Recently, Marvyn Charles has been announced to play Twig in the UK and Ireland Tour of Bring it On the Musical, which has been rescheduled to 2021 due to the current pandemic, and will see him with his first character role in a show. With Everybody’s Talking About Jamie opening at the Apollo Theatre in the West End in 2017, Marvyn joined the cast as Swing and also took on the roles of Dance Captain and Deputy Resident Choreographer/Director before leaving the show earlier this year. Previous roles for Marvyn have included working on Smurfs Live on Stage, Dora the Explorer: Search for the City of Lost Toys and he was a dancer/Dance Captain in Thriller Live. We chatted to Marvyn about his new role of Twig in Bring it On the Musical, being Swing in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and hosting workshops.
You’ve been announced to play Twig in Bring it On the Musical, what are you looking forward to for starting the role?
This will be my first character role in a show, so I am really looking forward to delving in and developing the character for myself and the challenge that comes with the experience of it all. I love the soundtrack of the show, so I feel like it’s going to be an exciting adventure and an amazing new step for me in my career currently.
How much did you know about Bring it On before auditioning?
I am a massive fan of the original film, so I was extremely excited when I heard there was a show a few years ago. However, I didn’t know too much about the show, other than it had cheerleading in it ha! But I did a bit of research and once I found out the music had been written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, I was sold!
The cast released a fun video learning some choreography during lockdown, what was it like to film?
It was really fun and a nice challenge at the same time. We got sent pre-recorded rehearsal videos of the piece to learn the material off, so we very much had to keep stopping and rewinding the video to pick it up. It’s not the easiest thing to do but it adds for an extra challenge which I find great. It was a process which needed a lot of patience to try and figure out, but I quite enjoy those sorts of challenges. It makes my brain work, and especially whilst in lockdown, that was something I was grateful for! Being able to communicate with a friend that I did Jamie with, who I knew was doing the show too, helped a lot, as we could help each other figure out certain moves and gaps we may have missed.
Can you tell us about your time as Swing in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie?
I loved my time at ETAJ, I had a great experience and learnt/grew a lot through my time there. At first, being a swing in the show was a challenge, as it was basically a new show, so things kept changing throughout the rehearsal process and not being able to get involved constantly was a real testing challenge at times. I was very lucky to have the three other swings I had with me at the time, as we helped each other out constantly and had each other’s backs throughout. It took me a few months to completely grasp all of the tracks in the show and remember everything off-book. But I absolutely loved going on stage as different tracks and every time I went on that stage, it was a different experience. That kept it very fresh for me throughout my time and allowed me to have so much fun, make so many memories and grow as a performer. I really enjoyed being a swing, and it is a role I would definitely be up for doing again.
What did you enjoy most about playing each of the roles you covered?
Our director Jonathan Butterell allowed the swings free reign of their own interpretations of each character, which is a rare thing, so I very much took advantage of this opportunity. It allowed us as swings to watch our cast members develop the characters in the rehearsal room and on stage, but then go on the stage and play them the way that we envision them, which made it so exciting when we got to go on. Each character was so uniquely different and had their own detailed backstory and so it meant that we got to create completely different experiences when going on for each track, which then in turn also made it fresh and exciting for the cast when we went on as well. These moments didn’t always go right or to plan, that added to the excitement and memories of each show.
How was the experience being Dance Captain and Deputy Resident Choreographer/Director?
Becoming both of these roles was very much an eye-opener, a challenge and a learning curve for me as a performer and a person. Stepping up to the role of Dance Captain first was something I had aimed for from the moment I knew that I could potentially become Assistant DC. It gave me a chance to really watch and learn from my Resident and current DC (before I became it) and understand more about what goes into these roles and the extra work that is needed from you. Being Dance Captain was a role that I feel I grew into, not without mistakes, but it allowed me to find strength in myself and to work with all members of the cast, along with having the mental challenge of learning bits of the show that I hadn’t previously learnt before. Finding the balance of how to connect and portray information to your cast along with having a personal relationship with them is one of the biggest challenges of all authority roles.
When I was then given the opportunity to become Deputy Resident Choreographer and Director, I felt absolutely honoured, scared and excited, as it was never a role I thought that I wanted to achieve or believed I had the potential to become. I learnt an unbelievable amount off of my previous resident, Kirstie Skivington, before this time, and the strength she placed within me, along with the space I was given to grow working with her, helped me show that I did have this potential. After which, Tara Young took over Kirstie’s role and she added another depth to my learning and growth, as Tara was new to the show, so she allowed me to work alongside her to learn every decision, step, way to go about approaching management and more as she was learning some of this information herself, which again furthered my progress into the role. Stepping into their shoes as two strong and powerful, headstrong women was an honour and I was incredibly grateful for the experience. It involved making difficult decisions at times and learning more than I ever knew, but I am truly thankful for it and now know I have the potential to be that role again at some stage in my career.
What events did you get chance to perform at whilst in the cast and can you say more about them?
As a swing, you don’t always get the opportunity of doing the live performances, however, I was lucky enough to be a part of the Jamie Pride performance, BBC Danceathon and Amsterdam Musical Sing-a-Long. Each performance was quite different but had their own unique experiences. Performing at Pride was an amazing experience, as the show is very much about inclusivity and acceptance. So, to be able to be on the stage and share that moment with so many people whom the show means a lot to and can relate in some way to its story and message was beautiful. The Danceathon was a smaller group of us at the BBC Studios which was its own experience dancing in such a small space, but it was very fun. Performing on the stage in Amsterdam to thousands of people was incredible. We weren’t too sure how the show would be received out there, but to be able to look out to the audience and see people singing along and knowing it, just showed us all how important the show is and how many audiences across the world it had spoken to. I think I may have done a couple more, but Pride and Amsterdam were definitely two I will never forget.
