Interview | Martin Kaye talks Elton John – It’s A Little Bit Funny

Elton John: It’s A Little Bit Funny tells the incredible story of Elton John’s rise and fall (and rise again) as one of the most successful singer/songwriters ever.

What would you do if you got the chance to meet your all-time hero? That’s exactly what crossed Martin Kaye’s mind when he found himself performing in Las Vegas at the same time as Elton John a few years go – Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet and John in his The Million Dollar Piano show.

It’s this concept that has formed the basis for Elton John: It’s A Little Bit Funny, a new show starring Kaye that comes to The Bowdon Rooms in Altrincham from Monday 19th to Saturday 24th July 2021.

The show tells the (imagined) tale of one extraordinary night in Las Vegas when Elton superfan Kaye bumps into the bespectacled star and happens to spend the evening with him.

It’s a night of confessions, anecdotes, jokes and – of course – fabulous songs. And Kaye is the biggest Elton John fan ever – so who better to sing and play Elton’s greatest songs and narrate this tall tale of an unforgettable celebrity encounter. 

Here we learn a bit more about the show from writer and star Martin Kaye:

ON: Where did you get the idea for the show from?

Martin: “Well, I’m a massive Elton John fan, he’s the reason I play the piano and have done since I was a wee lad growing up in Manchester, so his music has always had a through line in my life. I was living and working in Las Vegas in ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ at Harrahs, and Elton John was also performing across the street at Caesars Palace, and I always wondered what it would be like if I ran into him, so… when I saw that Katy Lipson (one of my long time Mancunian friends) was creating so much incredible theatre in the UK, I told her I would love to work together on some kind of Elton show. She put me in touch with her script writer Chris Burgess, and the rest is history!”

 

ON: Can you tell us a bit more about the show and how it’s developed?

Martin: “Well, we firstly had to figure out how to tell a story without doing any kind of Elton John impersonation – I’m not a fan of those kinds of things, and I don’t sound or look anything like him anyway! (So anyone hoping for an Elton impersonator will be disappointed!) We wanted to just tell the story as earnestly as possible, and we thought “what better way than to tell it than through the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin themselves”. So that’s what we did! It’s got the ups and downs, musically and narratively speaking, weaving through the story of my and Elton’s life. I’m at the front on the piano, singing and playing my little heart away, backed by the most incredible three piece band, and we play all the hits, as well as some really great deep cuts and b-sides which, if you know Elton’s music well, you may know, but if you don’t, it’s an opportunity to hear some new music, which just happen to be really great brilliantly-written songs by one of the world’s most beloved writing partnerships.”

ON: Why do you think Elton John’s songs are so well-loved and still as popular now as when he first recorded them?

Martin: “In terms of Elton himself, I think that, at the time, he was just so incredible to watch. He was nothing like anyone had ever seen since the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard – it was even a step beyond that – so people latched on to that. But it wasn’t just the performance. Match that high-octane performance with amazing songs. Life-changing songs. Songs that people could sing along to. It’s just one of those magical collaborations, isn’t it?! The Lennon/McCartney of the 70s and beyond. And the music was so diverse, so broad. It stretched from country to rock to pop to jazz to orchestral, even to musical theatre. It covered so many genres that there was something for everyone. And those early albums – gosh, those songs were just so good. Beautiful and original melodies, but somehow familiar. And at the very root of it, Elton just knows how to write an amazing chord progression. It’s so simple, yet it’s also not! And it always works. It just… works.”

ON: Which is your favourite Elton John song and why? Is this also your favourite one to perform?

Martin: “As you discover early on in the show, ‘Your Song’ was the reason I fell in love with music, so it’s easily my favourite song because of its importance to my life. And yes, it’s definitely one of my favourites to perform. There are others, sure, coz I also love the high energy stuff – Saturday Night’s Alright is a belter!”

ON: What was performing in Las Vegas like?

Martin: “I can’t even put it into words. It was a dream come true. It was everything I imagined it to be, and so, so much more. As soon as Million Dollar Quartet arrived, we became celebrities there – it was so strange, and as I mentioned earlier, the local Vegas community is so tight and really gets behind its artists, it’s so unbelievably supportive. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. So while I was there, I worked on other projects, I performed at charity shows and other events, I made friends for life – and I got to go to work on the strip! As an entertainer, living and working in the entertainment capital of the world – yep, that’ll do!”

ON: Are you looking forward to bringing the show to the Bowdon Rooms? What can audiences expect?

Martin: “I can’t WAIT. To be able to bring any show to my hometown of Manchester is special, and to be able to perform a show that’s so close to my heart – it doesn’t get much better than that really! I don’t want the audiences to expect anything, except a really fun night of incredible music, performed by a really tight band, with a wild story told by a local bald bloke.”

