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FROM SPONGEBOB TO SQUARE-JAWED

From Spongebob to square-jawed - Northern Echo


16th February 2012  Steve Pratt reports


THE last time Consett-born Chris Coxon was on stage in the region he had a very squeaky voice and was wearing a large yellow sponge. Not for some fancy dress party but to play the title role in SpongeBox Squarepants: The Musical.


This time he’s more himself – although speaking in an American accent and wearing a US airman’s uniform. He’s among the cast of the new rock’n’roll musical Save The Last Dance For Me, from the same team that thought up Dreamboats and Petticoats.


This story of a holiday romance features the hits of Pomus and Shuman, a composing duo of whom most people haven’t heard, but will recognise many of their hits – A Teenager In Love, Sweets For My Sweet, Viva Las Vegas, His Latest Flame, Suspicion, Can’t Get Used To Losing You and, of course, the title track.


“It’s a new story with new characters, but the same writers and same directors,” explains Coxon of the musical which has a script by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran.


“This one is about two girls who go on holiday for the first time without their parents to Lowestoft, where there’s a US airforce base.


“A young airman invites them to a dance where one of them falls for a young black man from Tennessee and they’re not sure how people are going to react.”


Some 40 songs from the era are featured.


“The songs are great – they’re what the show is all about. There are a few I hadn’t heard before – and they’ve become some of my favourite songs,” he says.


“This show is a little bit grittier than Dreamboats and Petticoats. I get to play some nice funky bass.”


His character is a young airman called Johnny, who works in reconnaisance in the US air force and plays in a band formed by the servicemen.


Coxon was touring in Dreamboats and Petticoats before beginning rehearsals for Save The Last Dance For Me. “I had about a week off between the two,” he says.


“I enjoy touring, it’s a good way to see a lot of the country, although obviously it depends where you are. In some places it’s just another town and in others it’s more special.


I’m in Edinburgh at the moment and that’s one of my favourite cities. I love history so I enjoy going round the castle. Touring is a bit like holidays as you have most of the day free.”


Coxon trained at the Performance Academy, Newcastle College, before going on to train at Arts Educational School of Musical Theatre. As well as in-house productions during training, he sang with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a Stephen Sondheim show and played Sherlock Holmes in a workshop production of a new musical about the Baker Street sleuth. He also appeared in a Sherlock Holmes film – in which he got eaten by a dinosaur.


He plays instruments as well as singing and acting. He learnt guitar when he was 12 and taught himself to play bass. “I think I wanted to be a rock star,” he admits. “I was in a number of bands, none of which did anything.


“Being a musician wasn’t part of the course but I enjoyed falling into that. I’ve done straight plays and films and just love having a varied career. I’m very lucky to know that for the next 30 years I’m going to be doing something different all the time.”