Jason Manford - why I love Stockport
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:12 12 April 2016
A New Year and a new challenge for Stockport’s own Jason Manford as he takes the lead in the musical The Producers
I catch up with Jason Manford on a northbound train from London in the midst of a promotional whirl. He’s heading home to Stockport for the night, only to catch the train back down to London the very next morning.
‘I love London. I think it’s a great city. But I couldn’t live there,’ the affable comedian says, explaining the homing instinct which causes him to spend so much of his life on trains. ‘A lot of my family are in the north. I moved my parents from their council house in Whalley Range up to live near me in Stockport. The kids are at school there. My ex-wife lives in Stockport. We are all really close and so it just doesn’t make any sense for me to move to London.
‘What I like about Stockport is that it’s got everything you need - the town centre with all the shops, a theatre, a cinema and a swimming pool, but I’m only five minutes from countryside. I really like that.’
That said, Jason is considering a less radical move, possibly to Marple Bridge or Romiley, but never too far from that mainline to London.
Five months of this year will be spent touring around the UK in the musical The Producers. He plays the timid accountant Leo Bloom, filling shoes previously occupied on screen and stage by the likes of Gene Wilder, Matthew Broderick and Lee Evans.
Jason had shown his love of musicals when he played the role of Pirelli in the London revival of Sweeney Todd in 2012.
‘I did well enough for people to think fondly of me after it, and I’d said in a few interviews that I’d love to do a musical. The odd one came up, but you just think, can I be bothered? “Do you want to do 9 to 5, the Dolly Parton musical?”. “No, I’m alright.”
‘So I’ve been waiting for something special to come up.’
The Producers definitely qualified as special for Jason.
‘I love it,’ he says of the Mel Brooks creation. ‘We were brought up on those comedy films - Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers. My dad was a massive fan. When it became a musical, with Lee Evans and Nathan Lane, I went to see it in London and loved it. I saw it in Manchester, when Peter Kay was in it. So to get the role, the main part, is pretty exciting.’
Rehearsals for The Producers began even as Jason was finishing 16 months on the road with his stand-up show First World Problems. The pace of The Producers promises to give him a rigorous daily workout.
‘I’m lazy in stand-up,’ Jason confesses. ‘I just stay on the spot - no skipping like McIntyre.
‘I put on a couple of stone for a part I’m doing for the BBC at the moment, Ordinary Lies ...though nobody asked me to to do it. So I’ve got to try to shift that.’
That BBC drama, for which Jason has been filming in Warrington, sees Jason teaming up with Stockport-born Michelle Keegan in her first major role since leaving Coronation Street with the murder of her character Tina McIntyre.
All of which illustrates the range of Jason’s talents: stand-up comedy, TV presenting, humorous panel shows, serious drama, stage musicals...is all this a conscious effort to broaden his CV?
‘I like keeping things varied,’ says Jason. ‘With stand-up, it takes so long to write a new tour, you’ve got to give yourself something else to do, really. The tours are so successful that you can pick and choose, so I basically only do things I like doing now. There’s a point in your career where you have to do everything to get known. But now it feels very much like I’m in control of it.’
Some have even suggested Jason is shaping up like do-everything evergreen star Bruce Forsyth. Is Jason, perhaps, the next Brucie?
‘I’ve just done a show with Bruce, for the Palladium,’ says Jason. ‘I watch him - the singing the dancing, the telling jokes, the presenting - and think I’d love to do that. But at the same time...I’m tired now! I’m 33. How on earth is he still doing it?
‘I speak to John Bishop quite a lot, and we’re good mates. We’re always saying “I couldn’t imagine not doing this.” What would we do? We’ve got no other life skills. So I’m always doing stand-up. But the pressure of telly, I don’t know whether I could do that when I’m older. Later on, I’d like to relax.’
Jason Manford stars in the musical comedy The Producers, which comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, from March 16 to 21, and the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, from June 1 to 6. The DVD of his live show First World Problems is out now.