Q&A: Talking with A Chorus Line's John Partridge

Q&A: Talking with A Chorus Line's John Partridge

Updated On: May 1, 2018
By Nicki McIntyre
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    5, 6, 7, 8… John Partridge is busy putting eager auditionees through their paces in the current revival of A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. Close to 40 years since its original 1975 debut, A Chorus Line has stormed the West End with five star reviews and two Oliver Award nominations, including Best Musical Revival.

    Although best known for his role as Christian Clarke on EastEnders (BBC), Partridge is no stranger to musical theatre. He first trained at the Royal Ballet School and appeared in the touring productions of Miss Saigon, Rent and Cats, before playing Rum Tugger Tugger in the West End. His theatre credits include The Drowsy Chaperone, Notre Dame de Paris, the Sam Mendes-directed The Fix, Tommy, Grease, Starlight Express, Black Goes With Everything directed by Arlene Phillips, and Boy George's Taboo. In 2010 Partridge joined the judging panel of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Over The Rainbow (BBC), the same year he was named Entertainer of the Year at the annual Stonewall Awards.

    As the domineering and demanding director Zach, Partridge must choose from 17 potential dancers to fill 8 spots in his Broadway chorus line. Footwork, posture and emotions are his for the picking…

    LOVEtheatre: This is the first West End revival of A Chorus Line since 1975. How does it feel to be involved in such a hotly anticipated show?

    John Partridge: It has been an incredibly humbling experience. Joining A Chorus Line, you know you're stepping into huge shoes – you can't be anything other than daunted! You really want to do it justice. Right now the London company are the ones caretaking this iconic piece. We really feel a part of the Chorus Line family, and certainly having Bob Avian and Baayork Lee here with us has been invaluable.

    We've had members of different Chorus Line companies from around the world, from places like Italy, come see us here at the Palladium, so you really do feel like a member of a family.

    Initially I was petrified at the thought of being in the show. I didn't want to do it. I also had a very fragmented rehearsal process and only joined the rest of the cast once I finished my television commitments [with EastEnders] in December. It's lovely now to be sitting back and let the show really become a part of your DNA. It's a magic time when the company has really developed its own London groove.

    LOVEtheatre: Can you give us three reasons why everyone should see A Chorus Line?

    John Partridge: 1. You are never going to see this show again, like this, with the original creative team involved. With Bob and Baayork here, you're getting A Chorus Line straight from the horse's mouth. It took 30 years to get back to London and this is the last chance to see this again.

    2. You are never going to see this show again in this, the greatest theatre in the world, the London Palladium. The Palladium is so iconic. This is the most famous theatre in the world.

    3. These two factors – this production and this theatre – make for an explosive combination. I don't know what else you could ask for.

    LOVEtheatre: Your husband Jon is also starring in the show and recently had his first night “on the line” as Bobby. Are you excited to be working together?

    John Partridge: It's been fabulous. Some people talk about it like it must be this terrible thing to be working together, but I tend to think they need a marriage counsellor! In the past, what with my working in television and Jon in theatre, we've had completely different schedules. We're so lucky to be able to share this incredible experience together. It's been great to have him here with me. He's been a great moral support.

    LOVEtheatre: How are you able to apply your own experiences from auditions and as a judge on Over the Rainbow to your role as Zach?

    John Partridge: I'm 41 years old. I know what it is to be in an audition at 17 and in an audition again at 33, competing with those 17 year olds. Judy Garland had that kind of career, from The Wizard of Oz at 16 until A Star is Born at 32. I know that most of the time it takes a lot of luck. If it didn't, would I be starring in this? Initially, I didn't want to do it. I thought these shoes were too big to fill. I didn't think I would be able to do it physically and I wasn't expecting to return to musicals. But I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    Of A Chorus Line, I had only ever seen the film. But then I read the script and the book is so strong. It's got such insightful dialogue and it is so well-written. In some shows you can have fabulous musical numbers but the dialogue in between is dodgy. For me A Chorus Line has the razzle-dazzle of a Broadway musical, but for me in my role as Zach, it's more of a radio play. I'm sitting in the back of the theatre watching the performers on stage just like the audience. My role is much more spoken, while my cast mates are the ones in the leotards.

    LOVEtheatre: Having starred in many first class musicals such as Cats, Starlight Express and now A CHORUS LINE, are there any great musical theatre roles you’d still love to play?

    John Partridge: I never look too far ahead. I believe these things happen organically. I've done everything from ballet to soaps to musicals. Did I know that would be my path? No. I very much live in the here and now. As actors, you know that great moments and great roles don't last. I want to enjoy my time in A Chorus Line as much as possible.