With Dear Evan Hansen transferring to the West End in 2019, Jack Loxton originated the role of Jared Kleinman at the Noël Coward Theatre, which led to him being nominated at the 2020 Olivier Awards and winning the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. Jack had continued in the role until theatres were forced to close due to COVID-19, with the show announcing last week that it will be reopening in the West End in October. Since graduating from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Jack’s theatre roles have included playing Freddy in A Room With a View, Albert Narracott in War Horse and he made his West End debut as Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Also having screen acting experience, Jack was most recently seen on TV in Vanity Fair as Ensign Stubble, and amongst his other screen roles, he’s played Young Colin Simpson in The Sense of an Ending and Alex Lowe in The Coroner, and he also performed with some of the cast from Dear Evan Hansen for Musicals: The Greatest Show which was aired on BBC Radio 2 and BBC One earlier this year. Recently speaking with us, Jack tells us about winning Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his role of Jared Kleinman in the West End transfer of Dear Evan Hansen, playing Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and filming for Vanity Fair.
Most recently, you’ve been playing Jared Kleinman in Dear Evan Hansen, what drew you to the role and how was it preparing for the musical?
A couple of my housemates at the time were playing Waving Through a Window through a Bluetooth speaker one morning a few years back and I couldn’t help myself from humming it as I was making my first cup of tea of the day. I did a little research into the show and listened to the soundtrack and watched the trailers on YouTube and instantly fell in love with it. I felt Jared had quite a specific journey through the play and I jumped at the opportunity to audition for him. There were lots of singing lessons before rehearsals started to get my voice back up to scratch as I hadn’t sang since leaving drama school.
How have you found the experience being part of the West End transfer and how has it been originating the role at the Noël Coward Theatre?
Working with the original creative team in rehearsals was an amazing experience. They are all so passionate about the show and it was a privilege to work with them and create new amalgamations of their characters. I’ve never originated a part in the West End before so it was so exciting to put my own interpretation into a part that hasn’t been played in London before. It’s such a special and important story to tell so bringing that to new audiences is always an exciting prospect.
Is there anything you enjoy most about playing Jared and being in the cast?
Jared is lucky in that he carries a large part of the comedy in the show and that’s always fun to play with in rehearsals and in performance. Bringing different layers to a character is also an important part of the process for actors I feel, so being able to show his insecurities and his vulnerable side was the most fulfilling part of his unravelling, I think. Dear Evan Hansen is very special in that we as a cast really do feel like a little family. Its nothing short of joyous to be able to share the stage with such special people, telling such a special story.
Do you have any highlights from your time in the show so far?
Press night is always a highlight for me, I think. Dear Evan Hansen was no exception. The sheer anxiety teamed with unrivalled excitement. They are always quite fun (and terrifying) to navigate on opening night and we revelled in its craziness.
Can you tell us how it felt winning the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical and being nominated at the 2020 Olivier Awards?
It was all pretty surreal, to be honest. I certainly never expected it. It was definitely a pinch me/dream come true moment so to speak. My speech at the WhatsOnStage Awards was a blur. I was utterly terrified standing there with this award in my hand. And to be nominated for an Olivier was just crazy. I was at a bus stop, standing in the rain going into work when I saw the nominations come through and my phone just exploded with messages. It was nothing short of an honour for all of us who were nominated and something I will always be proud of.
What was Freddy like to play in A Room With a View and how was it being part of the production?
I loved playing Freddy. He was such a cheeky, happy-go-lucky character meshed in this beautiful period world. It was my first tour I had ever done so it was great to play loads of different theatres around the country. It was a great cast and we had a lot of fun on and off stage.
You played Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the West End, can you tell us about playing the character?
I will always have a very large space in my heart for Christopher Boone, I think. It was my first job out of drama school and it was simply an honour to be able to play him and be a part of that incredible show. To step into his shoes and see the world through his unique perspective was truly a privilege. I’m obviously biased, but I still maintain that it’s one of the best productions to ever grace the National Theatre and the West End. It was such an intense and exciting rehearsal process and as a brand new actor fresh out of drama school it was just the best way to introduce me to the world of professional theatre. Exploring Christopher’s nuances, how he interacts, how he explores, how he interprets, all in a way to convey this rather beautiful theme of how we as humans experience the world differently from one another. It was perfect.
What was it like being cast in the show and how much did you know about the story before auditioning?
I was in shock when the call came through. It was quite a long audition process with movement calls with Frantic Assembly and script sessions with Katy Rudd and Marianne Elliot. I didn’t know too much about the play at first. I was in my final year at Central, my drama school, so I was busy finding material for my showcase and learning lines! I knew it had won some awards at the Oliviers and, when I read the play, I was utterly obsessed with it. To say playing Christopher Boone in Curious Incident was my West End debut will probably be one of my proudest moments. It has, and probably will always be, one of my favourite parts to ever play.
