John Owen-Jones tells Graham Norton:'Paul Hollywood gave me two handshakes! I felt very privileged'

Virgin Radio

27 Mar 2023, 08:41

The actor is playing 'The Great British Bake Off' judge in a new musical.

Paul Hollywood bestowed his famous handshake upon the actor portraying a character inspired by him, after catching his performance in a West End musical last week.

The actor, John Owen-Jones, bears an uncanny resemblance to Paul and is currently portraying the character Phil Hollinghurst in the theatrical production titled The Great British Bake Off: The Musical.

The Welsh musical theatre legend, best known for his portrayals of Jean Valjean in Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schönberg's Les Misérables and of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, popped into The Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose this weekend to tell us more.

"I actually don't play Paul Hollywood in The Great British Bake Off: The Musical," says John. "I play a character called Phil Hollinghurst. Now, there are reasons for that, one of which might be legal, I don't know. But if you give a real life character a different name, you can take certain liberties with the performance. So I think that's why we've done that."

He continues, "Paul came on the very first night. And he'd never been to a musical before, let alone one that had him in it. He loved it so much that he's going to come back and bring his mum. And he gave me not just one but two Hollywood handshakes. So I felt very privileged!"

So how did the play come about, John?

"Well, we tried it out in Cheltenham last year at the Everyman Theatre, this beautiful theatre in Cheltenham," explains the Burry Port born thesp. "It went so well. With a show like this, you don't quite know what to expect when you come and see it, because how do you turn a TV show about baking into a musical, right? The only way I can tell you how we do that is to come and see the show. We were lucky that a theatre became available in London, and so here we are doing a brand new British musical in the West End. Isn't that amazing?"

That theatre is the Noël Coward Theatre. The play is running there until May 13th.

"The play is an entire series condensed into two and a half hours," says John when asked if the show follows a plot. "And you follow the story of the contestants throughout. Each contestant has its own backstory and everybody gets a chance to shine. It's a proper ensemble piece where everybody gets a good amount of time on stage. There's not one person that's just hanging around doing nothing in the show. Everybody's busy. It's a lot of fun."

It sounds it!"

"I mean, if you love the TV show," says John, and we really, really do, "you are gonna love this musical because it is literally the show on stage."

Listen to The Graham Norton Radio Show every Saturday AND Sunday from 9:30 am on Virgin Radio or catch up on-demand here.