Until theatres closed around the world due to the current pandemic, Gabriel Hinchliffe was in the original cast of the London premiere of Be More Chill at The Other Palace as understudy to Jeremy, Michael, Jake and Rich, and the cast recently reunited online for The Red Solo Cup Concert. Gabriel made his professional debut in Showtune at the Union Theatre, and whilst training at The Urdang Academy, he performed in shows such as Hamilton and Company before graduating last year. Over Christmas 2019, Gabriel was performing in the cast of Shrewsbury’s pantomime of Aladdin, before starting his run in Be More Chill. Answering our questions, we found out from Gabriel about being in the original London cast of Be More Chill, booking his first professional role in Showtune and being part of Aladdin in Shrewsbury.
Can you tell us what it’s like being Understudy in Be More Chill?
Being an understudy comes with a lot of hard work especially when you are understudy to four key roles. I was an understudy to Jeremy, Michael, Jake and Rich, who all have completely different character traits that you have to snap right into if you get told that you are going on for a specific character. I would have a key phrase I would say to myself to get into the mindset of each one of those characters that would usually get me psyched and ready for a show.
How was it preparing for the production?
The preparation/rehearsals for this production was the best time for me, I met some of the craziest people that were on my level of crazy which helped us create a brilliant chemistry whenever I would get the chance to practice a scene. The whole thing was pretty surreal, being in a room with directors, composers, actors and performers, I really felt like I belonged somewhere. Seeing and listening to how Stephen Brackett, Chase Brock, Joe Iconis and all the other amazing creatives would guide members of the cast to create this wonderfully dramatic scene that would honestly blow me and whoever else witnessed away. The feeling of family on this production was a massive part of it, whenever I would get a chance to get up and perform in rehearsals, I would feel this overwhelming sense of pride with the cast like we really had made something so, so special. Even if it wasn’t to everyone’s taste.
What did you know about Be More Chill before auditioning?
I knew a fair amount about the show before auditioning. The way I heard about Be More Chill was like how most people heard about Be More Chill, which was through the amazingly written song Michael in the Bathroom. I heard George Salazar singing the song on a YouTube video that came up as “Suggested For You”, and I immediately added it to my singing rep folder. And, like most Be More Chill fans, I listened to the soundtrack on repeat for weeks.
How was the experience being in the original cast of the London premiere of a popular musical?
Honestly, it is the best feeling knowing that you are the first people to do something in London, it’s a brilliant feeling, and having the amazing people that I had around me made it even better, I truly have made some friends for life within the whole production of Be More Chill. It was also so, so cool to receive fan art for the first time. Seeing that people get so into a musical is all very exciting.
What did you enjoy most about the run at The Other Palace?
I have a load of amazing memories that I took away from the run at The Other Palace that I will cherish for a very long time. Like the very first time I went on stage, that was such an exhilarating feeling – the lights, the stage, the costumes, the buzz backstage… everything about it was insane. I think my favourite memory would probably be performing the Halloween number, the choreography and the music were so well-thought-out and so well put together. When you were performing the choreography, every move executed was there for a reason and it was a feeling that I don’t think I will ever forget.
The cast have recently performed The Red Solo Cup Concert, how was this?
After not properly performing for so many months it was so, so nice to just get up and have a sing of some of my favourite tunes. I played around with so many different options to sing but I ended up going with Words Fail from Dear Evan Hansen, which is a song that is very close to my heart, it is such a beautiful number and it’s from my absolute dream show that I would love to be in one day. Also, being able to see most of the cast members was so, so amazing, even if it wasn’t face to face. We had a lovely conversation with each other and it really made me miss all of them so, so much, but fingers crossed someday soon we can get the show up and running again, as I know Be More Chill has such an amazing British fan base that would love to see it come back.
Last year, you were cast in Showtune at the Union Theatre, can you tell us more about this?
This was my first professional credit out of college which I was cast in within a month of graduation, which I was so, so lucky to get because I know quite a lot of performing arts graduates don’t manage to get a credit for quite some time after graduating. I had heard such amazing things from friends that had been to and performed in shows at the Union Theatre and I was very excited to go and perform there myself. The whole process of creating the show was lovely to do, the cast and creatives were such lovely people and we all got on like a house on fire, which I believed showed on stage. It was a lovely show to be in as it was a show that put a smile on every audience member’s face, and that was one of the reasons I got into performing.
