When a youthful Will Young pipped Gareth Gates to the title of Pop Idol – the show which spawned X-Factor and hundreds of other reality music shows – not many would have bet on him still being a relevant figure 12 years later.
Fewer still would have thought he’d be playing the lead in a musical based on a play about the Nazis rising to power.
But then again Will Young isn’t your average star.
For a start, as we talk over the phone, it quickly becomes clear he is incredibly grounded and level-headed. He is also fiercely independent and proud to be different.
“I’m a bit like Blackpool I suppose in that respect,” says the man who arrives in the resort next month in the hit musical Cabaret.
“When I won Pop Idol I knew I had a chance to forge a proper career as a singer. It was my dream job, and it would have been just awful if I had to sing songs I didn’t believe in.
“I wasn’t doing it for the money and I really mean that. I just wanted to be a singer, write songs and have a good career, and I think that informed a lot of my choices.
“I tried to do what I wanted rather than what the record company thought people might want to hear, and it must have worked because I am still around now.”
It is a policy which has worked well for Young, who has flitted between pop stardom and acting in the theatre, on TV and in films. He has even appeared on Question Time and – proof that his star is still high – has just signed a deal with Island Records. “They have such a history, from Bob Marley to Amy Winehouse, and to be signed to them after 12 years of doing this is amazing,” said Young.
This autumn, though, sees the 34-year-old concentrating on Cabaret, the musical which had a lengthy West End run and is now touring the country. It’s in Blackpool from October 15-19 and Young can’t wait to come to town.
“I’ve played several gigs in Blackpool over the years and I think the place has a real charm,” he said. “There is nowhere else like it in the world I would say. It has a kind of heritage which is so specific.
“It has obviously changed a lot over the years, when people started going abroad more, but it still holds on to its character. It is quite a stoic place, the people are stoic and it has an individuality.
“It’s not bland. People are proud of being in Blackpool. I wouldn’t say people are that proud of living in Slough. People in Slough might be offended by that but they know it’s true!”
In Cabaret, which became a hit in the 60s and has been performed worldwide since, Young plays Emcee, the leering, ghoulish, flamboyant compere of the Kit Kat Club.
“He is a great part to play because he’s so extreme. He’s a bit like an amalgamation of The Childcatcher, Ace Ventura and a really creepy clown. He is like a kid one moment and then he can steal our kid the next,” he says.
“I wear this massive fat-suit and I just love it because every night is different. Going out on tour keeps it fresh as well. When I’m doing pop concerts I only get to stay in a place one night. ”
It’s difficult not to like Young and, if the reviews of Cabaret are accurate, it’s likely the show will be hard to dislike either. Tickets priced £19.50-£39.50 are available from www.blackpoollive.co.uk