Book review: Musicals, Marigolds and Me by Paul Nicholas

“As the lead in the first London production of the censorship-smashing 1968 rock musical Hair, Paul, unlike many of this co-stars, did not reveal all. In a manner of speaking, he does now…”

For many of my generation, Paul Nicholas was cheeky chappie Vince in the TV sitcom Just Good Friends in the 1980s. Discovering that he sang was found out by a mix of seeing him rock up Love on the Rocks in the Neil Diamond Jazz Singer, and a twenty year old clip from Hair shown on repeats of Germany’s music show Beat Club.

He’s been around a long time. On stage as Jesus in the first London cast (the fiftieth anniversary of that production will be marked in 2022), he was also the Pirate King in a bold revival of The Pirates of Penzance, an interesting Jekyll & Hyde in the Wildhorn-Bricusse musical, and a garbage collecting mystic opposite Betty Buckley in Dear World, to name just the shows I have seen him in live.

Born the son of celebrated entertainment lawyer Oscar Beuselinck, young Paul (born 1944) tried a few stage names before setting on the one we know him best for. He flirted with the pop charts in the 1970s, played major roles in stage musicals from Grease to Barnum, contributed memorable roles on film for Ken Russell, and in more recent years has done a stint in soap opera as part of the cast of Eastenders.

This second memoir, following the publication of Behind the Smile, is more professional than personal, looking closely at a career which has kept this versatile performer firmly in the public eye. Its style is chatty, informative, and worth reading even if you are not a fan of the immediate subject. If you are keen on musical theatre, Nicholas’s insight on his roles and fellow performers make this book a definite page turner, and a good stocking filler as we approach Christmas.

Recently published by Fantom Publishing, you can purchase Musicals, Marigolds and Me from usual booksellers and online retailers. The reference to Marigolds, incidentally, comes from his participation in The Real Marigold Hotel, a popular reality TV series featuring veteran celebrities.