Go Go Go Joseph...
Last night was one of those rare moments when a brand-new star was born in the West End: Jac Yarrow. Even the missing 'k' to his first name is distinctive. As I wrote in my review here, the 21-year-old newcomer is "the stand-out star in the title role."
His proud mother and sister were sitting right behind me at the London Palladium, and were both in tears when I glanced over my shoulder as he received a spontaneous standing ovation mid-show after he sang "Close Every Door". They'd been to see two earlier previews, and this was the first time that had happened, they told me in the interval.
I felt like a proud parent myself: to declare an interest, I taught him on the first day of his first year at Arts Educational Schools in Chiswick, west London, where I give classes on musical theatre history. I like to quip that I teach them that there were musicals before Wicked and The Book of Mormon - shows in which many of them will, of course, end up.
The current Elder Price in the London production of Mormon is a former student, Dom Simpson, who graduated three years ago. Within four days of his graduation ceremony, he was on a plane to New York to become the alternate (cover) Elder Prince in the original Broadway production. The first time he actually went on in the role was for the second act, when the actor playing the role fell ill. So it proved how vital his presence was. He subsequently performed during holiday weeks for the lead, when I was able to see him myself. A year ago, he returned to London to officially take over the role here.
Yarrow's rise is still more astonishing: he has only just completed his training, and won't actually formally graduate until September. He was spotted for this role when he starred as Jack Kelly in the UK premiere of Disney's Newsies, his final student show at the school in February.
And now in a marvellous moment of payback, in every sense, Joseph's producer Michael Harrison is funding a scholarship in Jac Yarrow's name to cover the fees and living expenses for one student to attend the school. "It seems fitting that we got Jac from there, and through him, we’ll help someone else," Harrison told the Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye.
The first recipient will be Ben Culleton, who hails from a village in Leicestershire. I look forward to welcoming him to my classes in September, when the next term begins.
This Joseph is all go, go, go - and although its only here at the London Palladium for a limited season, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it returning as a summer staple in future years.Read more
I'm always moved by stories of actors who live lives as big offstage as the ones they play onstage: where they're untamed in every sense. The passing of Rip Torn, a New York stage and screen star (he was just brilliant as a TV producer of a fictitious talk-show The Larry Sanders Show in the 90s), this week at the age of 88 was an opportunity to revisit some of the stories that surrounded him.
Back in 1968, for instance, when he was starring in Maidstone, an underground film written, directed by and also co-starring Norman Mailer, the two of them got into a fight as the cameras were rolling: as the New York Times told it in his obituary: "In a decidedly unscripted moment, and for reasons that have never been made precisely clear, Mr. Torn struck Mailer with a hammer on camera; Mailer responded by attacking Mr. Torn and biting his ear. The fight became the centerpiece of the film."
The gap between life and art - and how the two made each other - has never been closer.
In Michael Riedel's column in the New York Post, he pays tribute to Torn by speaking to Elizabeth Ashley, another actor with her own troubled history, who puts it brilliantly: "Great actors keep the cauldron burning inside themselves. But Rip wore it right out front. His cauldron was always boiling over."
And she added: "I grew up with mega-macho guys. They were hard drinking, and they were filthy-mouthed. But it was a front for their insecurities... They are shattered glass. And that’s what Rip was - broken crystal, and that’s why he could give performances that broke your fucking heart."