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Cheshire Life gets a backstage pass to join actor Richard Fleeshman and his family on Broadway for his opening night in the principal role in Ghost, the musical WORDS BY NATALIE ANGLESEY

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The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Cheshire Life

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Its been a meteoric career rise for Bramhalls Richard Fleeshman since the winner of Soapstar Superstar entered the world of musical theatre. Now the 22-year old actor turned singer/songwriter is a musical star on Broadway where hes the leading man in Ghost The Musical, based on the Oscar-winning film which starred Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze.

At the curtain call I stood on the stage of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre looking out at the standing ovation and wanted to pinch myself, Richard confided after the show. I saw heroes of mine like Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and Glen Ballard who co-wrote the music as well as Bruce Joel Rubin who won an Oscar for the screenplay and adapted it for the stage, applauding.

Richards proud parents were also in the audience and mum, actress Sue Jenkins, best known for major roles in Coronation Street and Brookside, looked glamorous in a dusky pink Eliza Cavaletti outfit from Angela Beer.

Dad, award-winning actor David Fleeshman, just made the first night as hes been appearing in the musical Gypsy in Leicester. Richards sisters will catch up with him later as Emily is running the family business, The Actors Lab Theatre School in Manchester and Rosie is training at the Rose Bruford College.

His dad David said: We went backstage just before curtain up and Richard was both excited and apprehensive. I dont think I could have played a leading man on Broadway when I was his age but hes performed the role in London for a year and Manchester before that - so he knows what hes doing.

Sue related that it nearly didnt happen. Not many people know that six weeks before the show opened in London, Richard was knocked down by a car and broke his foot. Although he had an operation, two days later he was back in rehearsals on crutches for four weeks before he could walk properly.

Richard said he understood for the first time how precious life is and if youve seen the film youll know the character he plays of Sam is unexpectedly killed and his ghost provides the title. Now here we are on Broadway at the gala evening.

Once Richard had run the gamut of film cameras and interviews at the glitzy after-show party we had time for a proper chat. Its been a roller-coaster ride for the last 12 months since I got this role after auditioning nine times. First there was the world premiere in Manchester and I was really nervous because I was playing on homeground in front of my friends and family as well as the fans.

Then there was the London opening and recording the album in the Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles used to record and now here we are on Broadway where I have a fantastic flat with a pool and a gymn in the basement. Its been a crazy time.

Among the celebrities who turned out in style were Ivanka Trump, Jerry Zucker who directed the Oscar-winning movie and Lisa Niemi, widow of Patrick Swayze who all loved the show. But some critics who attended a preview night when the scenery broke down were less enthusiastic.
According to David they were half expecting their response.

It hasnt done it before and probably wont do it again but the same thing happened to Les Miserables when the barricades broke down and We Will Rock You which had poor reviews - and look at them now.

Prior to Ghost, Richard had made a mark as a recording artist, touring with Sir Elton John and appearing in the Olivier award-winning hit Legally Blonde. I enjoyed that although I wasnt creating a role from scratch. Even when I was in Coronation Street I always said Id love to create a role in a brand new musical.

Being able to create the stage role of Sam is a terrific opportunity but its also the culmination of a strange set of circumstances, Richard explains. Id received good notices in Legally Blonde and was asked to stay on but for some reason I said no. Dont ask me why because it meant I was out of work and then I got this role. Again the London production of Ghost was doing so well they asked me to sign for another year and again I said no with only a slim chance of the job in America because of the strict Equity rules.

During the initial auditioning process Richard met Canadian singer Caissie Levy whod already appeared in Broadway and West End productions. We hit it off straight away and were both cast in the leading roles. Filling Patrick Swayzes shoes is impossible but if youve seen the film youll know that the storys got real heart and is about true love.

With his athletic build, curly black hair and heart-breaking smile, its hardly surprising that Richards name has already been romantically linked with several ladies but he remains single. This musicals really important to me and I need to concentrate all my energy in getting it right with no time for distractions.

Richards parents confirmed his single-mindedness as Sue recalled. Richard went to school at Syddal Park Prep and Cheadle Hulme School and I first noticed his voice when he was playing Joseph in a nativity play. I immediately bought a second-hand upright piano for 100 but at 13 he was unhappy with the tuning and, with the money he earned in his first year in Corrie, he bought a white baby grand piano which is still in our living room.

Richard admits that while playing Craig Harris, Corries brooding Goth, he learned a great deal. The Street was my drama school. Learning new scripts every week with varied shooting schedules was also good discipline. I hope its made me a better actor.

In 2006, Richard won Soapstar-Superstar with a 200 thousand prize which he donated to the Kirsty Appeal and a record deal. The only thing Id won before was Celebrity Stars In Your Eyes when I was little and Id sung at my parents anniversaries and now I was being offered work in America. My parents always give good advice.

The wisest thing they said was that I should enjoy being young, not rush into anything and stand back and look at all the options. I was only 17 and decided to stay at home and work hard on my first album.

Richard appeared in All The Small Things, Monday, Monday, Blue Murder and Marple. When I was 18 the highlight was supporting Sir Elton John on his Big Arena Tours both in the UK and Europe. I learnt so much and it reinforced my hope that music will always be part of my career. I still have to pinch myself when I think about writing songs with Elton and hes promised to come and see this show.

Whatever the exciting future holds for Richard, with his parents support, hell remain firmly grounded.

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