After graduating from Arts Educational Schools in 2018, Alex James-Hatton joined the cast of Heathers the Musical at The Other Palace before transferring to West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket in September. While in Heathers, Alex was first cover J.D., Ram and Kurt along with being in the ensemble as Beleaguered Geek and also had the chance to record for the Heathers London Cast soundtrack. Recently chatting to Alex, we find out about his professional stage debut in Heathers, the West End transfer and being first cover for three roles.
Last year, you were in the original London cast of Heathers the Musical, what was it like working on the show?
Without sounding too cliché, it was a dream come true! I ticked off so much of my bucket list with that show! Making my professional and West End debut, recording a cast album and being a part of an original cast was all so much fun and I felt ridiculously lucky to be a part of it. The best of it were the people, our director Andy was very keen on making it a family and that’s exactly what happened. I miss them a lot now it’s all over! The whole experience was crazy and I’m not too sure I’ll ever experience something like that again! It had such a cult following which I could totally understand as I was a massive Heathers fan before I’d even got the audition through.
How did you find the experience in your professional stage debut?
So surreal, the atmosphere was something I’ve never experienced, it was electric! Our director said all the way through the rehearsal period that we were missing the fifth Beatle, that being the audience, and he wasn’t wrong. The moment the house lights went down it felt like a rock concert! It was a really special night for me and one I won’t forget in a hurry!
The show played at The Other Palace before transferring to the West End at Theatre Royal Haymarket, how different were the two venues to perform in?
The Other Palace was far more intimate than the Haymarket, so being able to really play with the audience in parts was slightly taken away when we moved to the West End. However, the rock concert feel that the audience brought definitely remained after the transfer!
You were the first cover for J.D., Ram and Kurt, did you get chance to go on for all of these roles?
I didn’t! I only managed to get on for Ram in the end, as it was two fairly short contracts, there were no holidays, so covers were only on due to illness or extreme circumstances. However, I’d had cover runs and rehearsals as the other two, which were great fun, and the week I did go on for Ram was such a good experience, I never thought I’d have the balls to strip down to a pair of Y-Fronts on a West End stage so that’s definitely a first, haha!
What was it like recording for the Heathers London Cast soundtrack?
I was like a kid in a sweet shop around all the mics and instruments. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, it’s a lot of fun but very repetitive in order to get the right takes. I’m so excited to hear the final mix, and to go out and buy the album! It’s going to be so strange to hear my voice on a real album, major bucket list moment!
Is there anything you will miss most now Heathers has finished its run?
The people, for sure. I made such great friends and there wasn’t a day where I wasn’t laughing. I was constantly in awe of our cast and I miss spending every day with them! I actually miss the music as well, I thought after six months of the same songs I’d get bored but it never wore thin. They’re so catchy yet have such great lyrics and I LOVED the American soundtrack beforehand, so now I can’t wait to listen to ours.
If the musical was to return to the West End or go on tour, would you like to be involved?
Fingers crossed it will be back! If I’m not involved in something else at the time then who knows! It’s always going to be hard to say no to coming back to Heathers, it’s such a great show but whatever happens I’ll be back to watch it!
You graduated from Arts Educational Schools last year, how did you find your time there?
Amazing. The training truly is second to none and they really do mould you into professionals. Of course, it comes with a bucketload of blood, sweat and tears but it’s totally worth it. The teachers care immensely and though the training is ruthless, it’s enormous fun, I made friends for life and signed with my amazing agent. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
What advice would you give young actors starting a musical theatre degree?
Make the most of it! Work hard and enjoy, it’s so easy to fall into a trap of wanting to get out into the industry as quickly as possible but relish the chance to make mistakes, ask questions and make connections in a safe environment!
How were you involved in Disney’s Broadway Hits and the Olivier Awards?
They were some of the many experiences we were lucky enough to get through ArtsEd, it was great fun and the Royal Albert Hall was such a brilliant venue to perform at. Performing at the Oliviers behind Audra McDonald was mad too!
Would you like to be cast in a play?
100%, I think It would be a real challenge and it would be nice to break the stereotype of MT grads not being able to do ‘straight’ plays. Especially after seeing a lot more plays over the last couple years, it’s something I’d love to do.
Have you always wanted to be a theatre performer?
Yes, minor a few blips here and there but I’ve always been pretty sure. At the age of five I was in a school production of Oliver! and my mum was a choreographer so I was kind of brought up with it! Although, at around the age of seventeen/eighteen, I had my doubts and almost went off to study popular music, I wanted to be the next Ed Sheeran, a singer-songwriter, but after some genuine consideration, I knew acting and musical theatre was the one for me! I was lucky enough to get into ArtsEd after my first attempt and from there, there was no going back!
Were there any stage actors you looked up to when you were younger?
Too many! When I first became obsessed with musical theatre, it was the likes of Jeremy Jordan, Christian Borle and Brian Darcy James, as they were on all the soundtracks I was listening to at the time. I was a huge fan of Pasek and Paul’s music, so, of course, Ben Platt followed shortly after! And now I’m a bit older, I really appreciate watching or listening to actors like Sir Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson etc. and, most recently, Kyle Soller, who’s currently in The Inheritance. I thought his performance was outstanding and I could watch it over and over again.
Have you seen any theatre shows recently or are there any you would like to see but haven’t done so as yet?
I went to see my best mate in Brass at The Union which was great, Company and The Inheritance in the West End and Hadestown at the National in the last few weeks! All were brilliant in different ways, I’m now obsessed with the Hadestown soundtrack and I HAVE to see The Inheritance again. I’ve never seen anything like it! I’m hoping to see SIX and Come From Away, that’s what I’m most excited for…
Do you have any upcoming acting plans that you can tell us about?
I definitely have my goals and a lot more things to tick off the bucket list, but really, I just want to be pushing myself all the time and doing a job that I love! I’d be very keen on doing some TV or film so that’s an aim! Fortunately, I found out a little while ago that I’m going into a job that runs through until the middle of 2020 which is very exciting and I can’t wait to get started and tell everyone what it is… I’m rubbish with secrets!
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