Since he was a child, Daniel Chamberlain has trained in the arts: performing in the English National Ballet’s productions of The Nutcracker and Cinderella, as well as performing on TV and with the Ballet Rambert Performance Company before joining the West End London company of Cats as Bill Bailey and Skimbleshanks. Since then, he’s spent time onstage in The Phantom of the Opera and with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford Upon Avon and The Aldwych Theatre in London. Now, he’s headed to Qatar.
You’ve had quite the career! How did you get started?
Both my sisters were dancers and my mum was an actress, so it was just a natural progression for me to go into musical theatre. I used to go and watch my sisters at rehearsals and it all went from there really.
You’ve been in some of the most renowned shows: The Phantom of the Opera, Secret Garden in Stratford, The Nutcracker. . . what’s been your favourite?
It has to be Cats. For me as a dancer first and foremost, it really is a show where you go through the burn eight times a week, there was no feeling like it when you did a three hour show and the feeling of achievement when you reached the curtain call was immense. The choreography was great to do at every performance and was very challenging, so you did really push yourself constantly every performance, regardless of how you were feeling before the show started. I can honestly say it was by far my favourite show to have had the privilege to have been part of such a fantastic company. And being a cat eight times a week in front of 1,200 people, it certainly broke down all inhibitions, and it was great fun at the same time!
Why musical theatre? Tell us it’s more than High School Musical and jazz hands . . . For me musical theatre brings in so many aspects of the theatre under one umbrella, dancing, singing, acting, and music. Put those four things together and you have musical theatre. I also feel it is a great way of escapism, music and dance take you to a different place, and usually it’s a happy place! For me you really cannot beat a good musical theatre production for that feel good factor.
How on earth do you prepare for this sort of role?
I try and find out as much about the character as I possibly can. I will always tend to add my own twist on how I feel the character would behave. I must say researching for Cats was a very unusual task, trying to the give the character a personality, every cat was different. As I started as a swing before taking on the role Skimbleshanks, I had to ensure every cat had its own persona. It was an interesting choreographic journey, which has proved to me to be a valuable asset for all future projects.
It’s a show about a bunch of cats, singing and dancing . . .
Cats was a unique show, everything about it broke the mould of typical musical theatre productions, the costumes, the sets, the music, everything about the whole cathartic experience was unique, the audience never knew really what to expect, and there was a certain anticipation before the performance. The stage was set as if you were in the back alley of a rubbish dump. Pretty unique if you ask me!
Right. . . it’s a show about cats, in a junkyard. Really?
Cats is an amazing collection of poems about cats, illustrated beautifully by dance and music. You are drawn into a fantasy feline world. A truly magical world, of every kind of cat imaginable. Yes, it really is about cats! It has something for everyone of all ages, young audiences are fascinated by the cat aspect, and the rest of the audiences enjoy the whole cathartic experience, it was a very sad day when Cats closed in the West End, there will be no other show like it, or will ever be.
You’re teaching some of the choreography at your workshop in Doha?
Gillian Lynne conceived and created all the choreography, it was such a pleasure to work with her, she is a master of her trade. The choreography was again very different to most other shows, it was ugly and distorted, but fitted in perfectly in this kind of production, which required a different take on your average musical theatre production. I learnt the choreography from the lady herself.
So are we going to be able to actually learn the steps?
There are certain bits in the choreography that are easy to pick up and fun to learn, obviously in the Master Class I will be teaching a mix of medium/advanced steps, but there will always be an element of fun in all of it.
You came from ballet to musical theatre. Are they different?
Ballet is pure discipline; you are doing steps and sequences that are hundreds of years old. As one of my teachers use to say, if you have a good ballet grounding, then you are able to do all forms of dance. It is the basis of dance. Musical theatre on the other hand is far more flexible, you can add your own style to musical theatre and you are given a certain amount of artistic license, and for me, musical theatre is certainly a lot more fun to do (laughs).
Right: we have to ask, under the beautiful costumes and movement. . . what do your feet look like?
Not pretty! Blisters, corns, broken toe nails, need I say more? (Laughs).
The Cats Masterclass comes to town on December 2. Participants will learn how to create their own Cat persona, including the makeup, as well as learning some of the original West End choreography. Participants must be 14 or older, adults welcome. Previous dance experience essential. Book your space by calling 5560 9253 or emailing email@example.com.