The West End stage production of Singin’ in the Rain opened in Melbourne in May ahead of an Australian tour later this year. We caught up with star Jack Chambers to chat about when he first started performing, tackling this iconic show and any onstage mishaps that have happened with 12, 000 litres of rain onstage!
Jack was Australia’s first So You Think You Can Dance winner in 2008, but his career in musical theatre started long before that. He’s had a career that has spanned disciplines and countries – working in New York City as a choreographer, teacher and performer, starring as Link Larkin in Hairspray the Musical touring Australia and touring with Burn The Floor across Asia and on the West End. Jack is currently starring as Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain.
When did you first know you wanted to be a performer?
I don’t even remember! I think it’s just always been. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been performing. I’ve even watched videos of me dancing when I was in a nappy with my two older sisters. I just think it was always meant to be for me. I don’t ever remember making a decision; I’ve just always wanted to do it.
When did you first discover Singin in the Rain? Did you watch the movie growing up?
I definitely did! I couldn’t tell you what age. I just know that I’d seen the movie numerous times. The first musical I ever performed in as a kid was Singin’ in the Rain and it was an amateur theatre production in Brisbane. It was in 1999 and I played Young Cosmo Brown. That was my first time being on stage in a musical and ever since then I never looked back; musical theatre was definitely the area I wanted to pursue.
Has it ever been hard as a dancer in the public eye to cross over into leading roles?
I didn’t find it hard to cross over for me because it was something I was comfortable doing, but in terms of changing the public eye, a lot of people thought I was just trying to cross over to musicals after SYTYCD. So I felt a little bit of pressure to try and prove myself and prove that I deserved to be on the stage doing what I was doing.
You’ve had an extensive career both in Australia and internationally in both performing, choreographing and training others. What has been a career highlight for you?
That’s a difficult question! I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve done. That’s also because everything I’ve done has been so different. One highlight is when I was living in New York I did a performance in Washington DC at the Kennedy Centre, it was called the Spring Gala, and I was part of a Broadway ensemble. We performed the opening number and then out came Liza Minnelli who hosted the event, so that was pretty iconic for me. Performing with Burn the Floor on the West End, I did that for 6 months, that was a great highlight. Hairspray was a joy. And most recently, I took a show I co-created many years ago for a short season off-Broadway in New York, so that was a big highlight. There have just been so many things that I’ve really enjoyed.
What differences do you see in the arts industry here and overseas? And what is your hope for the future of Australian musical theatre industry?
I don’t see a great big difference, to be honest. The only difference is how frequent auditions are and the opportunities are. When I was living in New York there were sometimes a couple of auditions a week, and there’s a lot more people. That’s probably the only difference. Also, the mentality of the people living there, Americans are very good at talking about themselves and selling themselves, which is quite a good skill to have for this industry.
I think the few differences are because musical theatre is more supported over there. It’s great over here that in Melbourne we have 3 shows going on at the same time, and that’s not a regular thing here. But obviously in New York or London to have just 3 shows on at a time would be a travesty. I’d love Australia to one day have its own ‘Broadway’ in a way. Hopefully we can get there!
What’s your favourite moment in the show to perform or watch?
There are a few favourites but I’ll chose one! ‘Moses Supposes’. I have a lot of fun doing that every single night. I try not to laugh myself sometimes. It’s almost criminal how much fun we have on stage.
Any funny stories from rehearsal or onstage mishaps?
In my big number ‘Make Em Laugh’, there are numerous opportunities for something to go wrong because it’s just a whole lot of choreographed accidents. I do a gag with my suitcase where it stays stationary whilst I’m walking, but one time I dropped it and I tripped on it and fell on my back. It’s not crazily funny, but it’s a mishap! That’s just one of the things. Another time I put my foot into a bucket and it’s meant to get stuck, but one time it actually came off. Just little mishaps like that.
Any other classic shows on your bucket list?
It’s really interesting, people have always asked what’s my dream role, and I don’t know! Singin’ in the Rain is a big favourite of mine, but I’ve never really created a list that I aim for. I just aim to be a part of a show that’s challenging and joyful to work on. And so far throughout my career that’s worked out for me. And in terms of timing, I’ve often been at the right place at the right time to be part of those experiences.
The movie is over 60 years old. What in the story still resonates with people today?
I think it’s such a joyful musical, and it’s so charming and light-hearted and it’s very well written. It’s a funny show! Especially for this generation and today, it’s interesting to go back and see a story that’s based on the silent movie era and the transition into talkies, I think that transition itself is interesting if you haven’t really thought about it. And the way it’s told is incredibly funny and the music is infectious, it’s beautifully written and some awesome dancing. It’s a show that’s just completely entertaining. You don’t have to delve into a really deep story line, you just need to show up and expect to have a smile put on your face.
Singin’ in the Rain closes in Melbourne on July 2 and opens in Sydney at the Lyric Theatre on July 7. Check out all the tour dates and book your tickets at www.singin.com.au.