West End actor from Wearside is bringing the hits home

Michael Pickering.
Michael Pickering.
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A Sunderland-born musical star is bringing a flavour of the West End to his home region.

Former Thornhill School pupil Michael Pickering, 31, has appeared in a string of hit shows including Jersey Boys, Wicked, Grease, Mamma Mia and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Michael, second from left, in the 4Tunes

Michael, second from left, in the 4Tunes

Next week he’ll be returning to the North East stage with 4Tunes, which features a quartet of West End actors who’ll be performing anthemic tracks from the world of musicals, pop and opera, such as Les Misérables’ Bring Him Home and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, in their Curtain Call tour.

Michael will be belting out the hits on stage at Tyne Theatre on September 30 alongside fellow former Thornhill pupil Dominic Ridley; Matthew Gent who attended Durham School and fellow West End actor Michael Conway.

“It’s a really interesting show, it’s got everything from the musical standards, to Queen and Buble,” explained Michael, whose family live in Teal Farm, Washington. “There’s eight of us in the 4Tunes altogether and the cast rotates depending on what other shows we have going on.”

Michael last performed on his home stage as Frankie Valli when Jersey Boys enjoyed a hugely successful run at the Sunderland Empire last September.

“It’s great to come home as it means my family can come to the show,” Michael said. “When the Newcastle date came up it was one I definitely had to do, with three of us being from the North East there should be a great buzz.”

Michael and Matthew are two in a long line of successful musical theatre stars to have attended Thornhill School

It was during his teenage years at the school that teachers Jacqui Bennett (who has since retired) and Mark Leadbeater and their passion for music and drama spurred Michael on to head to London and study musical theatre.

They seem to have the Midas Touch with drama, as fellow pupils Gary Watson, who’s appeared in West End Jersey Boys, and ITV Superstar winner Ben Forster, currently playing the lead in Phantom of the Opera, have also forged a successful career on the stage.

Michael returned to the drama department last year to share his experiences in the spotlight with pupils.

He said: “The staff are incredible there and the new facilities are amazing. We didn’t have things like an acting and dance studio when I was there. But they really inspired me and I’m always proud to support them.”

•The 4Tunes are at Tyne Theatre, Newcastle, on Friday, September 30. Tickets are priced from £22 from http://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/