How did you find the experience performing the Jerry Herman songs?
It was a lovely experience performing Jerry Herman songs, his songs and lyrics are truly something to behold, for me, every word and every melody written is a true masterpiece. He, of course, wrote the iconic song I Am What I Am, which spoke to me like it speaks to most people in a way that makes you feel so good about yourself because you are who you are and you shouldn’t let anyone change you and your personality. It was also such an honour to be some of the last people to professionally be performing his work before his passing in late December last year. It will always be a great memory to have been able to perform his work.
What can you say about performing in Aladdin in Shrewsbury?
Pantomime has always been a massive part of my life growing up, every year at Christmas, like most families, it was a tradition to go to a pantomime. I always loved going as it was always such fun. Being able to grow up and actually be in one was such a lovely opportunity and for my family, it was such an amazing experience to be able to perform for them and make them laugh the way all the other pantomimes had me in previous years. The cast were all so strong performers, it made it so easy to make such a fantastic production.
You graduated from The Urdang Academy last year, was there anything that encouraged you to train there?
Yes, The Urdang Academy was some of the best years of my life but also, on the same level, it was some of the most challenging years too. The amount of hard work that you have to put in is ridiculous, but, for me, it was so, so worth it. Being able to train there was such a pleasure as the teachers and students are some of the most talented out there and being able to be a part of that was incredible. I think the main reason I wanted to go to The Urdang Academy was because I was most interested in improving my dancing to the highest ability possible, and the reputation of The Urdang Academy’s dance department was something that is still to this day known throughout the performing arts industry.
Can you tell us about the shows you performed in whilst training?
I had an amazing three years at The Urdang Academy, I was able to play numerous roles thoughout the years including Aaron Burr – Hamilton, Mr Cladwell – Urinetown, Larry – Company and Joe Josephson – Merrily We Roll Along. My favourite role I played would probably be Aaron Burr as the music in Hamilton is so mesmerising and so well-thought-out and it’s all timed to perfection. I also was able to perform the beautiful song by Rhys Lewis – No Right To Love You – at The Urdang 2019 Graduate Showcase, which was the last number before the finale, which, for me, was such an honour and a privilege to do.
Where does your love of theatre come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
Ever since I was a little boy, I absolutely loved to sing and it was always my dream to become a professional singer. When I was younger, I entered quite a lot of singing competitions such as The Mrs Sunderland at Huddersfield Town Hall and many other local competitions/festivals. I also entered a few talent shows, for example, when I went on holiday to Florida in 2012, I auditioned for American Idol and out of 300 people I came runner up. I also entered Britain’s Got Talent and got through to the second round but unfortunately never got through to meet Simon and the rest of the judges. I was a member of a local choir since I was seven and performed at many concerts. I have also played in a number of bands with my peers in school/college. I was also a member of the school choir and performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Birmingham Festival Hall and appeared on Songs of Praise in my local church. As well as singing, I play the ukulele, piano and the drums. So, from a very early age, I have always wanted to entertain people and either sing for them or make them laugh/cry, and the fact that, most of the time, I get to do that for a living is a massive blessing.
Do you have a favourite aspect of your career?
For me, right now at this moment in time, the highlight of my performing career has to be Be More Chill. Never in my life had I ever felt like I belonged more than I did around that group of people, they all were like me which made them so easy to get along with and the chemistry that we had backstage was partly the reason I believe that it was so well-received. Hopefully, one day soon, we will be able to perform that amazing show again.
What theatre shows would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
I would love to see the Back to the Future musical as I have always been a massive fan of the films and to be able to watch that in musical form would be a sight to behold. I also love the music and the story of Spring Awakening, I love the raw emotion that I have seen from various actors on YouTube and such, I would love to go see that live the next time it is in the West End or on tour. And I know I have already seen it, but I would love to go back and see Dear Evan Hansen again because, honestly, it is such a beautiful show, it had me laughing one minute then on my knees crying the next, it is one of my favourite shows. To be honest, I just would love to see any theatre right now, I just hope in the months to come we start seeing more and more theatre coming back because I honestly miss it so, so much.
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