Elton John: It’s a Little Bit Funny stars Martin Kaye and his band, directed by Ben Stock, written by Chris Burgess, musical arrangements by Andy Collyer, production design by Ben M. Rogers, produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment.

Elton John: It’s a Little Bit Funny runs at the Bowdon Rooms, Altrincham from Monday 19th to Saturday 24th 2021. Please visit The Bowden Rooms for more information and tickets.

Listing Information

Elton John: It’s a Little Bit Funny

Monday 19th to Saturday 24th July 2021

The Bowdon Rooms, Altrincham

Tickets: £25.00 + Booking Fee 

Concessions: £22.00 + Booking Fee

For groups of 10+ please contact the venue direct on 0161 926 8992 http://www.thebowdonrooms.co.uk

Billy Elliot – The Musical

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Billy is from a place where the men don’t dance, end of story, but, with a gritty determination, and an undeniable charm plus more talent than most of us have in our little fingers, he sets out to prove his doubters wrong by breaking the mould and going all the way.

Billy Elliot the Musical is a total phenomenon which has been seen by almost 11 million people across five continents and has won over 80 awards internationally, including an almighty 10 Tony Awards and a hugely impressive 5 Olivier Awards. Based on Lee Hall’s 2000 film, set in a northern mining town against the background of the 1984/’85 miners’ strike, the story revolves around Billy, who trades his boxing gloves for ballet shoes and soon discovers a passion for dance that ultimately changes not just his but the lives of his family and community forever.

So ingrained was life in the pits that son’s followed in their father’s footsteps, proud to do so and loyal to their communities. The impact of Maggie Thatcher and her Conservative Government on these communities is something that will never be forgotten and for most certainly not forgiven. Billy Elliot tells the story of a boy with a talent who wants out of the hardships of life in a mining town but needs the support and the backing of the proud men he adores yet watches become more and more broken by the oppressions of the state.

Billy Elliot does not shy away from the reality of the hardship and ill-treatment of the working classes during the miners’ strike of ‘84/85 and this only makes it more powerful and spellbinding. The contrast of the softness and innocence of the children in tutu’s dancing amongst the striking miners and heavy handed baton-wielding Police is powerful and emotive, reminding me of days in the 80’s when my sisters and I would help my Father seal envelops to send for job after job after first striking then being made redundant, unsuccessful time after time, yet never giving up.

Billy Elliot Tour

Billy Elliot is a story of hope, with emotional highs and heart-breaking lows, it is utterly absorbing. it will make you laugh out loud as well as pause an take The talent on stage is simply mind-blowing. With four Billy’s cast on the tour, tonight is the turn of Lewis Smallman to show us he truly was born to boogie. I don’t think any words could do justice to just how incredibly talented this young actor is, the challenges of the role are immense, not only do the boys need to have excellent contemporary dance, tap and ballet skills, but they’ve got to be able to sing and act and all with a Geordie accent! Lewis is totally mesmerising, his sheer talent and commitment to the role brought me to tears as I watched him move, he made for the perfect Billy.

As well as Lewis all the children in the cast are magnificent, with special mention going to Samuel Torpey Billy’s cross-dressing best friend Michael, whose duet with Lewis Smallman on Expressing Yourself is just perfection, funny, fabulous and full of razzle-dazzle, no doubt we will be seeing much more of this incredible talent, a true star in the making, he has the x-factor in bucket loads! Evie Martin takes on the role of Debbie with all the cheeky wit you’d hope for, she is fantastic, sassy and witty with just the right amount of attitude. The adult cast are exceptional too, lump in the throat moments between Billy and his dead Mum are at juxtapose with the scenes of violence and intimidation on the picket line. Annette McLaughlin as Mrs Wilkinson is outstanding, firm and feisty she truly believes in Billy, the scenes between the two are incredibly powerful as she offers a little of the Mother’s touch missing from Billy’s life. Martin Walsh as Billy’s Dad and Scott Garnham as Tony, Billy’s brother are real and believable, hardened by life and the rough hand they have been dealt yet when it comes down to it their love for both Billy and each other shines through.

Billy Elliot Tour

Everything about this production for me was perfection, from Elton John’s sublime score, to the incredible lighting design from Rick Fisher, and as for Peter Darling’s choreography, wow! Totally awe-inspiring, complex and compelling, expressive and moving, I barely blinked for fear of missing anything it just is that good.

Billy Elliot is an absolute triumph of a show, heart-warming, inspiring and utterly mesmerising, it’s very rare you see a whole audience leap up in appreciation but I absolutely guarantee by the time the curtain falls you will be on your feet roaring for more!

On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 28th January tickets available here;

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/billy-elliot/palace-theatre-manchester/