The Backstreet Boy is now a West End man. Kevin Richardson, 32, the eldest member of the Backstreet Boys, is playing slickster lawyer Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago in London’s West End. It’s a role he also played for seven weeks on Broadway back in the spring.
Richardson, whose run wraps in November, recently opened up to PEOPLE about British theatergoers, fans who strip and the chances of a Backstreet Boys reunion.
Any fun behind-the-scenes stories from your arrival in London?
Just outside our stage doors, where people gather for autographs, there’s a pub across the street. These three women come out. They’ve had too much to drink, and they just show me their breasts – and ask me to sign them! All the people around me were like, “He’s married!”
Wow. Did that ever happen on the Backstreet Boys tours?
Um, yeah, it happened sometimes. (But) these girls were not shy.
Are London audiences different from New York audiences?
The response is a little more subdued. They’re not as loud as the Americans are. The other cast members were like, “Don’t be alarmed if they don’t laugh or don’t cheer as loudly. Don’t let it throw you.”
Is it different being on a theatrical stage as opposed to a concert stage?
It’s a totally different satisfaction and adrenaline rush that I get. It’s fun to be able to dive into this arrogant, cocky, fast-talking attorney, and I’m having fun with it. I take a lot of pride in doing theater, and it feels really good.
Is it scary?
The dialogue was scary for me. I worried about forgetting my dialogue. I stayed up till 3 o’clock in the morning studying my script before I went on Broadway. I sometimes over-prepare. I wish I would have done that in school.
Did you ever mess up your lines?
My third week in on Broadway I went completely blank in one spot. I was in profile so the audience couldn’t see my eyes pop out of my head.
Did you draw from any real-life run-ins with attorneys when getting into the Billy Flynn character?
I’ve definitely come across some shady characters in the music business.
Do you have much in common with Richard Gere (who played the same role in the film)?
He played an older, more mature attorney. I play it more like a young hot shot. But I liked the choices he made.
You’re 32 years old. Does being part of a ‘boy band’ seem a little strange to you?
The term “boy band” just makes me sick to my stomach. Nobody ever called Boyz II Men a “boy band.” We’re a vocal group – the Jackson Five, or the Temptations, or Jodeci, New Edition – that’s who we drew our inspiration from.
Is there a future for the Backstreet Boys?
We would love to record another record. We owe it to ourselves and our fans. We’ve never done a Christmas album yet, which is something we’d love to do. But we want to do another original LP. Right now it’s just that Brian (Littrell) – my cousin – and his wife are enjoying being parents, Nick (Carter)’s putting a record together, Howie (Dorough)’s gonna do a Latin record, Brian may do a gospel record. But we’ve all enjoyed a lot of success together. We’ve been in each other’s faces for 11 years now.
You also opened a music school in your home state of Kentucky?
Me and my best friend Keith. We’ve been writing music together since I was 13 – he was my bodyguard on the road for five years. He’s 6’3″, a football player. We opened The Music Workshop in Kentucky, a seminar to give students a whole grasp of the industry. There’s no place like that in Kentucky or the surrounding areas.
You and the Boys learned about contracts the hard way, right?
We’re not the only ones. There’s tons of artists who had bad contracts.
Are you and your wife (actress Kristin Willits Richardson) doing any traveling while in Britain?
I want to go see Stonehenge.
What about concerts?
I got to see the Stones the other night. It was my first time seeing them live, and Mick Jagger’s still got that energy.
So your trip to England is really all about seeing various stones, then?
(Laughs.) Yeah, I guess.