Self-taught musical theatre

 8 February 2011

Phillip Arran has performed in the West End musical ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'. Though he lacked professional training, his love of the stage and dedication brought success.

Starting out in theatre

"When I was a teenager I had an interest in musical theatre. I always did drama at school: drama clubs, youth club dramas and stuff like that.

“Because I've not trained, I watch people. 'How are they singing that note? How do they breathe? How do they manage to get those words out?'"

“Then I decided I wanted to go to drama school. My parents weren't in a financial position to send me, and there were no grants or scholarships available. I was desperate, I wanted to go to stage school from the age of 12.

“So I just did more and more amateur operatic society shows, and after about ten years, I started getting the leading roles. One of the directors I worked with, a guy called Ray Jeffrey, said to me: 'Get your arse up to London and start auditioning for the shows’.”

Learning stage skills on the job

"About two months later, I moved to London. I did lots of cabaret work as a male guest singer in a drag queen show to get my Equity card, and got that the day of my 21st birthday.

“From there I just got another job, and I ended up doing a ship contract, I did summer season. I suppose the best thing is, I actually learned on the job.

“I did a season at Thorpe Park playing King Arthur. I had to learn how to swordfight and do proper stage fighting. I did a touring show where I did my first stage kiss with a girl and because I hadn't trained, I absolutely did my nut. She just said to me: 'look, just kiss me'. So we did, we had a very passionate kiss and that was that fear overcome.

“Now I'm part of the West End musical 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'. And I love it, because everybody else has trained and I haven't. It can help on certain things but to be honest with you, if you're talented and you've got what it takes to do the job, when you're in the job you've got the time to then say to the choreographer: 'I can't do that step, teach me what it is'.”

Advice for a career in theatre

“Never think you know it all. Always be prepared to learn.

"If you're talented and you've got what it takes, when you're in the job you've got the time to say: 'I can't do that, teach me'.”

“There are people out there that will give a lot to people that want it and are really ambitious. And it's free, take it!

“I watch people. Because I've not trained, I watch people and I say: 'how are they singing that note? How do they breathe? How do they manage to get those words out?' and things like that.

“Always be prepared to learn, nobody ever knows everything. And if you really, really want to do it, you'll do it. It took me 13 years to get my first West End show, but I never ever gave up on the fact that I was going to do it.

“I've been lucky enough to go around the world on cruise ships as a singer, now I'm understudying one of the top leads in a West End musical. I mean, Bernadette is a huge role and I'm one of the understudies for it. So it just proves that: try, try again. Yeah, go for it.”


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