Having auditioned for Take That’s musical, The Band, Lauren Jacobs took part in the workshops before being cast in the role of Young Zoe in the nationwide tour along with a run in the West End at Theatre Royal Haymarket. Whilst in the musical, Lauren had the chance to perform on top of a West End theatre and record Take That’s Back for Good with the rest of the cast until the show ended at Mayflower Theatre in March this year. Sitting down to chat with Lauren, we find out about auditioning for The Band, sharing the role of Zoe with Jayne McKenna and what it was like at the final show.
What was your first acting experience and how did you get into the career professionally?
My first acting experience was probably in year six when we were doing Robin Hood. I had been dancing since I was three and singing as well but I’d never acted. I said that I wasn’t going to go for it because I didn’t know I had a passion for it at that point, I knew I enjoyed watching theatre because I’d grown up watching it but I didn’t know I liked doing it. My best friend said, “no, you have to go for it” and I did and I got Maid Marian. That was the first time I ever acted on stage and that was how I realised that I liked it and then from there I just kept doing classes. I didn’t know you could do acting as a job, I just thought these people did it amateur like I did in school. In year 11 I found out that it was a profession and I was like, “that’s what I’m doing” and my dad was like, “maybe take a proper subject” and I just said, “no, I’m going to do musical theatre” and my dad said, “ok deal, as long as you do AS maths with it”. That’s how I got into it – musical theatre and AS maths, which I got a B!
Where did you train in musical theatre and what was it like?
I trained at the MTA, which is the Musical Theatre Academy, in Seven Sisters and it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. Getting in was hard enough, I auditioned for drama school for six years and was always getting recalled, always getting reserve places and never getting in. I then got into drama school and, because it’s not backed by a university, it can ebb and flow with what’s going on in the industry. For example, we study all the way through the year, my teacher always has a motto of ‘the theatre doesn’t stop, so why should we’ and you realise how tiring it is and how much effort you have to put in. She always used to say as well, ‘you are working hard but you’re not working hard enough for musical theatre’. A normal job, like in retail, is very difficult and very tiring in its own way, but the step up to musical theatre is just something else. I once spent six hours working on a song for an audition the following day in my school which then got me the lead role in the production of The Venus Factor. I believe that six hours working on that one song made all the difference. We also learnt a lot about how to treat people in the industry and to respect everybody’s job. We did our own get-ins and get-outs so that we knew how difficult those people’s jobs are. Our crew are in an hour and a half earlier than us, at the crack of dawn, every single day and they don’t complain. It was doubly difficult because we were learning everybody’s jobs but then when I came to actually do the job, it was easier for me because there was somebody else doing my get-ins. I now understand what they’re going through and can respect it, so it was great.
Had you been following Let It Shine before auditioning for The Band?
It hadn’t happened before I auditioned, I had actually secured the role in the workshops before the Let It Shine live shows happened. We were auditioning at the same time as the private auditions for the boys. We got told we had the job for the workshop, but we didn’t know we had the tour. I then watched Let It Shine and saw our boys get the job and then we met them on the first day of the workshop. I did follow the show, I watched every single episode knowing that I was going to be working with one of the groups or a mix of them as they were also mixing groups.
What drew you to the role of Young Zoe and how were the auditions?
I didn’t know I was auditioning for Zoe when we auditioned, I went in to audition for one of five teenage girls. I think the description of Zoe when I auditioned was ‘young, pro-feminist, grunge, taller’… which is not me, I was the second shortest in the entire cast! I think I did two rounds of auditions and by the time we got to the third round, Zoe had completely changed. I actually read for Zoe, Claire and Debbie and they had me read Zoe several times. I remember in the audition saying my line, “it’s like heart the motorway junction” (that line has been in it since day one) and the co-director, Kim Gavin, burst out laughing when I did it and I knew that was a good sign. I then forgot where I was up to on the sheet and I completely lost it, but after that, I kind of internally knew that I was up for Zoe. It was crazy.
How different did you find the workshops to the tour and did your character change much over time?
My character changed so much! It is so funny how they go from being what you thought were fully-formed characters in the workshops to then seeing the work that Tim Firth had put in later and you saw how much they still had to grow. By the time it came to the further workshops, Zoe had changed so much which was incredible to see. Tim had written me into the role so I was no longer playing Zoe, I actually was Zoe and that’s a really great feeling.
