Children’s television megastar Justin Fletcher is heading out on the road in 2022 with his all singing and dancing show Justin Live – The Big Tour!
Justin is a familiar face in households across the country. He stars in many CBeebies smash hit television shows including Gigglebiz, Gigglequiz, Something Special, Jollywobbles and Justin’s House. In addition, he has provided character voices for Tweenies, Boo, Toddworld, Shaun the Sheep and recently provided the voice for Shaun the Sheep in the hit Aardman movie Farmageddon. He has been the recipient of numerous children’s BAFTA’s for his work and in 2008 was awarded an MBE for his services to television and to charity organisations. In the eyes of a whole generation he truly is a superstar.
We caught up with Justin to find out a little more about his brand-new show – his inspiration and his career in children’s entertainment:
You’ve been a firm fixture of children’s TV and CBeebies for more than 20 years - What inspired you to make the first step in your career in children’s entertainment?
As a child I used to watch “Playschool” with Jonny Ball, Derek Griffiths and Floella Benjamin and loved acting out the stories. During my 3-year course at drama school, I was inspired by Philip Schofield and Chris Jarvis in the CBBC Broom Cupboard and thought I’d like to perform in some family theatre and television. I put a show reel together and managed to secure an audition for the theatre tour of “Playdays” which was the show that took over from Playschool and I landed the part of “Mr. Jolly”. That was the very first part I played which started my career in family entertainment.
Who was your inspiration growing up? Did you watch anything yourself as a child which you feel shaped your future?
I was very much inspired by the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. I used to watch their slapstick routines over and over again. They had such an amazing chemistry between them.
Do you think the world of family entertainment has changed over the years and if so have you had to adapt your approach at all?
The choice of family entertainment on television is now huge and when I was a child there was a very limited number of programmes available to watch. However, having a good strong story-based script and engaging characters is still the key to having a successful programme.
Although you are known for your TV shows, you have produced and performed a number of theatre tours and shows. How important do you think live theatre is for children and what do you enjoy most when performing to a theatre full of young people?
Creating many family theatre productions over the last two decades has been incredibly important to me and hugely enjoyable. There is nothing like performing on stage and meeting the families that support you and your television shows. Children’s theatre is so important, as it is quite often their first live show experience. We are hoping to inspire the next generation of theatre goers.
What do you enjoy about touring a live show?
We have an amazing production team who work extremely hard to prepare the show before it goes out on the road. We are like one big family. From the performers to the lighting and sound operators, the catering team, and the back stage crew, we’re all working together to put on the production. We also support each other whilst out on the road, which is really important when you’re away from home for fairly long periods of time. Touring provides a fantastic opportunity to experience so many different towns and theatres across the country and to meet so many new friends along the way.
You have written this show. Tell us a little about this process. Where do you start and where do you get your inspiration from?
It always starts with a storyline. Once you have that in place, I think about the music content. Music is a vital element of all of my shows and I try to write some original songs myself, as well as featuring some of the much-loved traditional songs too.
The Big Tour will be full of the kind of slapstick comedy that you are so well-known for. Who are your comedy heroes and why do you think this kind of comedy remains so timeless?
Slapstick comedy has such wide appeal. It’s great when children and their families laugh out loud watching comedy routines by performers like Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. It’s a timeless format and you can’t beat the sound of belly laughter coming from the audience from children and adults alike.
Your shows are hugely interactive, what kind of fun and games can audiences expect in the Big Tour?
When children and their families come to see my shows, I don’t try to create a show that is simply to be watched, I create a show that they can be a part of. I love audience participation and almost every song we do is interactive and we always end with a big party that everyone can join in with.
Do you have any favourite songs in the show and why?
I love the action songs that we usually start the shows with. You can’t beat seeing the audience join in with classic songs such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “The Hokey Cokey”. Then, in a heartbeat, we can fill the auditorium with magical stars and all join in singing and signing “Twinkle Twinkle”. That’s the beauty of live theatre, you never quite know what’s coming next!
It’s quite likely that some of the audience members on the Big Tour will have watched you themselves on CBeebies and now be bringing their own children to come and see you. How does that feel?
I feel very proud and flattered that some of the parents we meet grew up watching my programmes and are now bringing their children to watch and enjoy them too. This inspires me to continue entertaining generations to come.
Why do you think people should come along to see you in Justin Live! The Big Tour?
It’s been a very long time since we’ve been able to tour. I can’t wait to get out on the road and to meet all of our friends once again.
If you could sum up the show in just three words what would they be?
Fantastic Family Fun!