HE’S topped the charts, played concerts to millions of fans across the world and starred on the West End stage.

But now Jason Donovan is adding another role to his remarkable CV - that of theatre producer.

For Jason is one of the driving forces behind the hit musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which heads to Manchester at the end of November.

He’s no stranger to the show, having first starred in it in 2010 and then taking part in two UK tours, but this tour will mark his debut as a producer.

“I was in a production of The King’s Speech, working with a producer called Mark Goucher, and then I did Million Dollar Quartet with him and we struck up a good relationship,” said Jason. “He came to me with the idea of me being involved in Priscilla as a producer, and that’s sort of where we’re at with the piece now.”

Jason has a clearly defined role, and one on which the whole success of the show very much depends.

“The general management of the piece is with Mark’s team,,” he said, “but I’m a producer that’s raised money for it, that’s been involved with marketing meetings each week, and that’s been involved in the casting and signing off with the set.

“In the same way that it’s not unusual to see Michael Ball produce a version of Hairspray or see Brad Pitt working to produce films, it’s not unusual to see actors who’ve got to a certain place in their career do what I’m doing now with Priscilla.”

Based on the Oscar-winning film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is the hilarious adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus bound for Alice Springs in Australia to put on the show of a lifetime.

“I’ve got a real affection for the piece,” said Jason. “The film was iconic but I think when they did the musical, they fine-tuned the story which is why it works so well. The opportunity to work on the show as a producer was a no-brainer for me.

“It’s a piece that I love, I think it’s of our time, it’s a modern musical and it’s something that I’m passionate about.”

With its central characters being two drag queens and a transgender woman. Jason believes that Priscilla has rightly become something of a cult classic.

“I think it has universal themes of overcoming prejudice and adversity; it’s a modern musical, it’s not a 1950s piece,” he said.

“I think there’s a bit more acceptance of diversity. I think we’ve come a long way since the 80s and we’ve come a long way since the film. So on a level, yes, you’ve got things in America like Ru Paul’s Drag Race which is mainstream. I think the film and the musical have helped a bit in that shift.

“Priscilla tackles people wanting to be different and simultaneously the way in which we’re all really the same underneath.

“I think the music is great but it was born out of a great story too. So it’s not what I’d call your traditional jukebox musical.”

Jason has fond memories of his time starring in the show.

“Do you know what? It was exhausting,” he said. “It was like a pop concert each night. It’s modern, songs like ‘I Will Survive’ and ‘Finally’ are iconic pop anthems that are universally loved. I never got bored of performing it because it is such a great story.”

Ironically Jason was actually offered the lead role in the original film from 1994.

“Events at the time made it impossible to make it work,” he said. “Funnily enough I was actually in Cannes when the film was launched so I saw what might have been. But it came full circle in the sense that I was cast in the stage production.”

The new production, at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, stars former Holby City actor and Strictly Come Dancing champion Joe McFadden but Jason has resisted the temptation to interfere in his interpretation of the character.

“I’ve got to be careful with interfering because I have an interpretation of how it should be done after performing it for so long, so I try and take a back seat!” said Jason.

“Having done it for so many years, I know all the rhythms of the piece, and as an actor you start to discover those as you rehearse and perform it.

“It’s Joe’s job to interpret the character in the way that he sees fit. It’s not my job to tell him what to do – or anyone’s for that matter!

“But it’s a great cast. I really believe that if you cast something right, you can just let your actors get on with it.”

Joe McFadden can’t wait to bring the show to Manchester.

He said: “There’s loads of things that really work, so many fantastic songs in there, as well as it being a great story. It was way ahead of its time; I think it’s one of the first pieces of drama that was centred around a trans person and that was discussing things like gay parenting.

“It’s complete timeless as well as being super entertaining and joyous. It has all the best elements of a great musical.”

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Monday, November 25 to Saturday, November 30. Details from www.atgtickets.com