There were things that I improvised. I remember in the first scene, just before Zoe goes off, they say “right, go and get ready” and the two girls run off. I said to Jack Ryder that Zoe wouldn’t just do it, she’d argue, so me turning to Debbie and going “but, but…” and her going “go!” was my own improvisation which then got put in the script. You get the chance to actually build and put your own spin on the character. Tim listened to us, some writers don’t listen to their actors as they’ve got a clear vision of their character and that’s great, but it was really lovely that Tim really listened to us and our opinions. If we said we didn’t think our character would say that or that line didn’t fit or wouldn’t be said in that way, he listened and he wrote into that. Zoe changed massively.
What was it like sharing the role of Zoe with Jayne McKenna and how was it leaving the role?
Jayne is an absolute angel and a goddess, I adore her. Jayne has been so massive to me on this tour, not just learning from her from an acting perspective, but she was such a support to me because this is my first tour. I lived abroad for two and a half years in France when I worked at Disneyland Paris but it’s a whole different thing living in one place to moving every week with a set group of people. If one day somebody is getting on your nerves, you can’t talk to somebody that isn’t involved with that person, whereas usually, you can go home and say that something is bugging you that day about the job or someone said something that upset you and you can forget about it. On tour, you’re in this bubble where you can’t go anywhere that isn’t the show, which is amazing in some ways and also very exhausting in others, it’s healthy to have away time from work. Jayne was massive in supporting me when I struggled with that and helped me adapt to that life and I think by the end of it, I now feel that from what she’s taught me, I can handle a tour. I think the hardest thing is the politics of working with people and trying to just be nice and get on and not drive each other mad when you’re in each other’s pockets 24/7, so she was massive in that. As an actor, she’s just incredible, she’s got so much experience behind her in television, theatre and voiceover and I learned so much from her and we had that bond.
What was the experience like being involved in the show and did you have a favourite line of dialogue?
It has to be the “it’s like a heart…” just because that line has been there since day one and it’s quite poetic and quite romantic. That line is how her mind works down to a T, she sees something normal and she sees the beauty and the science of it. I liked most of Zoe’s lines and there are lots I could pick out as favourites. For the experience of being in the show, I could go on for hours about it. It was incredible, it was definitely one of the best experiences in my life, I hope I will have many experiences like it but right now it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. We cried on the last night because of that and that’s including the ups, the downs, the days where it was really hard to the point of being like “I don’t want to go in today”, to the days when it was just the best thing in the world. Every job has those, it comes as a full package and I wouldn’t change a minute.
You performed on top of Theatre Royal Haymarket to announce the West End run, how did you feel doing this event?
That was incredible, it’s a heck of a view up there, haha! It was a lot of fun and it was really funny as well because we had to quickly rehearse a version of the finale. We got to go in the theatre across the road, which is where The Phantom of the Opera is, and we got to head up into their rehearsal room and see that theatre, so that was a sneaky little side trip. We literally rehearsed that morning and then went straight across. It was freezing that day, I wear a little yellow dress and just a jacket, I felt worse for Rachelle (Diedericks) who was in a crop top and just a body warmer with short sleeves, at least we all had longer jackets on! Once the adrenaline kicked in, it was the most incredible feeling seeing all the people down there joining in. Hopefully I’ll get to do lots of crazy things like that in the future but I’ll never get to do that again and it was amazing.
What was it like performing in the West End?
The West End was fantastic, I do have a special love for London. Being on tour is amazing, I enjoyed seeing all the different places, but there is something special about being in the West End where a lot of my friends are. I’ve lived here since I was nineteen so it’s quite a long time for me, I’ve got my friends in Manchester but I’ve got a big network here – it’s where I go for dance classes, where my favourite place to go for coffee is and my boyfriend’s here, so being in the West End was like coming home and was really incredible. A lot of people have in their mind that the West End is the aim, but at my drama school, we were taught that the aim is to work, it doesn’t matter where it is but if you are working then you are successful. Someone in the West End is not more successful than somebody in regional theatre for a week, you’re still working. There is obviously that feeling of the West End is our aim, it’s a thing to aspire to and it lived up to being incredible.
What was the last show like to perform at Mayflower Theatre and how were the cast backstage?
We were so emotional, it was unbelievable. Three of us had already burst into tears before we did the school scene and we had to dry our eyes. It was so strange because it didn’t hit you in the matinee that this was the last day and then it came up to starting the last show when Andy Williams’ speech comes on about mobile phones and it just hit three of us. I think me and Katy (Clayton) were the worst, I think she’d admit that, but that’s just because we love it and we were really sad. The audience were the best we could have asked for in that show – the cheering, the willingness to let us take that audience on that journey – it made it. I’ll remember it forever, especially them not stopping clapping at the end of Back for Good, to the point that we couldn’t come in for the final line because the audience were clapping so long and so loud that we couldn’t hear the music to come in for the final line and had to wait for them to go quiet. It was incredible. Me and Jayne actually started crying singing Back for Good to the point where we nearly couldn’t sing because we were so emotional. There’s a bit where she usually put a hand on my cheek and she just leant forward and grabbed me and we were just there crying and hugging on stage in front of everybody and I’ll never forget that. I get a bit emotional thinking about it but that was the journey me and Jayne had been on with this character and the connection we had, it was great and a special moment.
