There are pantomimes and Christmassy-themed shows galore to be found in London over the festive period. Anyone who is having trouble deciding what to see would do well to pay a visit to the production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which is playing at Middle Temple Hall this December. One great reason to do so (among the many others) is that it stars actor David Hunter, West End leading man on-the-rise and the featured performer for this edition of In Profile.
His name may be instantly recognisable to a lot of theatre fans from his time on the ITV show Superstar, in which he was one of the eleven contestants competing to win the main role of Jesus in the arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. The show may have helped put him on the map, but he was already well on his way to stardom before then.
David Hunter, born and bred in Warrington, Cheshire, took his first steps towards achieving his dream of a career on the stage by earning a place at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). Founded by Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty in 1996, LIPA has fast become one of the UK’s leading drama-based schools and produced such West End talents as Andrew Langtree and Owain Rhys Davies. Hunter graduated from the Acting course in 2006 and has been working in the industry ever since.
He spent the first few years out of LIPA in Manchester-based indie/pop/rock/punk band Reemer. He replaced former member Joe Hennessey as the band’s new frontman, and after being signed by record label Reaction Records, they released their debut album Snakes and Ladders in 2008. Their live performances led to the band becoming the supporting act for such artists as Scouting for Girls and The Feeling and supporting McFly on their 2009 Radio: ACTIVE arena tour.
The band split later that year so they could pursue their separate interests, at which point he turned his attention towards the theatrical stage. His first professional stage role was as barman Charlie in the brand new ‘sung play’ Love Shift at the Royal Exchange in November 2009. He followed that up with his involvement in the Mercury Musical Developments workshop production of Moving On at the Lowry, Manchester in August 2010, a half hour version which was developed in association with the Lowry as part of the Arts Council ‘Sounds of England’ musical theatre project. Then it was an appearance at Manchester’s Royal Exchange as part of the March 2011 production of Spinach, in which he played the leading role of Tom opposite Jenny Platt, Liz Singleton and Craig Whittaker.
One of his most notable theatre credits followed soon after as he joined the original company of One Man, Two Guvnors at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre in May 2011. The musical adaption of Richard Bean’s play won critical acclaim and embarked on a UK tour at the completion of its NT run, transferring to the Adelphi Theatre in the West End soon after. Hunter stayed with the production to make his official West End debut, understudying the principal role of Francis Henshall which was played by comedian and actor James Corden.
The saying that ‘when one door closes, another one opens’ was very true for him. After leaving One Man, Two Guvnors, he auditioned for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV talent search Superstar and was chosen to go through to the live shows as one of the eleven finalists. Although the series was ultimately won by Ben Forster, he did make it to the semi-finals and finished as 4th runner-up, being eliminated after losing the sing-off with Rory Taylor (2nd runner-up). Reflecting back on his time on the show one year later, Hunter wrote on his website’s blog that it was ‘brilliant’, saying: “Yes, it was stressful, an emotional rollercoaster, but after the event, with no more speculation or stress, you look back and realise. You just did an incredible thing.”
The exposure that Superstar gave him has certainly helped to boost his career, and afforded him some wonderful opportunities on the stage. Even though he received many offers of work, he picked and chose very carefully as to which of these he accepted, having a clear expectation of where he wanted to go from there and how he wanted to be perceived. His first on-stage role post-Superstar was as part of the charity gala concert of The Who’s Tommy at the Prince Edward Theatre. He played the role of Cousin Kevin in the one-night-only performance (12th November 2012) of the smash hit rock opera, which additionally starred Daniel Boys, Zoe Birkett, Glenn Carter and Joe McElderry.
His next role was the West End leading role of Horton the Elephant in Seussical at the Arts Theatre. Running over the 2012 Christmas period, Sell A Door’s kids version of the Ahrens and Flaherty musical (based on the stories of Dr. Seuss) received a positive response and the press reviews had nothing but praise for the show’s cast. Another leading role came straight after Seussical as he performed in the workshop production of new musical My Land’s Shore. He was part of a top-notch West End cast which performed the original Welsh musical by Christopher J. Orton and Robert Gould at RADA, starring alongside the likes of Rebecca Trehearn, Will Barratt, Kelly-Anne Gower and Lisa Ann Wood as the first Welsh working class martyr Richard Lewis (aka Dic Penderyn).
More praise came Hunter’s way with his next project: playing the lead role of farm labourer and coal miner John Tellentine in Melvyn Bragg and Howard Goodall’s musical The Hired Man. The production played at both the Colchester Mercury and the Leicester Curve throughout March/April 2013 and was widely acclaimed by critics, as were the performances by David Hunter and his co-star Julie Atherton, whom he has consistently lauded as one of the finest musical theatre performers around. He performed with her again shortly after The Hired Man in A Night at the Musicals at the Greenwich Theatre alongside fellow TV contest show alumni Keith Jack, who competed for the role of Joseph on Any Dream Will Do, and former Pop Idol contestant Zoe Birkett.
He returned to the West End after that to join the newly-opened Once the Musical at the Phoenix Theatre, in which he was a standby understudy to the main role of Guy. He performed as Guy onstage on numerous occasions over the next nine months, and on 12th May 2014, stepped up to the principal cast on a full-time basis when he took over the role from Arthur Darvill. He starred in the lead male role opposite Jill Winternitz as Girl until 15th November 2015, after which Boyzone’s Ronan Keating became the next, and final, Guy. During his time in Once, he was very vocal about how much he loved the musical – as well as the original film – and described his ‘dream job’ as a career highlight that would be hard to top.
His other theatre credits include being involved in the recording of Pieces of String, a new musical by Gus Gowland which was developed by Perfect Pitch. He also made his first feature film appearance in Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey? in 2014.
He can currently be found at Middle Temple Hall in Antic Dispositions’ A Christmas Carol, playing the role of Bob Cratchit opposite David Burt’s Ebenezer Scrooge. The show will run over the Christmas period from Tuesday 22nd to 30th December 2015.
David Hunter is a huge talent who fast becoming one of the West End’s most promising new leading men. With a huge wealth of stage experience and several principal roles already stashed under his belt, the only way for him to go is up, and there is seemingly no limit as to how high this star can rise.
Follow David on twitter: @thedavidhunter
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 19th December 2015