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LA can wait as multi-talented Rob turns matador for barbershop capers

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 06, 2013

Rob Castell and the Barbershopera gang in El Matador – A Christmas Close Shave

Rob Castell and the Barbershopera gang in El Matador – A Christmas Close Shave

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Hollywood calls, but first it's Plymouth for Rob Castell. Moving to Venice Beach, Los Angeles, with his girlfriend, Hollyoaks actress Zoe Lister, can wait.

Rob is happy to back at the Theatre Royal Plymouth surfing the tide of popularity with Barbershopera.

The comedy barbershop quartet return for the fourth successive year, this time with El Matador – A Christmas Close Shave.

There's a story: bullfighter Estevez Johnson (Rob) returns to his homeland of Shavingham, Norfolk, to find the town falling to the evil megalomania of champion hairdresser, Trevor Sorbet.

Estevez, inspired by his newfound affection toward town crier Vicky, must find the courage to save the town and find out what really matters most – saving Christmas.

Aw, shucks.

Barbershopera have won six Musical Theatre Matters awards and earned five-star reviews in the UK and abroad. But what really matters is the mix of comedy and (proper) singing from Rob, plus Lara Stubbs, Will Kenning and Pete Sorel-Cameron. There are good times on and off stage.

"It's great fun," says Rob. "We get on well. We take a couple of houses for the run, with the backstage team and visitors coming down. "We cook together and bond through films. We go out in the Barbican, go on the Hoe and I love getting out to Saltram for a run. We've friends over in Kingsand/Cawsand, too, so we'll be over there."

That's the social life sorted. Now the show. El Matador was a hoot and a hit as Christmas Eve's play on Radio 4 last year. It's a festive-tweaked working of one of their earlier shows, The Barber of Shavingham.

"We always like to Christmasify and give them a little festive twist," says creator and musical director Rob, one of the writers.

"There's a Christmas medley, too, that in Plymouth always seems to get the audience singing."

When Rob isn't busy with Barbershopera he is very, very busy doing lots of other things and picking up the odd award (Best Actor at the Daegu International Musicals Festival, South Korea, in 2010).

Lately he has been songwriting for BBC TV's children's show, the Bafta-nominated Officially Amazing, and playing Pop in the tenth anniversary world tour of Queen musical We Will Rock You. And you can see him soon on the big screen in romantic comedy Meet Me On The Southbank, which premiered this week.

Rob, who grew up in Berkshire, completed a degree in English literature and a masters in international relations. He plays piano and guitar and sings as a baritone "although with Barbershopera everybody has to go from bass to top-line falsetto, filling out the chords at the top and bottom".

He has written the book and lyrics for Olympia, a full-scale musical about ancient Greece for which he has high hopes but is wary of discussing further until the project is fully realised. Plus there's Los Angeles beckoning early next year.

"My mum is American so I have got a US passport, which makes it easier," he explains. "I'm following Zoe over there. I'll be there a while. I have some contacts over there and I'll see what happens. I'll be pushing Barbershopera out there too."

Global domination will surely follow, in four-part harmony.

El Matador – A Christmas Close Shave continues in the Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth until December 23.

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