Keith Jack on making the transition from screen to stageDate: 2 April 2012
For the penultimate Screen to Stage interview, I caught up with Any Dream Will Do runner-up Keith Jack – just before a punishing three-show day playing the tile role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I found him nursing a badly-inflamed throat. He’s been playing that role for the past 18 months and previously was the Narrator for a year.
How hard was the Joseph television show?
Literally, if you got through on the Saturday then you got your song on the Sunday, you had Monday off and then you started on Tuesday. I think it was when we got down to the final five that they took the day off away so we got the song on Sunday and it was straight back to work on the Monday.
After it was all over and you were runner-up, what happened next?
How soon after the show did you get offered the part of the Narrator in Joseph?
The opening night of Joseph was five weeks after the TV show finished and the following day Bill Kenwright and Andrew Lloyd-Webber called me into the office and told me that they wanted me to go on tour as the Narrator. I think I started about two months after that.
How did you deal with suddenly doing ten shows a week?
I only missed about four shows in a year as the Narrator and I’ve only missed four shows in the year and a half that I’ve played Joseph. Even today with my throat playing up, I’m here for the three shows.
Are they able to do anything to make it easier for you if your voice is suffering?
What is it that you bring to the role of Joseph to make it your own?
Joseph has to have the story where he is this bouncy boy and that part is a lot of fun in terms of having a laugh and you can giggle about a bit. But in terms of his growth he has to be that way to contrast with the person he becomes at the end with everyone bowing at his feet.
Having said that, there’s the scene at the end where I meet with Jacob again and you’ll see that I try to pull up and continue to be that prince but, as I walk towards him, I just collapse because Jacob is his hero, his love. Because Joseph hasn’t seen him for so long he doesn’t know what to say so he just bows at Jacob’s feet.
I don’t just bring a part of me though, there are parts of the other Josephs I’ve seen too. I think my Prince of Egypt is slightly stricter than I have ever seen before and I, mostly, think this when I watch people like Donny Osmond doing it. Lee Mead’s version was a bit more towards strict but Donny had this sort of cheekiness and I try not to have that because I think that Joseph is hurt.
That’s why he has a go at them and I hold on to that hurt until the part where they are all bowing down begging for Benjamin and that’s where it changes for me. Although he still thinks: “Why did they do this to me?”, he starts to feel sorry for the brothers.
He realises that they have completely changed and I think that’s why he reveals himself to them. It’s such a moving moment that I literally have a lump in my throat. I think that if you get to the point of not quite crying, the point where you can hear someone’s voice quiver, it is so much more powerful than just bursting into tears.
When you finally got the part of Joseph in 2010, did you feel like you had won?
After I finished as the Narrator I thought that was me done with the show. So when Bill Kenwright asked me to come back as Joseph I was really excited and thrilled to get the chance to see what I could do with it. I think I do the part more justice now that would have been possible back then. It would have been a very different Joseph back then to what it is now so yes, I did feel like I had won.
A lot of the company have been with the show for a while now. Is it just like a big family?
I want to move on to “What next?” in a minute but first can you tell me about your stage school?
So one day I was talking to Alana Macfarlane, who was my girlfriend at the time and a dancer, and we decided to do it and it’s been fantastic. It’s been running in Edinburgh for nearly three years now and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. The pride and joy that you get watching the students get up on stage is amazing.
One of our students has just come down to London to work with my vocal coach Matthew Shaw who is just incredible. He’s worked with Pixie Lott and Jessie J and he’s amazing. He says that she’s got so much potential and when you see people like that and you know you’re giving them a chance it’s a really great thing. To think that they may get the opportunity to get what I have is just brilliant.
Do you stay as Joseph now, or do you move on to whatever comes next?
Maybe an English pantomime?
In Scotland the story can’t get lost, whereas I feel that down South, if you have someone famous in one, it would just be him saying panto lines. Up there, you never get a cheap gag at the expense of the story. When I do them up there I never have any jokes. The lead characters stick to the story and there are comedians and stuff to get the laughs.
Keith Jack can currently be seen in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Colosseum, Watford 10-14 April, White Rock Theatre, Hastings 8-12 May, and then throughout the country when the tour resumes from 4 September.
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