'˜Music is all I ever wanted to dowith my life'
Hailed as '˜The Master of the Musicals', Peter Corry has become synonymous with musical theatre, not just in Northern Ireland, but as a star of the West End stage.
Having starred in smash hit West End musicals, including Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd, and Chess, Peter now performs in his own concerts, which he takes around the world, as well as producing spectacular shows such as the always popular festive must-see The Music Box.
Wedding bells are ringing for Peter, who now lives just outside Belfast, as he is planning to marry his partner Fleur Mellor in Italy later this year. The couple, who have been together for just over nine years now, met when they were doing shows together and shared a passion for the theatre. “It is brilliant to have somebody you can come home and talk about work with,” confessed Peter. “Fleur is a straight talker and she tells me as it is. To have her support is fantastic. We laugh a lot together and it has made me happier than I have every been.”
Peter, who is originally from East Belfast and a former student at Harding Memorial Primary and Annadale Grammar School, loved music from a young age but entered the world of musical theatre quite late in life at the age of 23.
“When I was young I was involved with music,” explained 52-year-old Peter. “I was brought up in the Salvation Army. Brass bands were a big part of that and I played the French Horn in the youth band. I had a few singing lessons but not many. I think playing brass instruments helped a lot. I fell into singing. One night some friends thought they would put a group together and I said I could sing.”
Although he has a love of singing, he didn’t have any formal training and had never thought of stepping onto the West End stage but an invitation to see Ulster Operatic perform Barnum led Peter down a new path in life.
“A friend invited me to see a show at the Arts Theatre in Belfast and I loved the idea of musicals and being in character when you were singing and telling a story,” he explained.
Peter first took to the stage in the musical Grease with local company First Act before going on to perform with Ulster Operatic.
And having gained a little experience on the local stage, Peter decided to put his talent to the test by taking part in a TV talent show Go For It back in 1992. It was a show that changed his life and 25 years later he hasn’t looked back. “I was lucky to win the show and it opened doors for me which was great,” continued Peter. “The next day a London agent called me and I started going back and forth to London for auditions. I would fly over for an audition and fly back in the afternoon. I was offered a couple of things my agent thought I wasn’t ready to take, which was really difficult but she was right in the long run.”
Peter’s first professional role was in the opera Cosi Fan Tutti but it was his stand out performance as Inspector Javert in Les Miserables that earned Peter the title ‘Master of the Musicals’. “Les Mis was a part that I was offered early on but my agent told me to learn my craft first,” he revealed. “I learnt that sometimes you can’t just jump into a big thing. I had never studied or gone to drama school so it was a good grounding for me.”
Thankfully a role in Les Mis came around again for Peter and this time he stepped into the lead role that built his reputation and he starred as Javert for three years in the West End. “I loved Les Miserables. They flew me over to see the show and it blew me away. The music, the emotion, the story, is fabulous. “We set ourselves goals and wishes in life and that was one of those wishes.”
Peter became so well known for his theatre work that when Northern Ireland’s favourite son George Best passed away in 2005, he was asked to perform one of the most well known songs from the show, the soaring anthem Bring Him Home, at the funeral.
Peter has always been very driven and after leaving Les Mis following three years in the role, he decided to start producing his own shows: “It has always been in my blood to make things happen and what has developed since Les Mis is that I produce and direct as well as perform and the desire to do that has always been there,” he said.
Peter was also privileged to star in a home grown musical On Eagles Wings in 2005, which was written by John Anderson and directed by Ian McIlhenney. “John wanted to tell the story of the Ulster Scots,” explained Peter. “The influence they had on the country in the early days is incredible. It was exciting to be part of a new show and the music was wonderful.”
As well as making a name for himself at home, Peter has also toured the world and has become a household favourite in the Netherlands, where he has performed in his own concert every year since 2001.
Peter finds it difficult to relax and he admits that even on holiday he is always thinking about his next production. But he has promised he will switch off when it comes time for the wedding. “At the end of a holiday, and I don’t get many, I start thinking about when I need to do when I go back. I will switch off for the wedding. I have a concert just after it though!”
After 25 years of performing and producing, Peter has no intention of slowing down. “I love what I do,” he said. “I don’t know what else I would have done. Music is all I ever wanted to do.”