We could while away the hours chatting with Kieran McGinn, who stars as the lovable Scarecrow in this year’s festive show, The Wizard of Oz
Life is ding-a-derry for Kieran McGinn this Christmas, for playing Scarecrow in the musical adaption of one of the greatest films of all time is a wish come true.
“Even as a child I wanted to play him,” Kieran says. “He’s silly and lots of fun, and he gets his chance to be comical with humour that’s tied to the time.”
The gentle Scarecrow, on his quest to find a brain, couldn’t be more opposite to the last character Kieran played. He recently finished a UK tour as Jacobson in An Officer and a Gentleman. “It’s just another element of physical acting,” he explains. “Playing an officer in the naval air force who is reserved and doesn’t move a lot is just as much of a challenge.
“With Scarecrow I’m approaching it with a baby deer focus. When they’re born, deer stumble but have to learn to walk quickly. Scarecrow’s been stuck on a pole for so long, I wanted to work out how he walks and expresses himself as he develops throughout the play.”
It must be a tall order following in the fine, faltering footsteps of Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow? “Ray Bolger played him so expertly, people want to see him portrayed exactly as he is in the film,” agrees Kieran. So it’s about striking a balance between fulfilling people’s expectations and introducing what I’m capable of and can bring to the role.
“But with Scarecrow, you kind of love him already, you’d have to do something really wrong for people not to like him!”
Kieran is extremely likeable himself. London-born with a big family, he’ll be celebrating in Blackpool with his cast mates throughout the run, who include X -Factor's Holly Tandy as Dorothy, Emmerdale’s Kelvin Fletcher as Tin Man, and Radio Wave’s Scott Gallagher as the Cowardly Lion.
As he’s preparing to hit the yellow brick road on the run-up to Christmas Day, it’s only right we ask Kieran a few festive questions, beginning with the obvious one:
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Well this year if I don’t get home to see my family – naughty!
What will you do on Christmas Day if you don’t?
Probably go somewhere recommended by Scott, and Skype my family.
Will you be exchanging gifts with the cast and crew?
Yes! We’re all chomping at the bit to get our Secret Santa organised.
What is a typical Christmas day?
Eating too much and a lot of laughter. I have a huge family and we’re all large characters, we love being together and enjoying each other’s company.
What’s usually on the menu for Christmas dinner?
I don’t eat meat so it’s all about maple syrup covered parsnips and brussel sprouts (sorry I love them!), and for my family, meat stuffed with apples and all sorts of things and cranberry sauce.
What's the best present you’ve ever had?
The ones I got as a child. You can’t beat the excitement. I got a violin one year, I was screeching, and another year we got a puppy I was beside myself.
What’s on your Christmas list this year?
I’m quite an easy person to buy for as I read an awful lot. So a book or a book voucher is great rather than huge expense. It’s the sense of touching people that’s important. I do try to spoil the little ones though, my nephews and nieces.
Will your family be coming to see the show?
Yes, and the children are coming too. I always thought the Wizard of Oz was incredible so it’s great that children still love it. Kelvin wanted to introduce his kids to the show before they came and now they’re watching it constantly.
What’s your favourite Christmas movie?
I always like to watch Mrs Doubtfire. You develop an appreciation of the characters and subtle humour as you get older, and the characters you thought you loved, you don’t. And I thought Sally Fields was so mean when I was younger but not now.
What’s your favourite Christmas carol?
Silent Night or Gaudete. There’s nothing quite like the classical ones at Christmas, with dramatic crashes and tenors.
What does Christmas day usually involve?
We have a really strange tradition which my mum introduced where you can’t open presents until the end of the day. She would hold us to ransom, you could open one present during the day, so you’d hope it was a good one and not a pair of gloves! One year we rebelled and opened them early but it didn’t feel right.
How do you celebrate Christmas Eve?
We like to go to midnight mass – sometimes Bath Cathedral.
It’s a busy show run with just Christmas Day off. Will you still be in costume for your staff Christmas party?
I’d be happy to but I don’t think the costume department would be. I’d leave a trail of straw around town!
Will it still feel like Christmas if you’re working all the way through?
Yes, it’s a great cast and I’m enjoying every single moment working for the Cressida Carré. Scott knows all the good places to go. He’s very pro-active and has set up a group chat, WOZ Social. I’m very happy about being in Blackpool, it’s a spectacular lit-up town, there’s so much to do to amuse yourself, and everyone is friendly and welcoming.
Do you still have a Christmas stocking?
Yes! My mother goes overboard. We have huge stockings you can fit both your feet in, packed full of nonsense…trinkets and edible things. There are the standard items, a tangerine and chocolate coins. And always a dictionary! It might be a language one or a thesaurus but there’s always a dictionary.
There are usually ten stockings, sometimes more as we have stockings for the dogs, so it depends how many come down. It’s quite a sight – this monstrosity of stockings with our names on, all hung up on the fireplace.
Tell us your favourite cracker joke…
What’s Scarecrow’s favourite food?
Here’s wishing Kieran a very Merry, Ding-a-derry Christmas.