From Here To Eternity
Jeremy Williams-Chalmers, Arts Correspondent
Yorkshireman Robert Lonsdale has been enjoying critical acclaim in the West End as part of the cast of Tim Rice's latest production FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, however Huddersfield's finest is far from a newcomer to stage and screen. However, despite his prowess in the West End, he has never ventured into the realm of the pop charts. All that has changed with the release of his début single, 'Fight The Fight'. Blown away by his vocal ability, we decided to find out what prompted the decision to take the musical to radio..
You are currently performing in the West End production FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. For those who only know it as Tim Rice's new musical, can you tell us a little bit more...
And who do you play?
It's a story of love and conflict set in Hawaii on an army barracks just before the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941. My particular story is about Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a private in the U.S Army, who is a boxer and a bugler. He decides to give up boxing and playing the bugle because he thinks loving doing these things makes him weak - and he applies the same approach to his love life...
What attracted you to the role?
Brilliant melodies, a wonderful script by Bill Oakes, and a chance to dress up as a soldier and fight on stage. A pretty good mix!
You have decided to release 'Fight The Fight' from the musical - was the decision yours?
No! It came as a bit of a surprise, and we had to re-record it for radio and do a music video. It's quite different to how the song appears in the show because there's a lot of dramatic staging when Prewitt sings it in the story. The single version is more contemporary and has more of an anthem feel.
Tell us about the song itself...
The song is really about Robert E. Lee Prewitt's life philosophy. He won't do what anyone tells him - except what is necessary as a soldier. There's a line which goes "show me the under-dog -- I'm gonna be on his side" which tells you a lot about him. He's a brilliant soldier but his determination to do things his way gets him into trouble, and the song has references to that too.
'Fight The Fight' is your début single - have you ever dreamed of pop stardom?
I would love to create an album of my own, but at the moment I am too busy thinking of my acting career to think much about pop stardom! Being in the theatre, especially a show as physically demanding as this, means you are always preparing for the next day's performance. There isn't much chance to think of anything else.
If so, who would you say have been your primary influences?
Damian Rice and Foy Vance are two singer-songwriters I really admire.
Might there be a Robert Lonsdale album in the offing?
There isn't at the moment, but I would love to do one. I have to keep my voice completely unused after a show until lunchtime the next day in order to give it time to rest so the chance of squeezing an album out of it right now it a bit slim!
Having experienced success as an actor, have your ambitions been altered at all?
I think your ambitions are always changing as an actor, they wax and wane according to the job you are doing. You find yourself subtly adjusting your ambitions all the time. At the moment though, after FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, I feel much more upbeat about the future. There are lots of people I would like to work with and you never stop wanting that to happen, but you can't get carried away else you'll always be disappointed.
You are now in a position where your performances influence upcoming performers, what key advice would you have for them?
I always say this, but luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I honestly believe that I am not good at anything apart from being an actor, so the advice I took myself was to work as hard as possible at being an actor and to get as good at it as I possibly could. Right now, I'm the one looking for advice though!
Do you prefer musical theatre or straight theatre?
It depends entirely on the piece. There tends to be more variety in straight theatre, but FROM HERE TO ETERNITY shows you that you can still find great, complicated roles for men and women in original musicals in the West End.
What one role do you dream of performing?
I have a speech from Othello pinned on my mirror right here in the theatre... So I guess Iago is quite high up my list of roles.
You are a Yorkshire lad from Huddersfield - What was your Inspiration growing up in the North?
There's a misconception down south perhaps that maybe we don't have so many creative opportunities in the north, but when I was growing up there was a local amateur dramatics company that I used to do plays with from when I was 8 years old. That was my inspiration growing up. I wanted to be like them and be as good as them, and I loved going to my local theatre and then going to drama school that continued - looking around and seeing how good the other people were, I just wanted to be as good as them.
Do you miss Yorkshire /do you go back and visit?
I miss it terribly, especially right now, as rainy London is not nearly as beautiful as the rainy Pennines. Of course, I do go back. But not nearly as often as I should and not as much as I'd like.
Would you like to star in a Yorkshire based drama? Would that appeal to you at all?
Absolutely. Yorkshire can be the backdrop to pretty much anything - look at Wuthering Heights and Red Riding. They both feel totally Yorkshire. I'd love to have done either of them. It would be great to do some telly, but I'll go wherever I find a good role.
What is next for you?
Another challenging acting role is what I'm hoping for. If anything half as exciting as Robert E Lee Prewitt comes along I'll be a happy man.
'Fight The Fight' is out now.
From Here To Eternity, 14th February 2014, 17:53 PM