A star of award-winning play The Ferryman has described performing the show on Broadway as a dream, as he prepares to tread the famous boards on Christmas Day.
Fra Fee will swap the traditional family singalong and turkey for a festive performance in New York as he continues his 17-week run with the critically-acclaimed theatre show.
The 31-year-old is part of a cast lauded by film star Ben Stiller as “phenomenal”, and the play, directed by Academy and Tony Award-winner Sam Mendes, has won three Olivier awards.
Having enjoyed West End success with The Ferryman, set in his native Northern Ireland, Fee said transferring to Broadway was an exciting moment in an already well-established career which has seen him on the silver screen alongside Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables.
Sitting in a cafe near the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre, he said: “It’s very surreal. I’ve always dreamt of doing something over here (in New York).”
Laughing, he added: “When I was 10 I thought I was going to be starring as Oliver in Oliver. That was my ambition. This is just a real bucket list to have achieved. It’s very exciting.”
It felt like a real gift to tell a story that is just so close to home, both geographically and also emotionallyFra Fee
Tyrone-born Fee, who has lived in London for the past 10 years after studying music at the University of Manchester and Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music, said the fact his first performance on Broadway is in his own accent in an Irish play is special.
“It felt like a real gift to tell a story that is just so close to home, both geographically and also emotionally,” he said.
“So I guess to do that here is a real honour. There’s a responsibility there to tell it authentically and just to share our story with audiences here that may not be as familiar with it.”
His first reading of the play, which is inspired by the real-life experience of Fee’s fellow cast member Laura Donnelly, was a “really cathartic experience, dissecting it and discussing it”.
He talked about the script, which tells the story of a family in County Armagh in 1981 living in the shadow of the Troubles, with his own mother and father, who have now seen the play a number of times.
He said: “I just firmly believed it was one of the most wonderful things ever. Sometimes when things are close to one’s heart it can be difficult to watch, but they really adored it.”
His proud parents will be there in New York to watch him on Christmas Day, as he once again takes on the role of the fresh-faced Michael Carney.
He said: “Performing on Christmas Day is definitely a new experience for me – usually it’s prosecco-fuelled renditions of O Holy Night with my sisters around the piano.”
Fee will spend Christmas Eve hosting dinner in his Manhattan apartment, before taking to the stage on December 25, when he suggests there may be a tiny festive tweak to the set.
“There’s a scene where we enjoy a harvest feast,” he said. “We can just pretend it’s a Christmas dinner and maybe sneak a few crackers onto the table.”
The actor plans to move back to London when he finishes his Broadway stint in mid-February.
He said: “Sometimes I just have to stop and take stock of it all which is an important thing to do because I know for a fact that when I’m back in London in six month’s time, a year’s time, I will be saying to myself, ‘Did that really happen?'”