And, you’d be right. Sheffield’s very own Matt Croke also played the lead role of Aladdin on the West End in London, for three years. I recently had the chance to have a chat with the Sheffield-born musical theatre star, about all manner of things. It was both an enlightening, amusing and a hopeful conversation.
“My first job out of college was Grease in the West End, then onto Wicked, Chicago, Singing in the Rain, West Side Story and Funny Girl, as well as a few other musicals, but my biggest aim in life was to be the leading man on the West End.” Then Aladdin happened. “With Aladdin came a lot of other things, such as TV, radio shows and press, photoshoots and interviews with people.” It was quite a lot in one go and even led to “the opportunity to make an album full of musical songs.”
In 2018 he released an album, Only Dreaming, it came about as a result of Aladdin, “my musical director encouraged me to record the album, and I’m really proud of it. I’d definitely like to do more of it in the future.” But what about the present, I asked; “I was really lucky to do all of that for three years… and yeah, Covid happened.”
Just like that for everyone, and Matt, it all came to a halt. Everything. But it hasn’t deterred him, at all, he finally came home during the second lockdown, after spending the first one alone for 8-weeks, “which was really lonely, hard”.
Back home he’s surrounded by family, it also meant that he could focus on the RMC Academy of Theatre Performance, where he’s a vice principal and co-founder of the theatre dance school, alongside his sister Rachel who runs it for the most part. He tries to be as involved as he can be around his stage performances, but with coronavirus stopping all performances (along with everything else), he was able to spend much more time on the theatre school. Whether he’s focused on keeping the students engaged via Zoom classes, or encouraging their performances, he has been much more involved, at a safe distance of course.
What about The Voice? “So, that came about because of Covid, it just gave me a chance to perform and I wasn’t doing much of that.” For a moment, I almost thought that Matt didn’t enjoy his time on the show, however that wasn’t true, “I enjoyed every second, it was great. I’ve never done anything like that before and it was way out of my comfort zone but looking back, I’m really chuffed that I did it.”
“I could stick to what I do best and that was musical theatre. When they were happy for me to sing Come What May from Moulin Rouge, I was more than happy to be a part of it. Therefore I went on and I was representing musical theatre. The world has been deprived of musicals, and I was happy to represent the West End and my colleagues”.
Matt is someone who cares deeply for those he works with and good causes, he’ll be topping the bill this Saturday at one of this summer’s most eagerly awaited live musical theatre events. Headline act, like he always dreamed of, just this time back home and for a good cause. It’s called the Musical Theatre Drive-In, which is organised and staged by the South Yorkshire youth homelessness charity Roundabout. There he’ll be singing songs from the hit musical, Aladdin and you may even hear some of his other musical numbers as well.
Home is certainly where his heart, as cliché as that may seem… then again we live in clichés for the most part. I think that perhaps Matt’s only cliché, if you could even call it that, is that he believes in delivering hope, help, joy, and an escape through musical theatre. And honestly, in a world that has been so increasingly negative over the last few years who could ever fault him for that?
Matt Croke was the headline performer at the Musical Theatre Drive-In at Meadowhall Shopping Centre on Saturday, June 12.
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