Dave Willetts

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Dave Willetts
Born (1952-06-24) 24 June 1952 (age 66)
Birmingham, England
Genres Musical theatre
Occupation(s) Singer and actor
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1984–present
Associated acts Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera

Dave Willetts (born 24 June 1952 in Birmingham) is an English singer and actor known for having leading roles in West End musicals.

Early life[edit]

Born in Marston Green, Birmingham, in 1952 and then brought up in Acocks Green.[1] He first went to Cottersbrook Infants primary school and later to Sheldon Heath Comprehensive (now known as King Edward VI Sheldon Heath Academy). His father worked at Rover.[2] He has completed a Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme programme.[3] After leaving school at 16, he joined Girling Brakes as an apprentice,[2] in Cwmbran, Wales.[4] He then moved to another Girlings plant in Pontypool, with his then girlfriend Lyn.[4] One night he went out with workmates to see “No, No Nanette” by the New Venture Players, an amateur drama group based in Newport.[2] based at the Dolman Theatre.[4] Despite rarely ever visiting a theatre, impressed by he play, he became interested in amateur dramatics. He auditioned for the New Venture Players next production, added finally landed a role.[2] After 10 years in South Wales, he returned to Birmingham to take up a managerial post.[2] He then worked as a quality manager for British Leyland, an engineering company producing components for the automotive industry in the Midlands.[3] But he also joined the Leamington and Warwick Operatic society to later star in “Music Man”.[2] He then played 'Charlie Gordon' in amateur production of Charles Strouse musical, Flowers for Algernon,[3] at the Priory Theatre in Kenilworth.[5] Peter McGarry, the theatre critic of the Coventry Evening Telegraph gave him a rave review of his performance.[2]

He then came to the attention of Bob Hamlyn, artistic director of the Belgrade Theatre, in Coventry who cast him as "third flunky from the left" in another show by Strouse, Annie.[5] It was at this time, while Willetts was in his thirties, that he began his meteoric rise to the top, with the support of his wife.[1] He decided to give up his management career and became an 'actor', while working part-time as a waiter and his wife as a childminder.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Director Trevor Nunn put Willetts into the chorus of the original London production of Les Misérables and within a year he was understudy to Colm Wilkinson in the lead role of Jean Valjean, which Willetts eventually took over when Wilkinson left in 1986 to join the Broadway company. In 1987, when Michael Crawford departed London for the US premier of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera,[5][1] Willetts succeeded him at Her Majesty's Theatre in the West End. He subsequently played the role of the Phantom in Manchester,[6] on the UK tour to critical acclaim, winning an Evening News Theatre Award. In 1990, he was given his first opportunity to originate a role when he appeared opposite Petula Clark in Someone Like You, a musical for which she had composed the score.

Since then, Willetts has appeared in a concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar, taken the lead role in Leicester Haymarket's acclaimed production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, appeared as Old Deuteronomy in the 20th anniversary production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats in London,[7] and as Jean Valjean in the 10th anniversary production of Les Misérables in Sydney, Australia. He took the role of Heathcliff in the studio recording of Bernard J. Taylor musical version of Wuthering Heights.[8]

In 2004, he appeared in the West End production of Ragtime alongside Maria Friedman.[9] In December of the same year he appeared in Aladdin in Bromley.[10] He has played the starring role of 'Adam Pontipee' in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in the West End (2006).[11][12] and the national tour in 2002.[2] He then played the role of 'Emile de Becque' in a UK touring production of Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, which toured the UK until July 2008.[1][13]

In 2007, Dave played the role of 'Julian Marsh' in a UK Tour of 42nd Street. He returned to the role in 2012, when the show again toured the UK.[14] He played Max in a scaled-down production of Sunset Boulevard at the Comedy Theatre (now The Harold Pinter), directed by Craig Revel Horwood in September 2008.[9][15] For which he was nominated for Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.[16]

In October 2014, he appeared as Father God in 'Love Beyond' at SSE Wembley Arena.[17] Then in 2015, he appeared in 'Pure Imagination' at the St James Theatre, London in a musical based on the work by Leslie Bricusse.[18] In 2017, he appeared as the White Rabbit in Wonderland, a new musical by Frank Wildhorn also starring Wendi Peters and Kerry Ellis.[19][20]

Discography[edit]

Willetts has recorded several albums, mostly collections of songs from musicals.[8] Including 'Once in a Lifetime', released just before his 60th birthday.[5] He has performed on albums alongside Lesley Garrett, Clive Rowe and Claire Moore amongst others. Including appeared on 'Music And Songs From Aspects of Love/Phantom of the Opera' in 2008.[21]

Personal life[edit]

He has a wife Lyn (originally from Warwickshire,[5]) a former nursery nurse and teacher.[1] They married in 1972. He has 2 daughters called Kerry and Leanne (born in Pontypool,[4] ), and 3 grandsons, including Rafferty and Kit.[17] They live in Baginton, near Coventry.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Jones, Alison (31 May 2013). "Willetts still on song". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Solomon, Deryck (5 April 2012). "A profile - Dave Willetts: Birmingham's Star of the Musical". colonel-moseley.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c Goldstein, Nicole (22 September 2014). "20 Questions: Love Beyond's Dave Willetts". whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c d Owens, David (26 March 2013). "West End star Dave Willetts returns to 'home-from-home' Wales to star in 42nd Street". walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Dave Willetts: Living the Musical Dream". Warwickshire Life. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2018. 
  6. ^ Mack, Gary (24 July 2006). "The Phantom of the Opera Review". Retrieved 23 March 2018. 
  7. ^ The House That Dave Built, Coventry Telegraph, 14 May 2001
  8. ^ a b "Dave Willetts Discography". castalbums.org. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  9. ^ a b Hasted, Michael (6 March 2014). "Dave Willetts talks about THE MAN INSIDE". stagetalkmagazine.com. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  10. ^ Revel, Paul (3 December 2004). "Jay Bunyan: Interviewed December 2004". harrowtimes.co.uk. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  11. ^ "Actor, director and taxi driver Maurice Lane reminisces about the Chiswick of yesteryear". chiswickw4.com. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  12. ^ Taggart, Bronagh. "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". britishtheatreguide.info. Retrieved 25 March 2018. 
  13. ^ Happy talk as actor finally gets the girl, Hull Daily Mail, 8 September 2007
  14. ^ "Willetts & Webb headline new UK tour of 42nd Street". WhatsOnStage.com. Retrieved 2017-05-03. 
  15. ^ Billington, Michael (2008-12-15). "Sunset Boulevard". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-03. 
  16. ^ "Olivier Winners 2009" Archived 27 May 2012 at Archive.is olivierawards.com. Retrieved 29 March 2011
  17. ^ a b "Dave Willetts has Tea With Wilma". 14 September 2014. westendwilma.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018. 
  18. ^ Shenton, Mark. "Mark Shenton's theatre picks: September 24". 24 September 2015. thestage.co.uk. Retrieved 23 March 2018. 
  19. ^ "Kerry Ellis to star in Wonderland alongside Wendi Peters and Dave Willetts". WhatsOnStage.com. Retrieved 2017-05-03. 
  20. ^ Porter, Hilary (20 April 2017). "Don't be late for an important date at the Mayflower". Daily Echo. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  21. ^ Dan Dietz The Complete Book of 1990s Broadway Musicals, p. 8, at Google Books