At the end of last year, Jeremy Batt performed in Cyprus as Munkustrap in Cats, and in the summer, he was in the cast of the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Oklahoma! as Ensemble and cover Will Parker, and had previously played the role of Will at Gordon Craig Theatre in 2018. Jeremy has been part of many theatre shows including the Original West End Cast of Kinky Boots, the international tour of Mary Poppins, and Follies at the National Theatre, with which the show was recorded and streamed live to cinemas. We caught up with Jeremy about going to Cyprus with Cats, being part of Oklahoma! and his time in Follies at the National Theatre.
How was your time as Munkustrap in Cats and can you tell us about being in the production?
I have to say it was one of my favourite parts to play. I was playing the narrator for most of the show so it felt like there was a big responsibility at times to keep the audience with you and help tell a story which was fun. I didn’t really grow up listening to Cats much, except for knowing some of the iconic tunes so it was very new to me. I found that I grew to love the score as we started working on it. In this production we had gone for telling the story in a different setting (at a carnival) which was great because you really felt like you were doing something new with it and had a chance to have real ownership of the piece.
The show played in Cyprus in December last year, how was it performing there?
It was a once in a lifetime experience for me because we were going to be there for New Year and the weather was definitely warmer than home. It was also very special for me because my wife, my father-in-law and my mother came to stay for the second half of it which meant a lot to me to have them there.
What can you tell us about playing Lord Snooty/City Spiv in Zombies: The Musical at The Other Palace?
It was a brand new musical so getting the chance to workshop a new piece of theatre is always exciting and it allows you, along with the creative team, to bring some of your own ideas to it. We had a lot of laughs doing it and we pretty much rehearsed it in the space of a week and had a couple of days in the studio before performing it so there was no time to stand still, which is just how I like it.
Last summer, you appeared at Chichester Festival Theatre in Oklahoma! as Ensemble and first cover Will Parker, how was your time in the show?
A very special venue and place. I had always heard nothing but great things about the theatre so I was over the moon when I got the job. We all had such a wonderful time in Chichester especially when the sun was out. As cover Will I had to learn how to lasso which was an incredible skill to learn. I was allowed to keep my rope which was brilliant.
You’d played Will Parker previously at Gordon Craig Theatre, what is this character like to portray?
This was a show I had grown up knowing and used to watch the original film when I was younger so I have a lot of love for this show. My favourite character has always been Will, so getting a chance to play him was wonderful. His energy and positivity in the show is infectious and what I think is most attractive about the role is there’s a sense that his heart is always in the right place, it was a joy to perform.
You’ve appeared in Follies a couple of times at the National Theatre, can you tell us about being part of this production?
I will forever be so grateful that I got a chance to work on this fantastic piece and in a fantastic building. It’s one of the most special venues to work in ever, it’s an incredible hub for creating and sharing theatre that is something I believe we will always need to help bring people from all walks of life together. I’ve always said that, in my opinion, Stephen Sondheim is the greatest musical theatre composer of all time, so firstly, I was just so ecstatic that I was going to be in one of his musicals. Also, if you had said to me that I would also get to stand in the same room as him and get the chance to speak to him, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s such a mature and rich musical and book, and the creative work in terms of direction and choreography were stunning. I’ve been very lucky just to work there once let alone twice, and it will always be very memorable for me also because I married my wife the day before the first show. It was definitely one of the happiest times in my life to date, and the busiest.
We understand the show was recorded live, how was the experience?
Now that was really fantastic and nerve-racking knowing that it’s going out live to cinemas as you’re doing it. I remember everyone in the wings watching the monitors because we were able to see the live feed that was going out, it was like being in the theatre and cinema at the same time, a moment I won’t ever forget.
What was it like working on English National Opera’s Chess in 2018?
To get the chance to perform somewhere with so much history and tradition was, again, a proud moment. It’s such an incredible institution the ENO and getting to know their massive and stunning choir was a joy. It was such an epic production as well in terms of scale, I loved it!
You covered the roles of Northbrook and Von Hussler on tour in Mary Poppins, how was this and have you had chance to see the show since it opened in the West End?
My childhood self was absolutely buzzing. I adored this movie growing up and always used to pretend to be Bert when watching it or if the song Jolly Holiday would be playing. The tour was brilliant, getting to go to Zurich and Dubai was a great experience and just getting to be a part of something that meant so much to me growing up, and many other people, was very emotional and so satisfying. I haven’t seen it yet but I definitely will soon. I’m sure I will get a bit teary as always.
Having appeared in Kinky Boots and being part of the Original West End Cast Recording, what are your favourite memories from your time in the show?
This was a show that I never thought I’d be cast in, especially as one of the Angels. It was a real challenge for me but so much fun in the process. I got to learn how to walk and dance in heels and how to do drag makeup. One of my favourite moments was when we performed at West End live at Trafalgar Square doing Raise You Up. Doing that number was always very emotional for me and even more so on that occasion, just to see how much the message we were sending out meant to people. I will forever be so proud of that show and that company.
After training at The Urdang Academy, how did you find the experience booking your first professional role and can you tell us about some of your early stage work?
It was a bit surreal really, while I was in my third year at college I got the opportunity to do a profit share show of Godspell at the Union Theatre. That was an amazing experience, I was allowed to leave college for a few weeks and go and work on that, which was so much fun and gave me a glimpse as to what it would be like outside of college. Around the same time, I got into the Top Hat UK Tour which was going to start just after graduating which was a real pinch yourself moment. It will possibly always be the show that means the most to me because I see that as where it all really started, and then I was fortunate enough to do the show in the West End. I also feel so lucky that I got to do my all-time favourite musical Les Misérables. That, again, was just a rollercoaster ride for me because I was so passionate about the piece and I am just so happy I got the chance to perform in it.
Had you always known you wanted a musical theatre career?
Pretty much, I had been dancing and singing since I was about three and that was down to my mother who ran her own dance school and used to put on loads of different musicals, with my father being heavily involved as well. I was actually very lucky because I was taught by my mum predominately, but for a few years, my father also taught some tap as well, the whole family have performed at some point in our lives. I was also inspired by my brother and sister who went to the dance school as well, and went to college in London too. You could definitely say we are a stagey family but I wouldn’t change it for the world, they are the reason I do what I do and why I love it so much and for that, I will always be grateful to them all.
What do you enjoy most about performing in musicals?
I think it’s that feeling of expression, especially in doing a musical number, whether it be singing or dancing, being able to give your heart and soul to something, it gives you an incredible buzz which never gets old for me.
Have you seen any theatre shows in the past few years that you would recommend to others?
I would definitely recommend Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, in terms of spectacle and sheer magic, you have to go and experience it (hopefully I’ve kept the secrets there), also Matilda and The Book of Mormon are two fabulous shows for different reasons and, even though they’ve been there a while, you can’t beat a bit of Les Mis or The Phantom of the Opera (or is that just me!).
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