How did you feel leaving the show after being in the cast for a couple of years?
I was quite sad about leaving the show as I had been with the production for two and a half years at this point and it had literally been a life-changing moment for me. By this time, I had worked with three different casts and had climbed the ladder through three different title roles, so it is and will always be a big part of my growth and who I am today. Although saying this, I knew that the time of me leaving was right, as I felt I was leaving at the right moment for me in my career and in my life.
As a dancer for Thriller Live in the West End and the European/world tour, how did you find the experience?
Thriller Live was my first job out of college and I had such an amazing adventure with the show. Doing a show where, as a dancer, you barely leave the stage was such a stamina challenge but also so exhilarating. Dancing to Michael Jackson’s music every night constantly lifted me up through the struggles and tiredness of tour life, but I had such an amazing cast around me, some of which are my best friends to this date. It was a really fun show that had its challenges, but performing to the audiences around the world and them reacting to the show and getting so involved that they would get up and dance/cry would bring us to tears on stage at times too. I was lucky enough to step up to Dance Captain on one of the European legs for this show too, and being the beginning point of my career out of college, was a very eye-opening experience and challenge.
What are productions like to work on that are aimed at the younger audience, such as Smurfs Live on Stage and Dora the Explorer: Search for the City of Lost Toys?
Being a part of these shows are a unique experience in their own right. Both shows were skin work (working in a full body costume) which are a challenge themselves, without then putting choreography on top of them. With these shows, you have to learn the text in the rehearsal room, but then turn that text into choreography and unspoken movements, so it is a lot of character development and understanding of how your body and movements portray these words and emotions. Then, once you place a costume on top of this, everything has to be extra heightened as small gestures don’t read in a big costume, especially to younger audiences, so there are so many layers to these sorts of shows that you would never truly think about until experiencing it. They are a great skill to develop and an interesting challenge, but also very difficult productions to be a part of mentally and physically. Especially during summer months! This being said, I am glad I got to experience the different varieties of shows and learn a new set of skills.
Having done a couple of music videos, how were these to do?
Music videos are fun but an exceedingly long process if I am honest with you. The rehearsal process can be fun and exciting, but filming is quite long as it is all to do with camera shots, scenes needed and timing. They involve a lot of repetition of the same things, so you have to be on point every single time and very patient, but once you see the end results, it is very satisfying. A very different experience to live theatre, but a cool experience in their own right.
How did you get into dance and musical theatre and what made you decide on a theatre career?
I started off dancing at my high school doing the end of year dance shows in Year Ten, I think. Not long after, I began training with a dance troupe called Urban Strides at the time and that’s when I knew I had a love for the art and a skill I wanted to develop. I loved the movements and technicalities of it all and found I picked choreography up well and, most importantly, enjoyed it! Because of all this, I joined Jackie Palmer Stage School at the age of seventeen which taught me jazz, ballet, tap, singing and acting, so I was pushing myself into all fields of the art before applying for colleges and attending Masters Performing Arts College at the age of nineteen, where I studied and trained in Musical Theatre for three years. All of these experiences made me love all aspects of theatre and having the experiences I did at that age (live performances, arena tours, DVD shoots, Film and TV shoots), just opened my eyes to the career I knew I had to be a part of after college.
What style of dance did you train in first and do you have a favourite style to perform?
I initially trained in contemporary and commercial at school, and then hip-hop with Urban Strides, but knew that commercial/hip-hop were the styles that I loved and connected to the most. I found such a love for commercial dance and the way my body would enjoy and pick up the movements, which led me to discover that this was a skill set I wanted to excel in. Starting to then learn hip-hop styles on top of this like popping/locking/house/break-dancing just added to my love of the styles and the foundations of it all.
Do you have a favourite aspect of musical theatre and dance?
Honestly, I just love the whole aspect of performing. Getting to go out on a stage and perform every night to an audience, I just feel there is no experience like it. That thrill and rush you get, getting to do what you love every night in front of people who may have never seen your show before or knowing that it is live on TV, how exhilarating that is, is just an incredible feeling. I also love touring and seeing the world, and getting paid to do it!
What are workshops like to host?
I have been teaching since my Urban Strides days so I’m very used to teaching and hosting workshops. They can be a bit nerve-racking as you may not know what level the students you are teaching are at (beginning/intermediate/advanced), how the attendees will take to your teaching or choreography style and achieving your goals in the time frame you have. Teaching is not always the easiest job, but when you see the results from your students, it really can be the most rewarding. I find having a positive attitude and ensuring that your workshop is engaging and fun, makes for a great workshop experience and great workshop leader. Your aim is to always ensure that you are being clear about your directions and intent and that your student leaves feeling like they have learnt something and grown from the experience and time you have had with them.
What do you like doing away from your career?
Outside of my career, I would say I am a very sociable person and love spending time with my friends and family. My friends are a huge part of my life and are fundamental to my mental health in this industry, so having a great circle around me is key. I am also a bit of a Marvel geek, so any new Marvel film that comes out… I am there!! But also working out, reading and playing my PlayStation are among other things that get me through day-to-day life when I am not engrossed in my job at the time.
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