Elvis is back in the building

THREE years might seem a long time to wait for a chance to wear an old coat but that is how long it has taken Keith Jack to grow into Joseph's vintage rainbow number.

It was 2007 when Jack came second, a close second admittedly, to Lea Mead in BBC's Any Dream Will Do for the chance to play the part in the West End run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat .

Despite the setback  that particular dream never went away though. Keith, now 22, was The Narrator in the touring version of the show at the end of 2007 and last month finally took over the multi-coloured coat from fellow ADWD contestant Craig Chalmers.

It had been a three year run for Chalmers who must have had a mix of relief and regret when he handed on the robe at Fairfield Halls Croydon.

After a tour along the South Cast at Bournemouth and Plymouth Joseph, and Jack, arrives at Birmingham Hippodrome on August 24 for a three week run.

For Jack it is living the dream that started when starred in his first role at infant school in Dalkeith, Midlothian when he was about seven.


“I had to be Elvis and sing ‘The Girls My Best Friend'. A wee Elvis in a wee leather jacket. Very funny when you look back at the videos. I asked my dad to keep them hidden and I think he does.”

The seed had been sown though and although there was no defining moment Jack's course towards the stage had been set.

He said: “It just grew over the years. As the years went on and I got older I knew I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be on TV and things like that. It just grew and grew. It never just popped in me one day. I think I always knew I wanted to be on stage and be a performer. My obsession just grew as I got older and I did eventually think maybe I could actually go and do this.”

The first show he can remember seeing as a youngster was a touring version of Les Miserables in Edinburgh.

“Phantom was the first show I can remember seeing and my mother used to take me to shows at the Edinburgh Festival. I loved singing as well and being on stage doing school plays and stuff like that.”

When ADWD came around Jack, then 19, was working in a supermarket, and taking a HNC in Musical Theatre at Telford College in Edinburgh. Raw and untrained he appeared on TV singing in the first show Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love . 

"I wanted to go to theatre school and everything and go down to London and audition for places and if I could afford it that would have been a different story."

His CV consisted of some singing competitions and amateur parts in high school in shows such as Blood Brothers and Les Miserables.One singing competition he won by the way was the Chicago Rock Café Rock Idol final held in Redditch in 2006.

Shows like ADWD are the Marmite of the entertainment industry. People either love them or hate them. The format is popular TV with the likes of Britain's Got Talent, The X-factor while it seems to have become part of the marketing process for musicals revived by  Andrew Lloyd Weber.

The arguments are simple and come down to whether instant stardom should be bestowed on those who have not served their time in a chorus or as third spear carrier with the added complaint of whether the BBC should be promoting a single show at the expense of all the other West End productions and indeed those shows on tour.

Jack can see both sides of the argument having come into the business with no training or experience and sees the talent show format as one which gives people a chance alongside those from stage schools or who have been serving their time in chorus and bit parts.

 He said: “These kid of programmes allow for both, which is great as you never know what you can find. Jodie (Prenger) who won Oliver never had any training. It gives people like us a chance.

“I wanted to go to theatre school and everything and go down to London and audition for places and if I could afford it that would have been a different story.

“You have to look at both things. When you are in the industry you realise that people frown upon it because they have worked hard for three years  and people are getting there by not doing that. You have to respect that.

“But you have to look at the way ticket sales have gone over the last few years through these shows. Anyone can go and see a show at the theatre now. Even five years ago people thought you had to be dressy going to the theatre you had to be this or that going to the theatre and it brings a younger generation in  to the theatre as well.

“Over the past five years in the West End ticket sales have been the highest they have ever been and these shows have really helped. Not only do people want to go and see Lea Mead in Joseph or Jodie in Oliver people turn round and say if I am going to see Lea why don't I go and see Les Mis and they love it and maybe they had never been to a theatre show before. I just think it brings a new generation. 

“Anyone off a TV programme helps to sell shows, that is just what happens. People who have maybe only ever seen things on TV have now seen Joseph, or Les Mis or Phantom. That is the thing. It is getting people out there to see it and talk about it and in that respect it is working.

"I have to prove I am good enough to be there and not just there because I am off a TV programme"

“In another respect though I can see why people get annoyed with it because it takes jobs away from people who have been working hard for a chance and being in the industry now I can understand that.

“I can tell that when I come into a show I have to prove that I am good enough to be there and not just there because I am off a TV programme. Hopefully I can show them I can do what I get paid for and  I can do the same as they can do. You just have that extra bit of pressure. It makes it so you can't muck up or do anything wrong or people will just say its because he's off that TV programme so I have to come out every single night and do everything exactly the same if not better than the night before.”

With a new generation of theatre goers Jack himself is one of a new generation of performers, still only 22, and what he lacked in training he makes up for with his love of musical theatre - and coming second did have its advantages.

“It allowed me to do more things and perhaps now this is my time. I went away and did a lot of different things and then came back and played Joseph.”

Jack's age was perhaps a major disadvantage in ADWD but he is now finding his feet as a seasoned performer and has a whole wish list of roles to follow Joseph.

“I would love to play Phantom in a few year's time, I would love to play Marius in Les Mis and Chris is Miss Saigon. There are a few things I would love to do - I would love them to bring back Starlight Express so I could play Rusty. There are lots I would like to do and I still have a lot of time.


“I have always loved musical theatre, Phantom, Les Mis as straight theatre - and I always loved Joseph as well as a happier show. I just think theatre is great, being on stage is fantastic, the buzz you get from an audience, knowing something might go wrong at any given second. It keeps everything alive all the time. You get a different audience, you get different reactions, different venues, new cast.

“I love the album stuff as well but I love the album tours rather than being in the studio recording them.”

From its first appearance as a 15 minute school musical in 1968 - making it 20 years older than Jack - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has evolved through many forms into one of the world's most popular musicals  - and still one much loved for school productions.

Jack said: “I  had seen it a few times a few years ago and more so just before the programme. I love it as a musical because it gives you a little bit of everything. There is laughter, there is sadness, there is fun and games, there is everything.”

And you can't get a better recommendation that that. Joseph runs at Birmingham Hippodrome from August 24 to September 12.

Roger Clarke 


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