream prize of a lifetime, a lead role in the nationwide tour of Fame the Musical.

Tell us about Fame the musical?

We started in January and auditioned people in three centres - there were pre auditions before that but I wasn't involved. People who had pre auditioned were told that they could go on to the next stage as they were good enough to go before the judges. We auditioned in Cork, Dublin and London. The reason we went to London was that an awful lot people that want to break into the musical industry have gone there to study. It costs anything up to €12,000 a year. These are people who really want to do this. They aren't some fly-by-night karaoke singers.

We knew there were a lot of people in England and testament to that was the UK shows like Maria and there were Irish people coming to the fore. We contacted an agent in the UK and we auditioned a couple of hundred people In London. We auditioned all Irish people over there and some of them went to college over there and some of them have played lead roles on an amateur basis. Then we did the auditions in Cork and Dublin.

There is a maturity in this programme as the youngest person is 18 and most of them, if not all of them, have finished third level or are in third level education. The age profile is in the age 18-25 in terms of who we are looking for. I know 18 doesn't sound old but they have gone through school and they are in college.

Were you a fan of the series?

I remember watching it as a kid but I wasn't a huge fan of it. I watched it but I'm never really a fan of anything to be honest.

Are you a fan of musicals?

If I am in London I go to see one. I saw the Sound of Musical 3 or 4 times when they did the search for Maria, I saw Phantom of the Opera I think 14 times. I haven't seen the new one but I heard it's not great. In London, that's where you see them. You only get the small scaled-down version when they come to Ireland but this is the first time you are getting a full staged production.

Are you getting to see the auditions?

I am not seeing the auditions - I only see the last 30 seconds.
The first two programmes are done and they are great. Everyone who attended the auditions was whittled down to 53 and they went to training school for a weekend in Dublin and they had to show their diversity of their acting, singing and dancing abilities. There was an acting coach and a singing coach brought in.

What do these contestants need to have to succeed?

Here they have to be able to do three things. It's not good enough that they can sing. There was one guy who was a brilliant singer but he couldn't dance to save his life. He admitted that himself. He lost out on going to the next stage because he couldn't dance and it's a musical and he would be playing the lead role and has to dance. He can't get someone to substitute for him. There were also people who didn't look right according to the judges. There were people who could sing, who could act, who could dance but you know what they just didn't look right.

What are the judges like?

Robert Kelly is the producer of the show and he has put loads of shows on around Ireland and the UK. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. He told someone 'Who told you you could sing?'. I was standing there thinking 'god I'd hate to be told that'. I have gone for auditions in the past and I haven't got the job but you were never told to your face, you got the letter in the post instead. My heart goes out to them all. They really want this.
Simon Delaney is from Bachelors Walk and he is a great director as well and he knows what it is like to go to auditions.
Jacinta Whyte was a huge star when I was a kid - she played Annie in the West End when she was 11. She really knows her stuff. She also knows what attitude they need. I watched her once or twice saying people had the wrong attitude and she would say off camera that these people have to be able to work with a huge crew and they have to be able to get in there and be able to do that. She has a great eye like that.
When the series goes to the Helix she will be replaced by Erica Gimpel from FAME. I don't think you couldn't find more qualified judges.

Where will the two winners perform?

It opens in the Grand Canal Theatre and then goes on tour.

FAME The Musical starts this Sunday on RTE ONE at 6.30pm