Jonathan Ansell rhapsodies about Queen
Jonathan Ansell, formerly of G4, the operatic band from X-Factor, is part of a West End production Bohemian Rhapsody that hits the INEC in Killarney in July. We caught up with him for a quick chat.
JOE: Hey Jonathan, what are you doing these days? You’ve left G4…
JA: Yes we had three and a half years together as a group and then I went solo and signed with Universal, I made two consecutive albums with them and do a bit of concert work, but now I work mainly in theatrical productions.
I’ve done Whistle Down the Wind and Beauty and the Beast and various other shows down the road and now I’m about to embark on Bohemian Rhapsody, which is a really fun show that’s very exciting vocally because there are so many great songs for us to sing. So we’re in the second week of rehearsals and really looking forward to getting on the road...
JOE: How did you get involved in this particular stage production?
JA: It’s a musical style that I have just always loved and when it came to me that there was a stage production happening I really wanted to get involved and grabbed at the chance. It’s been in the thought process since the start of the year and I’m just delighted it’s about to get underway. It’s music that has inspired me growing up and the way Freddie and the guys had a heavy operatic sound really helped my own rocky sound.
JOE: What’s your role in Bohemian Rhapsody?
JA: We’re all individual characters that are extensions of ourselves. It’s not like futuristic-we-will-rock-you, it’s more like a concert-setting with great, flamboyant costumes showcasing our own personalities. My role incorporates three big solos and lots of other bits within the show. My main strength is a youthful power which is in the mix. The cast is just phenomenal too, it’s a really great ensemble.
JOE: It must be daunting too, people expect so much of Queen and Freddie Mercury is one of the greatest vocalists of all time?
JA: Absolutely! We’re not, any of us, trying to be Freddie – none of us are playing Freddie’s character. We are paying homage to the wonderful music and performances that Queen have had over their careers and paying homage to the excitement their performances evoked. It’s not in any way a tribute act...
JOE: That’s probably just as well - last weekend we saw Tyler James’s performance of Bohemian Rhapsody get panned on the UK’s The Voice…
JA: Absolutely, back in our original year of G4 we released Bohemian Rhapsody as a single and we got a top ten single out of it, so it’s been well-received in my past, but it does show the connection people still have to that music.
JOE: We have seen classical music become more mainstream in recent years with people like yourself, Paul Potts and Katherine Jenkins. G4 and Paul Potts were picked up by the reality show format - are you ever resentful of needing that platform?
JA: I think you can’t be resentful of needing that platform, I think everyone needs a platform, whether it’s that way or going down the more conventional route of performing on things like The Jonathon Ross show or The Royal Variety Show. It’s a great way of developing a supportive fan base, I’m delighted I went through that process and I’m delighted that many others in a similar vein have that opportunity.
JOE: It is funny - Freddie Mercury is in the news a lot again now, with this Bohemian Rhapsody production and The Dictator star Sacha Baron Cohen being recently been selected to play Freddie Mercury in a biopic. What do you make of that decision? Do you reckon he could pull it off?
JA: [Laughs] I think he could pull it off. Sacha is obviously a very talented actor and his other movies have shown his extreme flamboyancy and I would just hope he doesn’t take it too far and keeps more clothes on than some of his characters have in the past!
But I’d love to see that portrayal, I think he is a very talented man and very intelligent, I think that movie would do very well and The Dictator is doing phenomenally.
JOE: Are you looking forward to seeing Killarney?
JA: Yes – it’s a place I’ve never been and a venue I’ve never performed in so it’s always great to see new parts of the world. It should be fun!
JOE: Outside of classical music, what else floats your boat?
JA: A lot of my time is spent performing or with my young family, I’ve got an eighteen-month year-old daughter and it’s great to just hang out with her and be a Dad. Outside of family activities, I’ve got a big power kite and sometimes it’s nice just to go to a big open field and get dragged about by it! It controls me, more than I it and it drags me off the ground. I like doing a bit of sea angling too when I have a chance and just be peaceful.
I’ll probably go catch The Dictator as well at some stage, I love a good night out at the cinema with a big bag of popcorn.
JOE: Finally Jonathan, you’re from Bognor Regis, it’s a place that frequently gets panned by the UK media. It seems to get a bad rap…
JA: [Laughs] It does! I don’t think the name helps - Bognor Regis doesn’t sound like an appealing name for a seaside resort and it was a good resort back in the day. It’s a bit of a tired resort now, but we grew up one road away from the sea and it was a great place to grow up in. We had a blow-up dingy in the garage and we’d bring it down, my brother and sister and just splash about on in the sea for hours.
My family still lives down there and I love going down to visit, but I don’t think I’d go back to live there. It’s definitely not the south coast of Italy, it’s Bognor Regis on the south coast of England and it is what it is.
Bohemian Rhapsody runs at the INEC in Killarney from Tuesday June 26 to Sunday July 1st inclusive. See the INEC website for more information and to get your tickets.