The nation’s favourite yellow magic bear Sooty celebrated his 70th birthday last year. But the septuagenarian is showing no signs of slowing down, launching into the New Year with Sweep, Soo and his TV pal Richard Cadell with a brand-new spring theatre tour of SOOTY’S MAGIC SHOW, including at the Churchill Theatre. Laura Burgoine chats with Sooty’s presenter of 20 years Richard Cadell, who tells us why the live theatre show is an unmissable treat for the whole family.
What kind of mischief can audiences expect from Sooty, Sweep and Soo in Sooty’s Magic Show?
This is Sooty doing what he does best – magic. So the audience can expect to be saying “Izzy whizzy let’s get busy” a great deal! Sooty will be performing some amazing tricks including sawing a lady in half, floating a child from the audience and making it snow! Sweep will be getting in the way with his own disastrous magic tricks most of which revolve around sausages.
You’ll be joined on the tour by special guests, circus stars Michael Jordan and Fantasie De La Nuit. What’s their role in the show?
Michael Jordan is an amazing circus artist and a fabulous magician. So with Sooty’s help he will be performing some large-scale Las Vegas style illusions along with some incredible juggling and circus tricks. Fantasie De La Nuit will allow Sooty and Sweep to perform some incredible tricks using the magic of ultraviolet light. It has to be seen to be believed.
It’s an extensive tour – 48 dates across 4 months…
Performing live is what we love most. Of course, making the television show is a lot of fun but Sooty has always been at his best in front of a live audience where he can make not only the children laugh but all the adults too. Plus after each performance there is a chance for everybody to meet Sooty and it’s always such a pleasure to meet fans old and new!
Sooty had a huge birthday celebration at his birthplace, Blackpool Pier, last year. What was it like having Sooty’s biggest fans and best friends all in one place to celebrate?
It was absolutely amazing and overwhelming, actually. There is so much love for this little bear. He has been at the heart of so many people’s childhoods over the last 70 years. Over 1500 people turned up to celebrate – every age and generation. It just felt like one huge family.
September 2018 also saw a brand-new series of ‘The Sooty Show’ on ITVBe. Which celebrities did you have involved in this series and do you have a favourite celebrity moment from the new series?
We had Faye Tozer from Steps (who did so well on Strictly Come Dancing recently), John Challis – better known as Boyce in Only Fools and Horses, Peter Andre and Lisa Riley. They were all amazing, but I have to say Lisa Riley put up with so much on the day of her shoot. We literally submerged her in foam and she was a real trooper. I’d go as far as to say I think she got the worst pasting Sooty has ever given anyone! It was a real laugh and resulted in one of my favourite episodes of all time.
Did Sooty and the gang get up to any backstage mischief whilst filming?
Of course they did! Particularly in the ice-cream episode where we had to navigate a real live cow in the studio! We also did an episode where we went back in time and Sweep met his ancestors -all 16 of them! You can imagine the noise with all that squeaking – that was quite a day.
Sooty & Sweep performed a sketch in November as part of ITV’s ‘We Are Most Amused and Amazed,’ a birthday celebration for Prince Charles, who also celebrated his 70th birthday last year. What was it like for Sooty to perform for and shake paws with Prince Charles?
I think it was possibly the highlight of Sooty’s career.
It was just an amazing experience to be there at the London Palladium at the request of Prince Charles. It turns out that Sooty and Sweep have always been personal favourites of the Prince.
We also received a lovely personal letter saying how much he had enjoyed Sooty and Sweep’s performance. You have to remember that the Royals were also children once and Sooty brought magic to their childhood too.
Has performing for Prince Charles boosted Sooty’s social standing?
Well Sooty is already a recipient of the OBE, you have to remember. That was of course in Harry Corbett’s day. So you could say that Sooty has been a friend of the Royal Family for many years already. Maybe I’m biased but I consider Sooty to be a legend and national treasure in any event!
What did Prince Charles say to Sooty and Sweep when they met after the show? Were they on their best behaviour?
Sooty was told in no uncertain terms that he was not to use his water pistol but I can’t say he wasn’t tempted!
The Prince was on great form and after he had shaken Sooty and Sweep’s paws he asked them if there was a person hiding beneath them! Sooty, as ever, remained silent.
You’ve now been Sooty’s TV presenter for 20 years – how has the journey been for you and do you have a personal highlight of the 2018 70th birthday year?
The last 20 years have flown by – I’ve just had a ball. It really was a life-changer for me and I have loved every second of it. I feel honoured and privileged to be trusted with such an iconic and well-loved character. There have been so many highlights, but I think the most humbling thing is to see the power that Sooty has to bring hope and happiness to those less privileged than ourselves. We have raised significant funds for charities and we have made a real difference to certain people’s lives. That is one element that I never expected, and it has been wonderful to see Sooty make a difference.
Sooty’s 70-year story was recently told as part of ITV documentary ‘Bradley Walsh: When Dummies Took Over The World’ alongside other puppet stars including Orville, Emu and Spit the Dog. It was noticeable in the documentary that Sooty’s career started before all of his showbiz chums and continues now as the longest running children’s television show in the world. What do you think the secret to Sooty’s longevity is?
Simplicity. After all he is a teddy bear and most children receive a teddy bear as their first ever toy so it’s very easy to see why children fall in love with Sooty very quickly. And now of course it’s the grandparents that are introducing their grandchildren to the same little teddy bear that made them laugh also. And it hasn’t changed. I’m still performing the same routines that Harry Corbett performed 70 years ago, and they still make children scream with laughter. In this ever-changing world I think people find it very reassuring that some things remain the same.
After the tour, what does the rest of 2019 and the future hold for The Sooty Show?
We have lots planned. We have, for several years, been working on a full feature length movie which we will continue to progress this year. It’s a tough business but all the elements are there, and the plan is to get the cameras rolling this year. It’s out of my hands personally but a lot of eminent people are working to make it a reality. So we have had to keep the diary clear just in case! We have just completed a spectacular pantomime and we will definitely be performing live again next Christmas, so we are looking forward to that immensely.
Sooty is at Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1HA, on Monday 22 April at 11am and 2:30pm. Phone: 020 3285 6000. Admission: £15, under 16s: £11.50.