What’s your best memory from your time in the show?
Oh, that’s a hard question. Too many! Performing with Lulu and Take That right back in Manchester was pretty incredible. I absolutely love Take That’s music but a lot of the songs I didn’t know because I was six when they split up, so I was aware of the music but not of the group so much. However, I used to sing Lulu’s music in my school shows and who doesn’t know that Lulu sang Shout. I was incredibly excited to meet Take That, but I was more starstruck meeting Lulu and she was so great. I walked past her on the stairs and she was waiting for Take That to come to their dressing room so she could go and talk to them and I was like ‘I’m taking my chance’. I was like, “Lulu, I just want to say, it’s a real pleasure to meet you because I used to sing your songs in school” and she then went, “what’s your name?” and I said “Lauren” and she asked if I wanted a picture and I said yes and I got a picture but just as we were taking it, these camera crews started walking past so it’s blurry. You can see it’s her and you can see it’s me and I am happy with that, it doesn’t need to be clear, you can tell who it is! I’ve got that picture now so that’s quite a memory.
Take That were involved with the production; when did you first meet them and how did you find the experience?
The first time we met Take That was in the workshops and we were told they were coming in that day but we weren’t told when. They sent us on breaks and I think they tactically knew that Take That were coming in at that minute and I remember they walked in the room and half of us were facing the other way having a chat in the corner. I remember turning around and going, “oh my God, there’s Mark!” and then, “there’s Gary!” and it was one at a time. I’m not a starstruck person but the butterflies do come in as these people have had careers that people dream about, they know what they’re doing, their talent is insane, from writing and performing, to having that stamina of touring across the world. They came straight up to us immediately and I had a full conversation with Gary on day one. They said we were going to do a scene, I think it was one of the women’s, and then they said we were going to do Back for Good. We’d literally done Back for Good the day before and I’d been given line one and at that point, it was in a key for the boys to sing and they hadn’t raised the end bit, my voice doesn’t go that low and I had to do that in front of them! They knew it was a work in progress and they were really happy with it. They raised that line a week later so I could sing it the octave higher and all was good in the world! Take That had been there since day one, they genuinely wanted to be involved and every single time they came in, they would go around every single person and ask how they were and give them a hug. They were really invested in every single way.
How was it recording the Back for Good cover on YouTube with the rest of the cast?
That was so much fun. I’ve been in a recording studio once before when I was thirteen because I got through to the final round of a competition and the ten people that got to the final went to the studio to record two songs. That was just a go in, sing your song, one take, no cutting and chopping, whereas this was a hundred. I think it was the studio that Lady Gaga always records in, so this was 100% professional. We had headphones on, which I had to hold because my head was too small, and you want one ear on and one ear off because otherwise you can’t hear yourself sing. I did my line about five or six times, we’d record a line at a time and they’d say to do certain bits differently. It was not just a learning experience but a lot of fun as well. They record all the harmonies individually because it’s clearer. It was really interesting to see how that works.
Zoe was a huge fan of the band, what music did you listen to as a teenager?
Steps! I listened to quite a lot of music, Britney had just come out when I was getting into music, I was probably about eight or nine. Steps were my all-time favourite though, I went to go and see them in concert with my best friend when they reunited last year. I was a big S Club fan, and when Steps broke up, I moved onto Busted. They were the main ones but I did listen to everything, I was a bit of a fan of Liberty X and Hear’Say and I listen to some diverse stuff as well, I was into Eminem a little bit. They weren’t my all-time favourites but I didn’t mind listening to lots of different styles. My closest thing to Zoe’s fandom is Steps.
Do you have any roles in the pipeline that you can talk about?
I unfortunately don’t as of yet. All I can say is I’ve had some success with auditioning but you can get through five rounds and get knocked out in the sixth. I can’t see the future, I could say “I’ve had a recall for this” and then get knocked out in the next round, or I could get right the way through, but as of yet, I haven’t secured anything. Hopefully that will change, it’s very early days. There were not many auditions before Christmas at all, it was Dear Evan Hansen and then Rachelle had Harry Potter auditions. This is the time to be auditioning and everything is starting up again. We’re extremely proud of Rachelle for being cast in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, she deserves it so much. Hopefully I will be telling a similar story shortly.
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