James Lacey has Tea With Wilma chatting about JOHN & JEN at The Union Theatre
You have performed in some amazing shows so far in your career. What have been some of your highlights?
I’ve been very lucky, I’ve had the chance to perform in some amazing shows and I’ve loved them all for different reasons. The Sound of Music was a dream to hear that stunning score every night; I used to go down into the wings every night to hear our Mother Abbess, Marilyn Hill Smith, sing Climb Every Mountain. It’s one of my all-time favourite songs and she sang it so beautifully. I loved being in Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 as she’s an idol of mine, so getting to sing her songs was a joy, and in Shrek I got to wear some of the most incredible costumes, wigs and makeup, which those who know me know I’m obsessed with, especially my Mad Hatter! Career highlight though was working on the Cinderella Film for Disney… I’m a Disney Boy through and through so walking onto the ballroom set for the first time was a moment I’ll never forget!
You are about to star in the JOHN & JEN at the Union Theatre. What is the show about and what attracted you to the part you are playing?
The show is a stunning story of family by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald. It’s about a brother and sister growing up with an All-American dad, against the backdrop of Vietnam. It explores the relationship between the two siblings and the promises they make and break. I get to play two roles: John, the brother in the first act who feels abandoned by his sister when she goes away to college; and then another John in the second act, Jen’s son, whom she raises hoping to correct the mistakes she made with her brother. It really is Jen’s story.
I get to share the stage with one of my closest friends, Sharon Byatt, who plays Jen and she’s like a sister and a mother and a mentor and a friend all rolled into one, and so performing this piece with someone you have such a close bond with and understanding of each other, is amazing to experience on stage. There are only two of us performing it so it would be a nightmare if Sharon and I weren’t close.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the theatre industry and why?
I bet everyone says it but I love nuance in language and how a story can be told, so Sondheim is up there. But I think my biggest influence as a performer, writer, musician and all-round storyteller is the work of Victoria Wood. Her ability to create such wonderfully memorable characters that have heart beneath the humour is so iconic.
If I asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they be?
Doesn’t switch off
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I went out on stage for the opening sequence of High School Musical 2, on tour around the UK and I think we were in Ireland somewhere, it might have been Killarney. I was playing Jack Scott who was kind of like the show’s narrator, and I opened the show with a big monologue that introduced the characters and reminded the audience of what happened in High School Musical 1. I said my first line then I froze and couldn’t remember what came next, and I could feel the MD and all of the band vamping and leaning towards me, willing me to pick it up… I stumbled for a bit but eventually got back on track, but my stomach dropped and didn’t return to normal until the interval.
What are your thoughts on theatre etiquette? What things annoy you when you are performing or when you are in the audience?
Whether I’m in the audience or on stage, I think of the theatre as a bit of a sacred place because it’s an escape from everyday life. So it does wind me up when people break that with phones and cameras and other distractions. If there’s an announcement made at the beginning of a show and someone makes a deliberate choice to break the rules they’re being unfair to those around them who are trying to escape and enjoy the show. It’s not that I have an issue with them taking pictures or their phones going off, it’s about causing the distraction to other members of the audience, who have paid to enjoy the show.
Apart from acting, what is your biggest vice?
I’m a big netflix fan… Orange is the New Black, Once Upon a Time, Breaking Bad, Scream, Jane the Virgin… the list goes on… And I love custard creams.
We are living in a time where films are often being turned into stage plays and musicals. If you had to choose one, what film would you like to see adapted to the stage?
That’s easy…Hocus Pocus, and I question every day why is hasn’t happened already!
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what theatre role would you love to have a go at playing?
Definitely more difficult, I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years. It’s a battle between Mary Poppins, Mama Rose and Maria Von Trapp… something maternal about all of them… No, wait. The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. I love her son ‘Moment in the woods’ when she learns to appreciate what she has.
If you won the lottery and could stage one theatre show of your choice, what would you choose and who would be your dream cast?
Follies. Definitely Follies. I’d have Bonnie Langford as Sally and Bette Midler as Phyllis. With Liza Minelli playing Carlotta singing “I’m Still Here”! And it’d be huge… Sondheim and Showgirls… what’s not to love?!
Why do you think people should come and see JOHN & JEN at the Union Theatre?
It’s a chance to experience an intimate little two-hander show that is rarely performed and to see it in the brand new space at the Union Theatre. The show has only been in London a handful of times and never for a big run, so it’s a rare chance to see it. We ran in Liverpool for a week in May to great response and now we can’t wait to share this stunning show with London!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
JOHN & JEN plays at The Union Theatre 12-17 September 2016