Having made his professional and West End debut this year in Saturday Night Fever as Gus, James Brice is returning to the role after it was announced in August that he would be joining the new tour, which opened at Milton Keynes Theatre on 7th September, and heads to the Grand Opera House in Belfast on Tuesday. In 2019, James performed at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham in their pantomime of Peter Pan, and on screen, he was in the commercial for the Paramount+ UK launch. Having trained in Musical Theatre at Laine Theatre Arts, James graduated last year during the pandemic, and for his third year production, he was in the cast of Little Women. We chatted to James about playing Gus in Saturday Night Fever, being in the cast of Peter Pan at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham and attending Laine Theatre Arts.
You made your professional musical debut playing Gus in Saturday Night Fever, what was the character like to play?
Ah Gus, where to begin, I actually first read for the role of Jay, Stephanie’s ex and producer friend, but in one of my final meetings I was given the sides for the role of Gus, and while reading for the character something clicked. I found the character pretty relatable, he’s confident, outgoing and, most importantly, pretty carefree, he sometimes says the wrong things that get him into trouble but he always means well.
I’ve always said that Gus felt like the younger brother, sometimes being picked on and not really knowing his place within the group but always being part of it.
I felt the character really came alive once I’d met the rest of the cast, one of the first scenes we set was the basketball scene that follows Boogie Shoes, I remember being pretty nervous, not only did I need to remember my lines but you then throw a basketball into the mix! After a few stumbles of dropping the ball or throwing it to someone that I wasn’t meant to, we finally got the hang of it. Looking back now I think it was a great place to start as it really brought the five of us together.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast and preparing for your role?
I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing cast to make my West End and professional debut with, I’ve definitely made some friends for life. You really do learn a lot on your first job and having such a supportive cast around me made all the difference, we were able to have fun, laugh, and most importantly, learn from each other.
When it came to preparing for the role, I like to do most of my character development in the room and play with who the character is, I’m never too set on how I want to play a scene and I feel like that gave me the freedom to explore who Gus is and how I could put my twist on the character.
How much did you know about the show before auditioning and what originally drew you to the musical?
I’d seen the film before the audition but hadn’t had chance to see the musical. In the first dance call, I could tell it would be an amazing show to be a part of, the first routine I learnt was part of the Megamix and was full out and an absolute joy to dance!
How was it being part of the musical and performing the choreography and Bee Gees music?
Incredible! Bill Deamer’s choreography is fun, fast-paced and just a joy to dance, mix that with the music of the Bee Gees and how can you not enjoy every moment on stage!
Do you have any stand-out highlights from being in Saturday Night Fever?
One of my biggest highlights from the run of the show has to be opening night, after two years of lockdown and then being one of the first shows to open back up in the West End that first night is one I will never forget. As we hit the final iconic fever pose that ends the show, the applause that filled the auditorium from an audience that had missed the wonder and magic of musical theatre was incredible and our MD Scott made sure to highlight the moment and waited to bring in the outro, that’s a moment I will never forever. Even if it did kill my arm!
In 2019, you performed at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham in Peter Pan, what was the pantomime like to do?
As a child, panto was a big part of my Christmas festivities. Heading to our local Wimbledon Theatre to watch the panto every Christmas Eve has such a special place in my heart, the magic and sparkle of it all. Being able to bring that magic to families all throughout Christmas was definitely something special.
One thing I loved about doing Peter Pan in Horsham, apart from the incredible cast and amazing creatives, was the score. The writer and producer Nick Mowat is a massive musical theatre fan and so this panto score was like no other, from Broadway classics to modern musical theatre hits, it was such a pleasure to dance to music that I love!
Was there anything that encouraged you to train at Laine Theatre Arts and how was your time there?
I grew up in Epsom and so had been around Laine most of my life. Wanting to do musical theatre, I thought Laine was my best fit for an all-round musical theatre training.
I had an interesting time training at Laine Theatre Arts with my second and half of my third year being in lockdown. I really did have to focus on finding the motivation I needed to really get the most out of my training. We had a full-out online course while in lockdown, which was great as it meant the training never stopped, but you really did have to find something to push yourself each day, no one really prepares you for what it’s like to train in your living room and it was a real learning experience. It was a massive relief to finally get back into the studio after almost a year of training at home and it meant I could really get everything out of my third year.
Can you tell us about the shows you performed in whilst training and what was it like graduating during the pandemic?
During my final year at Laine Theatre Arts, we managed to get back into the theatre and I was lucky enough to perform in Little Women, I played the role of John Brooke and we performed the show in the round, which was a great experience, the cast were incredible! With regards to graduating during lockdown, I thankfully graduated as everything was starting back, although there wasn’t a lot going on, I was lucky to be heading into the industry as it was ramping back up.
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
As a child I always seemed to struggle to fit in, I was part of the Sunday football league and honestly loved every wet muddy Sunday morning but I never really belonged, this was until my mum took me along to my first musical theatre class. She’d known that I’d loved to sing from a young age and I would be consistently annoying her with what I guess I thought were incredible vocals as we did our weekly food shop. From that first class, I fell in love, I was surrounded by others who loved to be creative and it was just a joy to feel like I actually fit in! This ignited my passion and ever since then I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Earlier this year, you worked on a commercial, how was this?
Getting to work on the Paramount+ UK launch was such an exciting project to be part of. I was one of the Grease dancers and we filmed over the course of a week. It was my first experience with being on a film set and I learnt a lot in the process, I got to work with some incredible people, also being on set with the likes of Uma Thurman isn’t bad either.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
I’m a huge fan of comedies so some of my favourite shows are the likes of Young Frankenstein and The Book of Mormon, both of which I’ve seen multiple times. I like when theatre transports you to a different place and time and love nothing more than escaping into a world full of fun and humour. I’m excited to hopefully see Mean Girls if it makes a West End transfer as I never got to see it when it was on Broadway.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I like to get away and travel as much as I can, so when I have a break I love to explore new places, I feel for me it’s the best way to switch off and experience new things.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for you?
I’m thrilled to be returning to the role of Gus in the Saturday Night Fever UK Tour starting this month. I would also love to do some more TV work, so I’m excited to see what the rest of 2022 has in store.
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