HE is known to millions for his pithy bashings as a judge on Strictly. But Craig Revel Horwood is currently going it alone, proving to theater audiences that he’s more than just a wild understudy.
Craig is halfway through his All Balls and Glitter tour which takes place at the Lowry on Saturday and the Grand Theater in Blackpool the following Sunday.
“It’s been on the to-do list for a while,” Craig said. “I was supposed to do it two years ago, but then, of course, the world went into lockdown. So I had two years to think about it but I must say that I hadn’t realized how extremely tiring it would be.
“It’s the first time I’ve been alone on stage like this for two hours. It’s a challenge, but it’s a big challenge and I really learned a lot from it. I really appreciate that.
Craig Revel Horwood
Viewers only really know Craig from their Saturday night dose of Strictly where he’s the most outspoken of the four judges commenting on professional dancers and their celebrity partners.
But Craig has a long and illustrious career behind him, starting in Australia where he grew up and first worked as a performer on shows such as West Side Story and La Cage Aux Folles.
After moving to the UK via a stint at the world famous Moulin Rouge in Paris, he then appeared in the West End productions of Mss Saigon and Crazy For You before becoming a highly sought after choreographer and director.
“It’s nice to know that I can still do what I was doing 30 years ago,” he said. “I’ve only really played a little in the last few years. Yes, I was Miss Hannigan in Annie but I was actually only on stage for 17 minutes.
“It’s the same with the panto – you come, say your word and then leave. With this show, once I’m on it, that’s it.
As you’d expect from Craig, this isn’t just a one-man show where he just sits around talking about his career.
“I can sing songs that I love, music that’s important to me,” he said. “And I can rewatch the shows I’ve been on that people probably don’t realize.”
And to help give the first half of the series an extra dimension, Craig has resurrected a character who was first created many years ago.
Craig Revel Horwood
“I do the first act in drag than Lavish,” he said. “I invented her years ago and killed her in 1988 on the Champs Elysées going up to the Arc de Triomphe. She was last seen at six in the morning taking the wrong bus to Trocadero and now she’s back – she’s much grayer now; she was a redhead before.
Lavish’s character allows Craig to have fun telling his early life story and stepping into the world of acting.
“I can tell my life story through her,” he said. “She may have an opinion which is good; if I told it like myself, I’d be more careful, but it’s wonderful for Lavish to be able to tell the stories that Craig doesn’t want the public to know.
For the second half of the show, Craig returns as himself.
“The response has been fantastic so far,” he said, “the majority of people have figured it out. I think it takes them 10 minutes to find out who Lavish is; whether it’s from me or from a stand-up act from Australia There are people who are still confused at the end even if I don’t see how honey.
“I like to challenge the audience and the show is entertaining that way. I have fun with them and try to involve them as much as possible. Then they learn a lot about me that they don’t know, this which is just as good.
Much of the groundwork for the series was done several years ago when Craig wrote the first of three autobiographies.
“It was great to have this wealth of material already,” he said, “but the difficulty was truncating it all into one story that flows with the music. The books tell it as it is then. that, certainly in the first half, I tell the story from Lavish’s perspective on Craig.
“It’s good. I can sing a lot of girly songs that Craig could never do. So I can do Memory from Cats and be Kim in Miss Saigon. It gave me license to thrill my sweetie!”
Although many fans may have read Craig’s books – or even seen a memorable episode of Who Do You Think You Are? – he acknowledges that the majority of people probably only know him as a judge on Strictly.
“How seriously are you going to get to know someone when they’re just commentating on a dance routine?” he said. “I think that’s all a lot of people think I do, but I’m very busy Monday to Friday.
“Strictly is just a Saturday job. I work full time other than that. I think with this show, it’s interesting for them to find out what else I do.
“Every story on the show is completely true and I talk about all kinds of different things that have happened in my life.”
Given that the public perception of him is so based on Strictly, does he resent the program in any way?
“No, I don’t blame myself,” he said. “But certainly in the first two years of the show, because I was seen as the ‘bad judge’, I think the producers were a little nervous or suspicious of me, thinking maybe I was going to wear a judgment when I was directing or choreographing. I think that scared off a few producers.
“Making the leap to TV from theater is one thing, but trying to maintain both things was pretty tough.
“But after a few years everything was fine and I went back to acting. There was a hiatus where people were concerned that I was vile enough to work with. But actually, I’m quite the opposite when I’m directing and choreographing because when I do that, I get the opportunity to cast the show with people I love for the different roles. Unlike Strictly where it’s a done deal. There, I only have to do with what I am given and react. It’s a totally different job.
At the end of his tour, Craig will launch directly into the cast of the musical Strictly Ballroom which he will direct
He said: “This year has evolved into a massive year. All the things I wanted to do for the past two years have been forced on me, so I’m now working back to back, which is crazy. But I love this.”
Apart from a demanding tour, Craig still has plenty of energy to pursue other projects.
“I really want to do a jazz version of La Traviata,” he said. “I’ve been working on this for a while with my friend Sarah Travers. I staged it several times as an opera and just thought that because it was pop music of its time, I would like to give it a jazz touch.
“We worked a bit with a group to see what you can do with Verdi.
“I also want to make a film because it’s something I’ve never done.
“But first, once this tour is over and we’ve done the casting for Strictly Ballroom, I think I’m going on vacation. I really need it.