With a new production of Jonathan Harvey’s modern classic Beautiful Thing coming to Birmingham Hippodrome at the end of March, we decided to catch up with the Executive Producer Tom O’Connell, who also happens to be a good friend of the Hippodrome after co-producing our last two pantos! We sat down with Tom to find out a bit more about him and his career as one of the youngest ever west-end producers!
How did you get into the theatre business?
I’ve been involved in performing since birth – my family are very creative, artistic and full of comedy. As a child I did puppet shows, circus acts and then my late grandfather encouraged me to audition for Bugsy Malone, so I did and ended up getting the lead role! I was always putting the whole show together so at the age of 17 took the risk of producing my first professional show and the rest is history… nine years later and I am still doing it.
You helped produced two successful pantomimes here at Birmingham Hippodrome, was that exciting? How does producing Beautiful Thing differ?
I love Birmingham, the Hippodrome and I love pantomime – so to be able to work as Michael Harrison’s associate on the last two big ones [Snow White & Jack and the Beanstalk] was great fun. Experiencing three intense weeks of laughter, precision, energy and talent first hand in a rehearsal room is a huge privilege. Producing Beautiful Thing is similar in that my job is to keep everyone’s energy and excitement up and to oversee the rehearsals and make sure we are true to Jonathan Harvey’s original script, and to the audiences who hold the film close to their hearts. It is about complimenting the piece and bringing a fresh take on the story.
Are you looking forward to the play coming to Birmingham?
Very much so, especially since audiences might be experiencing a play in the intimate Patrick Centre [Birmingham Hippodrome’s studio theatre] for the first time, and what better way than with an intimate play like Beautiful Thing. I think, knowing a lot of Brummies, they’ll love the show.
You must know the city quite well, is there anywhere you like to go shopping/for a drink?
When I’m in Birmingham I’m always busy with work so don’t get much time to explore (maybe I should with Beautiful Thing), but I do love Le Truc bar/restaurant – great food and staff. Shopping in the Christmas market is always good fun when in town for panto, and I also like the food in the Loft Bar.
Beautiful Thing was turned into a film – do you have any favourite films?
Beautiful Thing was one of my favourites, with Linda Henry as Sandra and Jonathan Harvey making a cheeky cameo! I do also love a good comedy or rom-com and I think The Producers is a fab film, along with Mrs Doubtfire and Love Actually.
What plans have you got after Beautiful Thing?
Well, we’ve just closed Ghost Stories in the West End after a year long run, and our production of The King’s Speech is continuing to tour the UK. Hairspray the musical starts in September for a year long tour, and we have two productions being announced soon. There’s also a new musical being developed with Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter of McFly fame which will be a good laugh… and hopefully I’ll fit a holiday in at some point!
Beautiful Thing opens at Birmingham Hippodrome on Monday 30th March and runs until Saturday 11th April. To book tickets please visit our website.