Teen heart-throb, soap star, chart topper, I’m a Celebrity alumni and West End actor – Jason Donovan’s CV is pretty extensive to say the least. Now he’s turning back time to when it all began for a night of nostalgia at Newcastle Arena where he will be performing his classic hits.
BACK in the day, Jason Donovan was my dream boat.
Aged eight, the Jason and Kylie 1989 annual was my most prized possession and I saved up months’ worth of pocket money to be able to afford my Aussie idol’s Too Many Broken Hearts record. (Ma and Pa Wheeler were not big payers so it took some saving.)
How refreshing then that, 20 years later, my childhood crush didn’t disappoint and proved every bit as lovely as I’d imagined him to be.
Since Neighbours launched him to fame, Jason has proven his acting worth further in stage shows Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
When I interviewed him it was between shows of Sound of Music in Dublin, but the actor still doesn’t mind talking about his iconic role of soap hunk Scott Robinson.
“It’s a bit of a bubble when you are in it,” he explains. “You don’t realise how lucky you are until you look back. At the core of it was a TV show with talented people surging ahead with their career. Fame becomes a by-product but it can cloud people too.
“I have a lot of stage work at the minute which makes me happy. I enjoy its creativity. I did 18 months as Priscilla last year where we had Liza Minnelli and Liz Taylor coming to see us and you get a real buzz from that. I think people respect me more now. When you’re a blond 21-year-old it’s harder to create a mark for yourself. People criticise you and at that age you can’t really handle it but as you get older you realise how the business works.”
Far from distancing himself from his early career, Jason is embracing the public’s penchant for 80S nostalgia by taking part in the Here and Now tour.
The successful 80s live shows are now in their 10th year and this summer the tour’s being headlined by Boy George, backed up by Jason, Midge Ure, Belinda Carlisle, Pepsi & Shirlie and Jimmy Somerville.
Jason, who reignited his fan base with an appearance in 2006’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, said: “I am really looking forward to Here and Now. I’ve turned it back a few times because I was doing other stuff. But it’s the tenth anniversary and iconic people like Midge Ure and Boy George are on the bill too so it’s a good time to be part of it
“The thing about Here and Now is that it’s a good fillet steak not a cheap side cut. It’s got real value for money as you get to see the best bits of the artists you know and love.”
He added: “The 80s was a time when there was a real buzz about pop music. It wasn’t just about the acts, it was about the sound, the make-up, the hair. In the 60s and 70s, pop culture was very much influenced by the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, then the whole landscape changed.
“I’m a firm believer that popular music is a cycle. At the minute, we are going through a resurgence of 80s music.”
Jason’s Neighbours popularity launched a hugely successful pop career which spawned hits such as Nothing Can Divide Us, Especially For You, Too Many Broken Hearts, Sealed With a Kiss and Everyday I Love You More.
Speaking about which tracks he’ll pick to perform in Newcastle on June 29, Jason said: “Too Many Broken Hearts always goes down a storm. I’m not sure who I will be singing Especially For You with but that’s another one that’s always good for me.
“I feel very grateful to have had some hits and not as a boy band third singer on the left.
“As a singer I’ve grown and I’m grateful people are still interested in my story. My career hasn’t all been blue skies, but it has had character and passion. And I make sure everything I do is something I’m passionate about. That’s something I teach my kids too.”
It is Jason’s children with partner Ange – Jemma, 11, and Zac, 10 – who he cites as the turning point in his life and the incentive needed to end his much-publicised cocaine addiction.
Despite being one of Britain’s most recognisable faces, he says he doesn’t mind being asked about the ups and downs of his career.
“It depends what age people are as to what people remember me for, but people always seemed to have warmed to me,” he explained. “I think that’s because I’ve been an honest character in my life.
“My life is pretty good work wise but my family are the most important thing to me.”
l Here and Now is at Newcastle Arena on June 29. Tel. 0844 493 6666 or visit www.metroradioarena.co.uk