Roxmouth reminisces about his Randburg days

Jonathan Roxmouth as Tony and Stephen Jubber as Riff in West Side Story. Photo: Jesse Kramer.

If you are South African and love theatre or musicals, you hardly need any introduction to Jonathan Roxmouth.

The Randburg-born and bred actor and singer is in Joburg to prepare for the local season of the epic musical, West Side Story. The show will run from 24 January to 5 March at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein. Roxmouth recently finished a successful season of the musical at the Artscape opera house in Cape Town.

On the eve of the Joburg premiere, he reminisced about the pivotal role Northcliff High School played in his passion for musicals. “The school had a major production every year. This is exactly why I went to Northcliff High, even though I grew up in Randburg. These plays were wonderfully produced,” said Roxmouth.

“Once a year the school also had a theatre outing to show the cast of that year’s musical just how it is done. As a schoolboy, I loved the outings to the theatre. My first musical that I went to see with Northcliff was at the Joburg Theatre while I was in my first production, Annie. For my school to now come and see me in that very same theatre so many years later makes me quite emotional.

“I grew up doing the Randburg Eisteddfod, and I am proud to say that I hold a few diplomas in creative verse, light music/jazz and, if I recall correctly, male vocal U17. I actually still have those certificates.” He added with a laugh that he perhaps prizes them a little more than some other awards he has won.

He said he was busy with rehearsals and was in the process of getting under the skin of Tony, his character in West Side Story. “Initially I was a bit nervous because of the great hype that surrounded the recent Cape Town production. It was daunting, but the first two days in rehearsal in Joburg allayed my fears.”

Joburg audiences are also in for an added bonus. The Joburg Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing. “To have a full orchestra in the pit for a musical in South African 2017 is pretty spectacular,” said Roxmouth.

Does he identify with Tony, the character he plays? “I certainly do, but I am not your typical Tony. He is usually played by a very slight guy. I am tall and built a bit like a rugby player. You can actually say, yes this guy could have been in a gang.”

Roxmouth is often referred to as South African musical theatre’s hottest property. How does that feel? “It is a bit cringy for me because, in a sense, it sort of sets you up to fail. I am, of course, grateful and honoured for that, but I remind myself that one of the biggest dangers in our business is hyperbole. Everybody is ama-a-a-a-azing! I’m scared of that sort of thing. I would rather say that I am employed, which in our business is amazing in itself because there is always someone who looks better, who is thinner and who has a better B-flat than you.”

 

Who is Jonathan Roxmouth?

• He is a multi-award-winning actor and singer. The awards include many Naledi and Fleur du Cap best performance awards

• He made his professional debut in 2006 in the Barnyard Theatre’s production of Grease, followed by Rock Me, Amadeus and The Buddy Holly Story

• He played Lun Tha in The King and I, Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar, Noël Coward in Noël and Gertie, and the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of The Opera

• His recent performances include Benjamin Barker in Sweeney Todd, Marvin Hamlisch in I’m Playing Your Song, the Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Tony in West Side Story in Cape Town

• He recently released his new musical theatre album, From the Footlights.

Jonathan Roxmouth as Tony in West Side Story. Photo: Jesse Kramer.

Jonathan Roxmouth as Tony in West Side Story. Photo: Jesse Kramer.

  AUTHOR
Ingrid Pepler

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