He may be showbiz royalty, but even Phillip Schofield gets starstruck by some of the Queen’s most decorated citizens.
Returning to the stage after a 15 year hiatus to present The Knights of Music, a celebration of the Knights and Dames of the entertainment industry and their music, he has revealed how a chance encounter with one legendary impresario led to his big break in musical theatre.
“I’ve met quite a few of these Knights, Lords and Dames responsible for some of the most extraordinary music.
“I’ll never forget the moment when I got the phone call asking if I could audition for Joseph in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber! “I’d recently been to see Jason Donovan at The Palladium. We were both a bit younger then and I was the same market for his fans who went to see Joseph. I had to be rescued from the audience! It was a long time ago and that doesn’t happen to me anymore! It created something of a stir!
“When he found out Jason was going to have six weeks off, he said what about Phillip Schofield? Find out if he can sing!
“When it came to it, I was very scared. I forgot the last verse of Any Dream Will Do and I kept going round and round and round. I had to be stopped in the end. Sort of shot like a rabid dog, really! He said I think that’s enough and I thought I’d blown it.”
Despite the shaky start, the 54-year-old went on to be a huge success in the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, attracting sell out audiences on his mid 90s Mayflower summer season. “I was there for a season with Doctor Dolittle as well and it’s such a lovely theatre. As soon as I knew we were doing this show, I was keen to see if the Mayflower was available.
“I’ve turned down so many West End shows because of a lack of time that they’ve stopped asking. But all the planets were in alignment for this one! “I love a bit of nostalgia so it will be great to go back. I remember we used to always go to the restaurant across the road for a bite to eat and I remember my young daughters wandering about backstage in awe of Ria Jones (the West End star who made her name as the narrator in Joseph).”
His daughters Molly, 22, and Ruby, who is 20, with wife of more than two decades Stephanie Lowe, are used to the limelight these days.
“Oh they are so over it,” Phillip laughs.
“My older daughter works in my management company and she’s as non-plussed as anything! She’s been used to it her whole life. Sometimes I say did you see my new show last night and she’ll say no sorry I was out! Not that I care. We’re all very normal with our feet on the ground.
“I suppose occasionally we get nice holidays. When your kids are in their early 20s and you dangle the carrot of a nice holiday, they never leave!”
Their Dad boasts an impressive CV. He has come a long way since deciding at the age of ten a career in broadcasting was for him and bombarding the BBC with letters. He landed a job as a bookings clerk, at 17, he was the youngest person in the building. It was only four months before he was in the Broom Cupboard presenting live children’s TV.
These days, Phillip is one of the principle faces for ITV. Presenting This Morning and Dancing on Ice alongside Holly Willoughby, as well as The Cube, Mr & Mrs and new hit Back in the Room as a solo host.
After more than 30 years in television, he’s allowed the odd wild night – or morning. Worse for wear Phillip and Holly famously presented This Morning in their stained National Television Awards outfits after a boozy night out earlier this year.
“It was a good one,” he laughs. “That’s definitely something you can’t do regularly, but I’m very pleased we have an understanding employer. The most important thing for us was that we still had control, we wouldn’t have gone on TV otherwise. “We got away with it, but it was scary! I’ve never done that in my whole life. I think I’ve done This Morning twice with a bit of a hangover, but never still under the influence! It was quite frightening. I’m normally very professional, so it was scary to be a bit out of control.”
Phillip’s dream This Morning interviewee would be Dame Shirley Bassey, another music legend whose songs appear in The Knights of Music.
If he bows to pressure to sing at the Mayflower, as he wil, he’lll have learnt from the best.
“I met Sir Paul McCartney when I was doing Saturday Morning. It’s quite special when you meet them for the first time and they’re what you expect them to be. There’s nothing worse than being disappointed by someone you’re a big fan of. He was lovely. “But the only singing I suppose was with Tom Jones. Well he was singing. We went to the rugby together and Wales thrashed us! The rugby was awful, the company was brilliant.”