Having played Albert Narracott in War Horse, once again in the West End, what was the role like to play and had you seen the show previously?
War Horse was such a completely different entity coming from playing Christopher in Curious. It was a big ensemble cast, massive stage. But there were similarities as well. Another beautiful, important story. Themes of loneliness and belonging and yearning. And being able to play alongside those amazing puppets and puppeteers was just incredible. I had seen Kit Harrington play Albert on the Oliver Stage at the National when I was at college. It had such an atmosphere around that show and no one was surprised when it turned into a mainstay in the West End. It was my first eight-show week job as well, so I learned a great deal about how to keep yourself fit and healthy when playing a lead in the West End.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time in the production and how was it like playing Albert?
My year at War Horse fell on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War so that was very, very special. John Tams, who helped create the music for War Horse, did a commemorative performance after the show that the cast were involved in and it was such a poignant moment. We were all very honoured to be telling that story on such an important occasion.
On screen, you played Ensign Stubble in Vanity Fair, can you say more about this and how did you find the experience working on an ITV period drama?
I loved my time on Vanity Fair. The cast were unreal – Michael Palin, Monica Dolan, Johnny Flynn. We lived in Budapest for a couple of months and shot on location at some amazing places. TV work is a completely different way of working and I love it. You’re simply put in the world of the show as an actor. The sets are incredible. Horses running around, actors in full military uniform with rifles and bayonets. James Strong is such an amazing director as well and working with him as a cog in this machine of an ensemble to create this period world was insane amounts of fun. The detail was incredible and literally everyone on that set from crew and cast were so nice and so exciting to work with.
Can you tell us about some of the other screen work you’ve done which has included The Sense of an Ending and The Coroner?
I was pretty much in awe for much of my time on The Sense of an Ending because I was just so blown away by Jim Broadbent. The nicest of people to work with and he’s such a powerful actor. It was my first film I had worked on so I was a little deer-in-the-headlights somewhat. I think I hid my nerves well enough though. And for The Coroner, we filmed on location in Cornwall in the height of summer and one of my best friends from drama school was cast in the show as well, so what’s not to love? I’d worked with the director before, Ian Barber, so that was great to work with him again. Even the Euros were on as well. But England lost to Iceland so that was the only downside…
Had you always wanted to be an actor and what encouraged you to train at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama?
I’m not sure when I decided I was going to try and become an actor if I’m completely honest. It wasn’t a career path that was actively encouraged whilst I was at school, purely because it seemed so far off and unattainable. I was a member of the youth theatre at my local theatre, The Birmingham Rep, run by an incredible director Tim Ford who really ignited my want and need to become an actor. He, as well as my tutors at college and my family, gave me the love and support to give it a go as it were. I’ve always loved the theatre, I’ve always loved plays and good films and when someone said I should try it, I didn’t need to be told twice. When I was looking at prospective drama schools, I loved my open day at Central and knew its Alumni list and the curriculum so when I was lucky enough to be offered a place I obviously jumped at the opportunity.
What do you enjoy doing away from your career?
I’m an avid sports fan. A West Bromwich Albion fan obsessed with relegations and promotions as that’s all we seem to be able to endure at the moment. I love golf. It’s the perfect way to channel your frustration as you try and get your handicap down to something you’re not embarrassed to talk about in the pub after a particularly bad round of 18 holes. I actually worked as a court attendant at Wimbledon during the championships one year. I’d love to do that again if I have the time over a summer. I’m a massive foodie as well. I’ve used the pandemic to try and conquer Chinese cooking. I bought a wok and everything…
During the pandemic, you performed on Musicals: The Greatest Show with other Dear Evan Hansen cast members, what was this like to do?
It was such a special day. We obviously hadn’t seen each other for nearly a year at the time of recording so it was just so nice to see my colleagues again. There was a real buzz about the day. We were all doing what we loved doing again and everyone was in such high spirits. I’m sure it was an example of what the West End will feel like when we can all finally reopen again which might not be too far away if all goes to plan.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and what are you looking forward to most for getting back to performing when theatres can reopen?
I’ve never seen The Phantom of the Opera but I’m dying to see Lucy St. Louis as Christine. I have to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie because I’ve foolishly not seen it yet. Under Milk Wood with Michael Sheen at the National. The Ocean at the End of the Lane in the West End directed by the amazing Katy Rudd, who I worked with on Curious Incident. Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner at the Royal Court. There’s loads and loads and it’s all so insanely exciting. I’m just looking forward to being with people again. The cast. An audience. Friends and family at the pub after the show. And hopefully we’re on track to us being together sooner rather than later.
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