Noel Sullivan has come a long way since he won a place in frothy five-piece Hear’Say on ITV’s Popstars.
That was back in 2001, and Popstars was the first of the plethora of TV talent shows that followed, from Pop Idol to Fame Academy, X Factor to The Voice.
“It’s a well-oiled machined now, but there was nothing else like it when we did it. We made all our mistakes in the public eye,” says Noel. “We were hungry for success, but we were suddenly in a world we knew nothing about.
“It feels like a different lifetime now,” he adds. “It was a hindrance initially, especially when I wanted to go into musical theatre. It was a route to fame, but we took some hard knocks.”
Hear’Say looked set to be the next big thing, with debut single Pure And Simple and album Popstars topping the charts simultaneously. But interest soon waned and within two years they had split up, amidst hostility from both press and public.
Noel was a teenage waiter from Cardiff when he joined the band. More than a decade later, he has carved a successful career in musical theatre, but still can’t get through an interview without being asked about Hear’Say.
He’s refreshingly grounded about it. “Hear’Say will always hang over me, until I get a life-changing role,” he says. “I was talking to Myleene (Klass, fellow Hear’Say bandmember) about The Big Reunion the other day. I can’t think of anything worse than doing that,” he says.
Noel has appeared in shows such as Grease and We Will Rock You in the West End, and in tours of Flashdance and Fame. He recently played Tick in a UK tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. His latest role is Drew Boley in Rock Of Ages, coming to Bradford this summer.
Described as the “ultimate rock mix-tape musical”, it’s the story of a small town girl and a big city rocker falling in love to a classic 80s rock score featuring anthems such as We Built This City, The Final Countdown, I Wanna Know What Love Is and Don’t Stop Believin’.
The smash hit show was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Drew Boley is an aspiring rocker, who works at music venue the Bourbon Room and loses his sweetheart to rock star Stacee Jaxx. It’s not the first time Noel has unleashed his inner rock god. “I played Gallileo in We Will Rock You, which was a dream. Brian May asked me back to play him for the tenth anniversary in the West End, which was a great honour,” says Noel. “Vocally, playing a role like that wins you a lot of respect – guys from pop bands don’t generally get chosen for roles like Gallileo.
“You don’t realise until you sing these iconic rock tracks how high these guys sing; it’s pretty hard to pull off. These are songs that people grew up with, they always seem to be around. It’s like my childhood re-visited!”
When you star in an 80s rock-themed show, you might expect your costume to be a bit “out there”, but Noel wasn’t fazed by the leather and denim. “They showed me my costume and said ‘it’s a bit heavy’ - I said ‘you’re joking, I’ve just been doing Priscilla where I wore a dress made from flip-flops!” he laughs.
Rock Of Ages runs at the Alhambra from June 23 to 28. For tickets, ring (01274) 432000.