Tom Parker’s gone from wowing at The White House with The Wanted to donning the black leather jacket of Danny Zucko as he embarks on his first musical theatre role.
Formerly one fifth of The Wanted, who enjoyed success on both sides of The Pond with hits such as Glad You Came, Tom is now making music of a different kind by enrolling in Rydell High.
He’ll be heading up the T-Birds in a new tour of Grease the musical, which opens in Manchester next week before heading to Sunderland Empire in May.
Rehearsals are in the final stages for the production, which also stars Danielle Hope (Over the Rainbow winner) as Sandy, and former EastEnders actress Louisa Lytton as Rizzo, and Tom says he’s enjoying slicking back his hair and getting into character.
“Originally they saw me for the part of Teen Angel,” he explained. “It was actually my first ever musical theatre audition and I remember thinking it went really well. I got a phone call a couple of weeks later and they said they’d like me to play Danny, which I jumped at the chance at.
“It’s such an iconic role and one I’m well acquainted with, both in the film and musical. I’ve seen the musical a couple of times with Noel Sullivan and Ray Quinn in the role of Danny.
“But because it’s such an iconic role it’s important to put your own spin on it, I don’t want to copy other people. We’re fully into rehearsals now and once you’ve got all your lines and songs down you can start playing with the role and making it your own.”
After starting life as a musical which opened on Broadway in 1972, Grease went on to spawn the hit movie of the same name starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Taking on the role made famous by John Travolta means Tom gets to perform the show’s famous score, which includes You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You, Sandy, Greased Lightnin’ and more.
Tom says that performing such a well-known score isn’t without its challenges.
He said: “You go into a role like this knowing all the songs because they’re so famous, but there’s actually a lot of things you have to unlearn. You know the song and are so familiar with singing it in a certain way, but in the show you have to do it in a harmony. So you have to do undo how you’ve been singing for years.
“First night is creeping up and it’s scary, but also really exciting.”
Tom, of course, is no stranger to the spotlight.
During his time with The Wanted, Tom enjoyed huge success including two UK No. 1’s, three platinum albums, two sold-out arena tours, and three million singles sold in America.
Speaking about his change in career, he said: “You get really engrossed in the pop world and when you’re in that world you don’t think of anything outside of it. But at the start of the year I decided I wanted to do something different that would take me out of my comfort zone. Musical theatre is such a different experience for me, but I’m really enjoying it and it’s great working with everyone.
“It’s so different being in a band because you can kind of get away with things. Not that you can be rubbish, but there are another four people to rely on. In the theatre when it’s your number and your time to shine, all eyes are on you.”
Tom says the whirlwind of being in a boy band is something he’ll never forget.
“When you’re in the band you don’t really have time to sit back and reflect, so it’s easy to forget that we achieved so much. And we didn’t do it through a TV show, we worked our way up and built a fan base the traditional way. When you’re in it you’re told where to be and what to do each day and it’s a whirlwind. I would say I wasn’t very independent then as you’re spoon fed your life, but it was an amazing experience.
“I think what stood out for me was performing at the White House and Michelle Obama giving us a tour round. They even had a bowling alley in their house, it was the coolest place to live ever.”
Any chance of The Wanted reforming?
“I know our fans would love for us to get back together, but I think they’re happy with the bits each of us are doing too. I’ve had fans tweeting me saying they’re coming to particular nights on the Grease tour and it will be great to see those familiar faces.”
•Grease is at Sunderland Empire from May 1-6. Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland
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