The West End star, Michael Sterling, is heading to the Costa del Sol next week to perform his latest show, A Night with the Phantom, a personal journey through a 35-year career that has encompassed theatre, television, radio and recording. His West End credits include playing the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, which he performed more than 1,000 times at Her Majesty's Theatre in London; as well as the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.
The internationally acclaimed performer took time out from his busy schedule to talk to SUR in English about his life and career, and his excitement about performing his latest show at The Salón Varietés Theatre in Fuengirola next weekend.
Where were you born?
I was born in Carmarthenshire in West Wales in 1970, but I moved to London when I was 17.
How did you first begin singing?
I made my debut at the age of seven singing at my sister's wedding, which was on the same day that Elvis died. I was absolutely mortified that we had lost Elvis, so I sang It's Now or Never. It all started from there, because I realised that I could sing.
When did you decide that you wanted to turn professional?
I started performing semi-professionally at the age of 14, singing in working men's clubs and at weddings, and I began to earn good money. In fact, I was earning more than my parents.
Did your parents support your decision to pursue this career?
Yes, absolutely. My father was a miner, but he didn't want me to go down the mines.
How did you break into the West End?
In 1990, I began working as an entertainer on the SS Canberra. I was with International Artistes at the time, an agency that looked after many top stars. While on the tour, my agent informed me that there were auditions taking place for Los Misérables, which, obviously, I could not attend. I had seen the show when I was 18 and it blew my mind, so when I finished the tour, I badgered my agent to get me an audition. I was recalled twice, and in 1991, I was in the London show. It happened really quickly: once I was in theatre, it really started to catapult and I went on to work with many gods and goddesses of theatre and film.
How did you become The Phantom?
I was playing the role of Raoul in Phantom at the time, and I was given 20 minutes' notice, seeing as The Phantom had lost his voice. The show had actually started and I had never played the role, so it was quite surreal.
Were you perturbed by the fact that the role had been performed by the likes of Michael Crawford?
Well, you are handed a responsibility, like, I guess, any of the great performers who have taken that role. I began by performing both roles - four performances each week as Raoul and the four as The Phantom - so I got used to the role. I took over full time in 1999 and I knew what was required, although it was a tough act to follow.
You performed Phantom more than 1,000 times; did you ever get bored with it?
We all have a level that we work to and you have to maintain that level at every performance: you have to find it from somewhere. One of the things that was installed in me very early on is that every night is the opening night. However, we find new directions to go in. The show is the same, the scenery, the music and the lyrics, but every performance has to be fresh. It's as spontaneous as us talking now.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
Yes, always. I get butterflies every time, but once I get on the stage, the nervous factor disappears. It's part of your performance. The nerves equal adrenalin.
Do you get recognised in public?
It does happen sometimes. Obviously, the roles I have played make it difficult for people to recognise my face because of the makeup and costumes. However, I would be a bit concerned if someone recognised me from Phantom.
Have you performed on the Costa del Sol before?
Yes, at the Felipe VI Auditorium in Estepona in 2018, but I have not appeared at the Salón Varietés, so I am really looking forward to this.
What can people expect to see at the Salón Varietés?
Phantom has been a big part of my career, so this is the flagship of the show. The show is biopic through music really, and will present a personal journey through my career and the different musical styles I have performed.