Throughout his career in theatre, Joshua Dever has recently finished the UK tour of Rock of Ages, and whilst in the cast, he also performed in the roles of Drew and Stacee Jaxx. His stage work has also seen him in the 20th Anniversary UK Tour of Rent, and in 2016, Joshua appeared at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in Jesus Christ Superstar, returning for the following year’s production. Joshua has now been announced for High Fidelity, running at the new Turbine Theatre from 21st October to 7th December. Speaking with Joshua, he talks about covering Stacee Jaxx and Drew, his time in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar and being part of the 20th Anniversary UK Tour of Rent.
How was the tour of Rock of Ages?
I’ve always loved 80s Rock and it suits my natural voice so I couldn’t wait to audition for the Rock of Ages UK Tour. The tour was so much fun and I came out of it with a few good friends. It was very demanding on my body but it was completely worth it to be out there every day making people laugh and sing along. It’s definitely a show I wanted to tick off the list.
What was it like making your debuts as Stacee Jaxx and Drew?
The first time I went on as Drew, I was quite nervous. The more experience I gather, the less nervous I get with each new performance, but it always seems to be the same every time when you first go on as an understudy. It’s probably just the unfamiliarity of it when everyone else knows what they’re doing already.
My Mum and Aunty came up to Darlington to see me, and they enjoyed the performance. I mostly just remember thinking about what came next as Drew is a busy role and isn’t usually on stage at the same time as my Ensemble track. The best thing for me was knowing that whenever we had eight shows in a week, I would play Drew for one of them, so I could build my own character over time.
When it came to playing Stacee Jaxx for the first time, it was a little different. I wasn’t particularly nervous, just really excited as I was itching to go on. Obviously, I would prefer that anyone I cover doesn’t become ill or injured, but luckily, I managed to get two scheduled shows. They were both in Ipswich and I couldn’t manage to get friends or family to see it at short notice but I took full advantage of every second I was on stage and feel I made a strong impression.
How does it feel coming on as Cover midway through a performance?
This was a really strange experience. Luckily, I always react well under pressure because I don’t have time to think about things and contradict my own decisions. As I was rolling a flight case off Stage Right, wiping the fake narcotics (icing sugar) from my beard, I heard “Josh, quick! WIG! You’re going on!”. There was only one number between Come on Feel the Noise and Here I Go Again so I had to bolt upstairs with our lovely Head of Wardrobe while she tried to fix a wig onto my head, and then rush back to stage. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t even question if I remembered the part well enough and what had changed since I was last in the role, but it went well and I was just glad to do it one more time. I got into position just before my vocals were due.
What was it like meeting the rest of the cast for the first time and had you worked with any of them before?
I remember seeing a couple of friends in the dance call at the final audition for Rock of Ages and I really hoped one or two of them would get it. That was the case and I got to work with a couple of people a second or third time. Some people were fairly new to the industry though and some I just hadn’t worked with, so we ended up with a great balance throughout the cast. We had a very talented and versatile cast and I knew from the get-go that we would all get along. There was no real drama offstage between company members and the run was much easier as a result.
How long after booking the role did rehearsals start and how long were you rehearsing?
I was originally in for Rock of Ages in the January for the role of Drew but didn’t quite fit the Director’s vision for the role, so I came back to audition about six months later to be the understudy for both Drew and Stacee, and I was lucky enough to get it. That was probably just a few weeks before rehearsals began, which lasted between four-five weeks.
Rehearsals were incredibly demanding, but I did lose the weight that I wanted to as a result.
What was Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre like to perform at for Jesus Christ Superstar?
Initially, I was excited to be working on JCS because of the show itself; I think the music is incredible. I honestly didn’t know much about the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park, I was just looking forward to being outdoors. When we actually got to the theatre to tech in the show, we had to battle the elements so lost a few hours to rain. It was the longest working week I’ve ever had but I wouldn’t have changed a second of it.
I didn’t realise though, until we got those audiences in, just how prestigious the theatre is. I began to feel that it was a really big deal to do a show in that wonderful space. We even had a lot of A-list names coming to see the show which was nice.
What was it like being part of the cast?
Myself and a couple of others were very lucky in getting to perform in the show over two different contracts between 2016-17. The entire cast of both shows were incredible. I’d met fantastic new people and worked with some of my own friends again. The understudies were strong, and we had fun rehearsing for those roles, but my favourite thing is just that we were mostly together in the dressing rooms. With such a large ensemble spread out over only three rooms (two for the boys and one for the girls), it was easy to sit and chat to different people.
How was it as first cover Judas?
Initially, I was being seen to cover Jesus, which I was quite happy about as I got to sing Gethsemane in my audition, but I was elated when I found out I was to cover Judas instead. The vocal style for Judas is much more in tune with my own style so I couldn’t wait to learn it all.
I had some guaranteed shows which gave me the chance to invite friends and family to come and see me, so, all in all, I had a great time covering the role.
You’ve performed in the 20th Anniversary UK Tour of Rent, can you tell us more about this?
