IF you mention the name Ian Watkins most people across Stockport would not have a clue who I was talking about, but mention ‘H’ from pop group Steps, and everyone of a certain age, would know him.
Ian was part of Steps when the group achieved a series of successful chart singles between 1997 and 2001, which included two number one singles, two number one albums in the UK, 14 consecutive top five singles in the UK and a string of hits throughout Europe and selling 20 million records worldwide.
The group disbanded at the end of 2001 after two members left, but re-formed a couple of years ago to great public acclaim and sell out concerts.
I caught up with Ian, who was playing the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, at Stockport’s Plaza Theatre.
The role of pop star and treading the boards is very familiar territory to Ian, who started out in musical theatre, and in which he believes there are comparisons to be made between the two.
“I first played the role of Joseph nine years ago in the West End and then I played it on tour, so this was my third time.
“And I guess there are connections between the two roles, in that I come from a popular musical group and Joseph is a popular musical, which in itself is also a part of pop culture.
“I love my job because it is so diverse, going from being in a pop band to doing a straight play to being in a musical. But for me to come from a group like Steps and to join a musical like Joseph is the perfect foundation
“However, there are differences, in that when I am in Steps I sing pop songs and when I am in Joseph I am an actor and I am playing a role.”
Given the length of time some of these musicals have been playing, Ian is aware of how important it is to constantly update it.
He explains: “Of course it has to evolve, and just recently we had all of the orchestrations for Joseph re-done, and they are all new.
“And, even when a new Joseph comes into the show, it is very much up to them to interpret it in a different way. So I think I have brought new stuff to the show and likewise the next person to play Joseph will do the same.”
Ian said when Steps re-formed three years ago, the group members could not have anticipated the success it has had.
“I have to say, it was totally unexpected, because we got back together to promote our greatest hits album, and that turned into a TV show, and it kind of snowballed from there, we ended up selling out 30 arenas.”
And what can the pop fans expect from Steps in the future.
“We were always going to have a little sabbatical in 2013, but we are talking about stuff, so let’s see.”
Meanwhile, what’s next in the way of challenges for Ian in the theatre.
He adds: “Well there’s a fantastic play Woman in Black, and I would like to do that one. I love a lot of straight theatre and I have done a lot of plays and it’s just nice to jump back and forth between both musicals and plays in the theatre and being a member of Steps on stage.”