Living the Dream
I’m living the dream,” grins handsome young actor and talented musician, Richard Fleeshman, as he gives me a big hug. He’s just walked off stage at the Liverpool Playhouse, where I watched him play Gideon Fletcher, the leading role in Sting’s debut musical, The Last Ship.
It’s a marathon role and, considering Richard’s on stage most of the time, he’s hardly broken a sweat. “Working with Sting, who happens to be one of my heroes, can hardly be called hard work,“ he beams. “I’m not just saying that because my Christmas present from my girlfriend was two tickets to see Sting on stage – and that was long before I knew this musical was going to happen.“
I’ve known Richard since he was a baby. Indeed many years ago I christened the Fleeshman family Bramhall’s answer to the Von Trapps! It’s no wonder, with his pedigree, he was destined for showbusiness. “Mum and dad, who are both actors and directors, have been in the business for over 40 years and although they can sing, musicals are a bit outside their comfort zone,” Richard smiles. “My sisters, Emily and Rosie, are also in the profession, so I suppose it may seem pre-destined. It’s certainly great for me that they try to be at every opening night. I really value their input.”
Richard’s been making a mark since the age of 12, when he began his on-screen career in Coronation Street as goth, Craig Harris, where he stayed for four years. At 13, he was the youngest celebrity contestant to win Stars In Their Eyes. He also won Soapstar Superstar, in 2006, donating the prize of £200,000 for his chosen charity, The Kirsty Appeal.
“That seems a lifetime ago now but following my mum into Corrie was a great learning curve as I was working in front of television cameras
with an experienced cast,” acknowledges the 28-year-old actor. Since those early days, Richard’s appeared in television series like Blue Murder, Monday, Monday, Call The Midwife and All The Small Things, in which he co-wrote the title song with the show’s creator Debbie Horsfield and Sir Elton John. “I was privileged to tour with Elton on several occasions, and had a record deal with my own album, Neon. Music’s still my passion and when I’m not on stage I’m still writing music and play regularly in a band.”
Although Richard’s been fortunate in winning major roles, auditioning is a trial by fire for most actors. “However, none as intimidating as auditioning for The Last Ship,” he admits. ”I first auditioned for the director, Lorne Campbell and musical director, Richard John, both from Northern Stage, and was called back three days later. I then had to audition in front of Sting himself and sing When We Dance, one of his big hits, with the man who wrote it sitting three feet in front of me! Can you imagine how terrifying that was? I told him I’d already ticked our meeting off my bucket list and I would dine out on this experience for years!
“When I was offered the role, obviously I was thrilled to bits. But the challenge has been to make the music – which has Sting’s masterly musical phrasing – my own and keep true to the story. Since then I’ve had the most fantastic time. Sting is one of the most humble men I’ve met and an absolute inspiration in how to deal with people. He worked solidly with us for ten weeks right up until the opening night, but after that, he had to leave as his family lives in New York. However he told me wherever he is in the world, doing what he describes his day job, at 7.30pm he looks at his watch and knows we are about to go on stage telling his story.”
Richard had already earned his musical theatre stripes in Legally Blonde and Guys and Dolls, but his first big break came with the leading role of Sam Wheat, created on screen by Patrick Swayze, in Ghost The Musical. I flew out to see Richard on Broadway and at the first night party I was amazed at his composure when faced with America’s great and good who turned out to see him. “I was the only English actor in an all-American cast, so I knew I had to get the accent right, and fortunately I didn’t get any negative feedback. In The Last Ship I’m a Cheshire lad playing a Geordie and, because we opened in Newcastle, I knew I had to get that accent right and again, fortunately there were no complaints.”
As Richard reflects on his career, he appreciates his roots and his supportive family. “Although I was born and raised in Cheshire, I live in London now because it’s easier in this profession. But I’m really looking forward to coming home and performing at The Lowry for the first time. It will be the end of the tour so at last I’ll be able to catch up with friends and family. (thelowry.com)