When I was about eighteen years old with no knowledge of Musical Theatre, and no interest in it as far as I knew, someone put on the movie version of RENT, and I fell in love with it. I’d always wanted to do the stage production and play Roger, but I didn’t think there was going to be a production of it any time soon. I was out of the country when I received my audition. If I was on the same continent, I would have come back for it because I wanted it so badly, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I offered up a self-tape, to no avail, and thus believed I would not be cast in the 20th Anniversary about to tour. However, it was almost fully cast a few months later, and there was one role left to fill. It was ensemble with first cover Mark and second cover Roger. I went for it and was very lucky to be offered the part a few hours after the audition (rehearsals were fast approaching).
It’s a very special show to be a part of. Once you start singing No Day but Today, you are enveloped in this whole Bohemian world where the main focus is on survival and staying warm. The cast were superb and I got along well with everyone. I have some lifelong friends from it and many happy memories.
You covered the roles of Mark and Roger, what were these characters like to portray?
I didn’t think that I was quite right for Mark initially, but after going on in the first week of touring for the entire week I then went on to do about thirty-two shows in the role and I loved it. It’s great as an actor to play two roles that are so different as individuals but are connected by mutual struggles. Mark is a really busy role with a lot of lyrics, so you feel a little on edge throughout the show, whereas Roger is quite relaxed because he’s so fed up with everything and wallowing in grief. They’re both challenging and rewarding roles.
Whilst in Grease the Musical as Sonny, you performed on Alan Carr’s Summer Specstacular, what was this like to do?
Alan Carr’s Summer Specstacular was a lot of fun. The recording fell between two different contracts of Grease. We had about five weeks where we witnessed about ten cast members change over. There was only a handful of us doing the TV show. We waited around quite a bit so that we could just come on for the end of the show before the credits began to roll. We had a very quick rehearsal, and Alan was very warm and welcoming. I think he’d been working the entire day without much of a break and he was still in good spirits. We rehearsed to a certain point in Summer Loving just after my line “could she get me a friend”, but when it came to filming it, the music stopped just before my line, so I said it anyway. I’ll always have that funny memory.
How different are workshop experiences as opposed to being cast in a full production?
Workshops are interesting because you don’t know what to expect or how an audience will take them. One thing for sure is that you see some incredible talent in workshops. My first workshop was Stand Up – The Musical, centred around an up-and-coming comedian. That was in New Brighton in Merseyside.
My second workshop was The Great American Trailer Park at the Waterloo East Theatre, which had an amazing cast, including people that I have done full productions with since.
Possibly my favourite though was in 2017 when I got to play Buck in Bonnie & Clyde. I loved the show, the part, the music and the people involved. We performed a very limited run at The Other Palace around Victoria, London, and I would do the show again in a heartbeat. Our entire company was excellent. Will Blum worked very hard on directing the piece and bringing it to life on stage.
In general, doing workshops is very different to doing a full production on tour, for example. Financially it varies wildly, but if I was mostly interested in money then I never would have become an actor.
In a full production, you have multiple departments with set budgets, full production teams, lots of costumes, equipment, and all matter of other things. With workshops, you don’t know what you’re going to have as you could need some of your own personal clothing for costume, and sing along to one musician playing the piano right beside you. You may not have microphones, costumes, a band, set. That doesn’t really matter for me as I like the raw productions. For me, less is more in the way that I get to just see actors acting and singing. I’m not distracted by a tonne of lights or a huge-scale set. They are wonderful, but when doing workshops or watching them, you really remind yourself why you do the job in the first place. I’ve always been passionate about entertaining people and making them laugh or cry, and in doing new, experimental pieces or testing out an adaptation of something you really get to see the hard work that people put in close up.
Do you enjoy watching theatre as well as performing and if so, have you had chance to watch any recently?
I really enjoy seeing anything at the theatre. I think it’s important for everyone to support this culture and the arts, especially those of us that are lucky enough to call this a job. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a lot in the last few years because I’ve mostly worked on tour or in different countries, but recently I have seen Waitress at the Adelphi and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barbican. Both were fantastic. I began my career in Shakespeare plays, so I do really enjoy seeing plays. Mark Rylance in Jerusalem left a lasting impression on me, as did The 39 Steps at the Criterion and Noel Coward’s Private Lives at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.
Are you able to tell us what career plans you have for the next few months?
We’re currently in the early stages of rehearsals for High Fidelity, to be performed for a limited run at the Turbine Theatre next to Battersea Park. I have worked with some of the cast once or twice before, so that’s really lovely, but everyone involved in this musical is utterly fantastic. I’ll be playing Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, and TMPMITW (The Most Pathetic Man in the World). This brilliant show will see me up to December 7th and then who knows what’s for me after that. I do impressions and a lot of things with my voice, so I’d love to start doing voiceovers. That’s my next target. My agent, Josh Boyd-Rochford, and I have a wonderful professional relationship, so I think we’re going to head for as many roles in as many shows as we can.
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