Mark Evans is obviously a man who enjoys wearing different hats. He has been climbing the ranks in the musical theatre leading man stakes for some years now – an early career role as Troy in High School Musical was swiftly followed by the lead role of Curly in UK Productions’ national tour of Oklahoma last year, to much critical and popular acclaim. He also gained national public recognition for his runner-up status in the national search for a Eurovision star in 2009, Your Country Needs You. In addition to his stage roles, Evans organises an annual West End in Wales for talented youngsters in his native North Wales to experience training from West End performers on their own doorstep, and also appears in the Welsh TV series Marcaroni which encourages children to sing and enjoy music from a young age. He writes his own weekly blog online and has a large Twitter following with his infectious phrase, ‘Sh—boom!’. Currently appearing as Fiyero in Wicked in the West End (until 10 Dec), Evans has just released his first album Adre’n Ôl/The Journey Home and recently recorded his own show for Welsh national television. And if you’re not breathless with wondering where he gets all the time and energy from by now, you should be.

For his first solo album, it would have been very easy for Evans to have done an album of musical theatre standards, and go down that well trodden path of musical theatre performers putting together an album of songs from shows they have either starred in or would like to appear in. However, he has chosen instead to produce a bilingual album, with half the tracks in English and half in his native Welsh. Two of the tracks, Adre’n Ôl and The Journey Home open and close the album, revealing the singer’s love of his homeland and of being at home with friends and family. In between these tracks are ten further songs in a variety of styles, from easy listening to rock and pop, written by a mix of writers including up-and-coming musical theatre writer Michael Bruce. However, what Evans has succeeded in conveying in this mix of tracks is various aspects of his own life, personality and experience - and for once, you don't need to read the (interesting) sleeve notes for this to come through (Welsh translations are provided too for the non-initiated). Evans obviously aims to Siglo’r Byd I’w Seilie – literally 'shake up the world' and prove the doubters wrong in his positive and buoyant attitude to life, further affirmed in a lively and upbeat duet with Ashleigh Gray from Wicked, Alive. And Dal i Gredu [Keep on Believing], with lyrics by Evans, also shows his determination to live life to the full. However, not all the songs are as gloriously upbeat. My personal favourite is the poignant Tu Hwnt I’r Sêr [To Where You Are], where he sings movingly of one he loved dearly, who is no longer on this earth: Rwyt ti yn fy nghalon / Guriad bach i ffwrdd / Mor werthfawr oedd y cyfle inni gwrdd [As my heart holds you / Just one beat away / I cherish all you gave me everyday]. Moving stuff for anyone (and everyone) who misses a loved one.

Evans recently recorded his own Welsh television special, An Evening with Mark Evans, which will be broadcast in the new year, and for those of us lucky enough to be at the recording it was an opportunity to have a further glimpse behind the man and his music. Musical highlights included a beautiful version of Oh What A Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma in Welsh, and Cool from the classic West Side Story (he would make a great Tony), complete with a company of eight dancers. Having looked a little nervous at the start of the recording, Evans soon came into his own and was seemingly unfazed by the stream of make-up ladies, hair stylists and assistants gathering around him in between takes, joking that he would remember to turn his microphone off next time he goes to the loo following an unfortunate incident in rehearsal! Combined with a band and backing singers, the aforementioned dancers, along with guest Rebecca Trehearn (herself making a mark in the West End at the moment) and a youth choir, this was a full-on variety special, with Evans’ solo moments singing Tu Hwnt I’r Sêr dedicated to his grandfather and friend, and Until Then to a lovely guitar arrangement being particular standouts.

Evans also indulged in a number of question and answer sessions with the audience, where he was helped by a young friend, Dewi Wykes, an alumni from the West End in Wales summer school. Obviously no stranger to the spotlight, Wykes later joined Evans in a delightful medley which gave more than a nod to the legendary Welsh duo Ryan and Ronnie, and the rapport between them was evident. Talking to the audience, which included many friends and family from North Wales, cast members from Wicked and fans from afar, Evans revealed that he enjoys the variety of his career. Obviously hard working, Evans was enthusiastic about his life and work, stating that his family comes first as his priorities change as he gets older. When asked which role he would like to play on stage, he immediately said the role of Chris in Miss Saigon and his voice and look would suit that role to a tee. In the meantime, we have him in the West End for just a few more weeks as Fiyero in Wicked, but with his new album and other projects in development, it can only be a matter of time before he returns to the London stage. Sh—boom!
*Latest News: Mark will return to the West End to play the role of Sam in Ghost from 13 January 2012.