IT might be 10 years since Joe McElderry, then a fresh faced 18-year-old took X Factor and the nation by storm with his chart-topping rendition of The Climb, but the enthusiasm, passion and energy that endeared him to millions of viewers in 2009 remains undiminished, writes Michael de Burća.

And he is bubbling over with excitement at the prospect of starring in Club Tropicana, a new 80s musical in which he plays Garry, a club rep with an eye for the outrageous and a killer line in barbed one-liners.

“He’s camp, he’s witty, very flamboyant and quite sassy,” laughs the 27-year-old from South Shields.

“I’ve never played a comedy role before but it’s been really fun. At first I was really nervous but I’m excited by it now.”

He thinks for a moment, then confesses, “There’s no rules with Garry, he’s probably me after four or five vodkas.”

Club Tropicana The Musical takes audiences on a trip back to the electric 80s – when hair was big, shoulders were padded, and mobiles weighed a tonne – for a summer of love and smash-hit classics.

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Set to a soundtrack of 80s hits, the story unfolds in the vibrant Club Tropicana Hotel, the 1980s answer to Love Island.

When a budding bride and groom get cold feet, they decide to jet off separately to sunnier climes and feel the heat anyway – but little do they realise they’ve checked into the same hotel... a hotel about to get a visit from the hotel inspectors.

With the drinks flowing and tans glowing, audiences are left guessing whether the young lovers will go through with the wedding – and will the hotel inspectors get their way and close the resort, or can the staff save the day?

Joe is joined by a stellar cast including ex-Eastender Neil McDermott, impressionist Kate Robbins and former Sugababe Amelle Berrabah, making her musical theatre debut.


Born in 1991, Joe just missed out on the 80s himself, but admits the decade left a massive impression on him.

“Club Tropicana has a great story line,” he says. “It’s a great fun, family-friendly show that you can come along to and sing along to. It’s feel-good and I’ve realised that 80’s music is still massively relevant... and I know most of the songs.

“I don’t remember them being played over the radio, but subconsciously I must have heard them many, many times because when we first had a read through of the show, I found I knew the not just the tunes but the lyrics to nearly all of them.

“That’s the impact 80s music has had on me even though I wasn’t even born.”

Club Tropicana is just the latest in a long line of projects to have kept the singer busy in the decade since winning X Factor. It’s mad because when I first started in the industry I was looking for some sort of longevity,” he says.

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“People always used to ask us what I wanted to do and I always used to say I want to still be doing this in 10 years time... the fact that I am is crazy.

“It feels like yesterday, yet I feel like a completely different person now. It’s been a huge learning curve but I’ve had a good time and grown up a lot.

“If you ask most 18 year olds, they will say they haven’t really worked out who they are yet or where they fit in. I was really self-aware for the first three years of my career until I realised I just had to be a good person and trust that.

“There were times people would pick apart the most ridiculous things and I didn’t know how to react, so I gave myself a bit of a pep talk and said, ‘You know Joe, you’re a nice person, just enjoy your job and have fun. Show business is supposed to be lights cameras, fun. So I learned to take it for what it was and not take things too seriously.”


Joe’s musical theatre career took off in 2015 when he was cast in the title role of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. He is now planning to celebrate 10 years in the business by writing a new album of original songs.

“I’ll definitely be doing something on stage to acknowledge 10 years, but first I’ve got Club Tropicana, which takes me up to September,” he says, gazing at an almost life-size picture of him that adorns the poster for the production.

“It’s always a very humbling thing to see yourself on a huge poster outside a venue,” he says. “I’ll never get used to that. It makes me appreciate that not everybody gets to do what they love and I feel lucky to have experienced that as much as I have.

“I feel blessed.”