Actor, singer and former teen idol Jason Donovan reveals what Notting Hill means to him, why Annie Get Your Gun has been such a hit, and why he may well be returning to Neighbours
For mementoes from your career, can you really surpass having a board game devoted entirely to you? And would you keep it? ‘Back then it was not so much branding as people came to you with things and then it was all agreed,’ Jason Donovan reflects back to his pop star days. ‘I know I have one board game, but I don’t have everything – when you are in it, you don’t actually have the time to collect it or it gets lost in the move. I loved the board game though. It’s on eBay I believe, so why not treat yourself?’
The board game is just one aspect of what’s been a rollercoaster career for Jason, who these days splits his time between West London and Oxfordshire. It all began in 1986 when the stage star achieved fame playing Scott Robinson in Neighbours, swiftly followed by a hugely successful pop career (Jason’s debut album in 1989, Ten Good Reasons, sold over 1.5m copies), before becoming a stage actor of some repute and taking on the world of reality TV.
It’s a musical that takes centre stage today, with Jason in the midst of a tour for Annie Get Your Gun. ‘I truly believe it was ripe for a revival and hopefully we may even bring it into the West End,’ says the former Strictly Come Dancing Star (he starred in 2011) on the show that’s received positive reviews. ‘It deserves it. People simply enjoy great songs and the feel good factor. Given these times we all need something good to latch onto, don’t we?’
It’s 15 years since Jason was the biggest selling pop star in the UK and he only has good memories of the time. ‘I look back with such affection,’ Jason smiles. ‘Of course it was hard work, but you are young, in love and feel like you can take on the world. At the time I really knew no-one in London, but soon fell in love with West London, in particular Notting Hill and Paddington.’
What was it about West London that appealed? ‘Everything really,’ Jason says. ‘I liked the cosmopolitan mixture of it all and the fact it was near the West End. I also recall loving the black fronted, white painted Georgian houses and looking at them because we had repeats of Upstairs Downstairs back home, so they were seen as rather posh – and suddenly I was living in one!’
It was during Jason’s time living in Notting Hill that he caused a media stir – simply by riding a bike. ‘It was madness,’ Jason laughs, referencing taking the lead role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. ‘It was the biggest musical at the time, breaking box office records, and a very happy time. But, yes, at the end of my show at the London Palladium I would jump on my bike and cycle back here to Notting Hill. I remember turning up on the first day of the show on my bike and the paps went made. Lord Webber offered me a limo to take me from Notting Hill to the Palladium, but I loved cycling and thought it was madness to take a limo, but it created a front page story. I don’t know many stars of the Palladium who arrived by bike and actually wanted to.’
Life remains busy for Jason, with him going off on tour with War of the Worlds right after Annie Get Your Gun. There are also rumours circulating about a return to a particular show. ‘You mean the Neighbours 30th anniversary next year right?’ Jason nods. ‘It’s cool and hopefully very special. Nothing is confirmed yet, but we are talking and that is good. I have no problems with the idea and love the show – in fact, I owe it so much and if people want to see Scott Robinson again, who knows?’ Perhaps we will Jason Donovan’s face on more merchandise once again. (Neil Sean)