Jake Reynolds is making his West End debut playing Doody in the current run of Grease, which had their official opening at the Dominion Theatre on Tuesday 17th May, and is booking until 29th October. Having trained at both The University of Chichester for their BA Musical Theatre course and Rose Bruford College for their MA Actor Musicianship course, Jake performed in a number of shows whilst there, including The Moonlight Club and Full Fathom Five. Since graduating, Jake played Trixie the Elf/Santa in Santa’s Magical Gift at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham last year, and previously, he was a cellist in the workshop of The Wasp and the Raven. Answering our questions, Jake talks about making his West End debut in Grease at the Dominion Theatre, playing Doody in the musical and being part of Santa’s Magical Gift at The Capitol Theatre.
Can you tell us what Doody is like to play in Grease at the Dominion Theatre?
Doody is such a fun character, as I feel like he’s an extension of me in a way. The baby of the group, always trying to make himself look better in front of the others, and when nobody’s looking, you’ll just find him being more vulnerable and open whilst just playing guitar and being himself! So I feel a really close connection with the character!
What was it like meeting the rest of the cast for the first time and preparing to open in the musical?
It was such a dream come true. I was so nervous for the first time meeting everyone, but when I realised that everyone in this company are the most caring and thoughtful people, it immediately put me at ease. Everyone supports each other in this cast, and it’s wonderful to be a part of.
Was there anything that drew you to the role and had you seen the show before auditioning?
I hadn’t seen the show, no! But that was a big part of what drew me to it, as I could really go in with no preconceptions as to what this version might look like. As for Doody, knowing that he plays guitar, and gets to sing one of my favourite songs from the show, I couldn’t have asked for anything more!
Grease marks your West End debut, how did it feel booking the role and what’s it like performing in the West End?
It didn’t feel real for a long time! My agent rang me and gave me the news, and I remember just pacing around on my way to the tube station just in shock! I grew up going to West End musicals, and so much of my growing up has been spent around theatre, that to actually be performing on the Dominion stage, where I saw my first ever musical, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt a feeling like it.
What do you remember most from the opening and press nights?
Opening night was definitely the support from everyone. Everywhere you went, people were checking in, giving out hugs, and words of confidence. It was a truly beautiful thing to see. Press night would have to be coming out of stage door and just seeing all the friends and family of everyone waiting to congratulate everyone!
How is the experience performing the musical numbers in the show and what are you most looking forward to for continuing as Doody?
It’s incredible! There are so many iconic numbers in the show, and to get to perform them every night is a dream come true. I’m really looking forward to finding out more about Doody and his mannerisms, to see if there’s a way that I can bring him to life even more!
Last year, you played Trixie the Elf/Santa in Santa’s Magical Gift at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham, can you tell us about this?
It was a really great experience! It was my first professional contract, and it taught me a lot about stamina control and looking after yourself. The show itself was really fun, and getting to bring the magic of Christmas to so many families and kids in the lead-up to the big day was really heart-warming.
What was it like being part of the workshop of The Wasp and The Raven?
It was honestly so much fun. A couple of wonderful actor-musician sisters came over from America with an idea for a new musical, and having worked with Jeremy Harrison from Rose Bruford before, they wanted to work with him again, and we got the great privilege to be involved in their process of discovery of the musical; I was the cellist in the piece, and it really made me fall in love with the instrument again!
You trained at The University of Chichester in BA Musical Theatre, what was this like to do?
My time at Chichester taught me so much. It really opened my eyes as to what goes into this industry, and what is needed from me in order to succeed and progress. It really nurtured me in a few ways as well, as I was relatively unexperienced in the goings on of the industry and the people that are in it and training in it, so I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for the amazing teachers and fellow performers that I met there.
Having also trained with Rose Bruford College for their MA Actor Musicianship course, was there anything that encouraged you to train there?
In my third year at Chichester, one of my teachers asked me if I ever considered doing actor-musician work, and I had no idea what it was at the time. My music and then my musical theatre had always been very separate, and I had no idea that they could be joined together. Since then, my eyes have been opened to the wonderful world of actor-musicianship, and now some of my favourite pieces of theatre I have seen have all been actor-muso. So, I have the wonderful Damien Delaney to thank for setting me on that path.
Can you tell us about some of the shows you performed in with both The University of Chichester and Rose Bruford, which included Annie Get Your Gun and Three Sisters?
My favourite show that I did at Chichester was The Moonlight Club, which was an immersive promenade musical based on Woyzeck! Our director for it, Joel Scott, is a Creative Associate with Punchdrunk, so learning from and being directed by him really opened my eyes to a new way of delivering a story to an audience. My favourite production at Rose Bruford was Full Fathom Five, which me and my fellow students, our director Michael Corbidge, and our MD Greg Palmer, devised ourselves, and it turned into a musical prequel of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. That devising experience is something I will always hold on to, as it really showed me how actor-musicians can be used to bring a story to life.
Where does your love of acting and music come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
My dad has been playing music for longer than I’ve been alive, so I was brought up being surrounded by music, so I couldn’t not fall in love with it. As for acting and dancing, I have my mum to thank for dragging me along to a performing arts group that I didn’t want to go to, as it was being held in the centre where she worked as a youth worker, and I just got stuck in and never left. I think deep down, I always knew that my career would be this, so to see this realised makes me super proud of myself.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
Come From Away is still one of the best things I have seen on stage. Those actors are just out of this world, and the multi-roling is done flawlessly. I’m a huge fan of The Last Five Years as well, and the recent production at the Southwark Playhouse was extraordinary. As for what I haven’t seen yet, I need to go and see Once as soon as it comes back! Though saying that, I would much prefer to be in that show than watching!!
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I play a lot of music in my spare time; I’m a massive rock and metal fan, so I spend a lot of time playing along to my favourite bands, or writing my own music! Other than that, I’ve always been a big gamer, so I play online with my friends, or just relax with some of my favourite games!
Have you been given any advice that has stuck with you and what advice would you give someone making their West End debut?
The main bit of advice I’ve been given which I always come back to is to always believe in yourself. I think that if you can’t believe in yourself and what you do and aspire to do, then it’s going to be hard to make other people believe that. As long as you support yourself, check in with yourself, and look after yourself, you will never go wrong, and you will always be exactly where you need to be.
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