The UK musical theatre industry has produced many stars over the years, from such legendary performers as Michael Ball, Elaine Paige, Lea Salonga and Michael Crawford, to current stage stars such as Ramin Karimloo, Kerry Ellis, Louise Dearman and John Owen-Jones. There are many more of course, and even as we speak, the next generation of stars is being cultivated as other talented actors/actresses continue to rise through the ranks, making their way ever nearer to the top. In Profile is all about recognising rising talent, and since it began, has shone a spotlight on dozens of musical theatre performers; for this edition, the spotlight falls on Matt Harrop.
Born and raised in Southport, Merseyside, Matt Harrop is a graduate of the renowned Guildford School of Acting (GSA). One of the leading UK drama schools, the GSA has had a hand in the careers of many West End stars, including that of the previously mentioned Michael Ball. Other alumni of the school include Willemnijn Verkaik, Daniel Boys, Caroline Sheen, Dianne Pilkington, and many more. Harrop was involved in numerous productions while training at GSA, playing such roles as Bobby in Company, Mark in A Chorus Line, Prince in Into The Woods, Gabby in Follow The Star, Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Fletcher in Strike Up The Band, Leontes in A Winter’s Tale and Danforth in The Crucible.
He graduated from the Guildford School of Acting in 1998 and came to London to pursue a career on the stage. He got his first big break the following year, making his professional début in the West End production of Les Miserables as part of the show’s ensemble. He joined the 1999 company of Cameron Mackintosh’s smash hit musical, which was then playing at the Palace Theatre, playing the ensemble role of Claquesous and as 2nd Cover Thernadier. In his second year in the company, he was given the added responsibility of 2nd Cover Bamatabois and 2nd Cover Bishop too.
He left Les Miserables in March 2001 and was next seen in the National Tour of Sunset Boulevard, playing 1st Finance Man and covering the role of Manfred in a cast which also featured Ramin Karimloo as Artie Green. He then renewed his relationship with Les Miserables to play Bamatabois in the Scandinavian Tour, before heading back to the West End to once again appear in the West End production, this time at the Queen’s Theatre and in the role of Grantaire. He was also 1st Cover Bamatabois and Bishop while reprising his 2nd Cover Thernadier position, and during that time, was part of the 21st Birthday Concert which aired on BBC Radio 2.
His final Les Miserables performance was on 25th June 2005, after which he took to the road again in the national touring company of My Fair Lady. He was understudy to the roles of Harry and Zoltan Karpathy, performing alongside such names as Amy Nuttall, Lisa O’Hare, Gareth Hale and Honor Blackman during the show’s run from 28th September 2005 to 12th August 2006. Following that, he appeared in a production of the 1983 musical, Blondel, which had a limited five-week run at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington. The revival was the first professional performance of the show in over two decades and starred Chris Grierson in the title role, with Harrop in the role of Prince John.
He then returned to touring after being cast in the National Tour of The Rocky Horror Show. He joined the show as part of a cast change following its Christmas season at the then-named Comedy Theatre (not the Harold Pinter Theatre) in London, playing the principal role of Riff Raff alongside Richard Meek as Brad, Sarah Boulton as Janet, Claire Parrish as The Usherette/Magenta, Sarah French-Ellis as Columbia and Sergio Priftis as Rocky.
His theatre credits following The Rocky Horror Show include playing the title role in a workshop of Moonshadow, Old Berger in Hair at the English Theatre in Frankfurt, Germany, King Rat in Dick Whittington at the Cochrane Theatre and Mr Sowerberry in the Louder Than Words’ production of Oliver! in Cyprus. He then appeared as Owen O’Maliey in the first London revival of On The Twentieth Century at the Union Theatre, which featured a cast of just eleven and starred Howard Samuels as Oscar and Rebecca Vere as Lily, running there from 14th December 2010 to 15th January 2011.
His next stage role came in the UK Tour of Olivier! He joined the show’s ensemble team and was also the understudy for the principal role of Fagin, shared by Neil Morrissey and Brian Conley. Samantha Barks also starred as Nancy in the tour production, departing early after she was cast as Eponine in the film adaption of Les Miserables.
Harrop spent seventeen months in the touring company of Oliver! He then made a quick stop back in London to perform in the European première of Bare at the Union Theatre, playing the role of the Priest, before hitting the road again in the 2014 UK Tour of Betty Blue Eyes. He played Mr Allerdyce in the 21-strong cast, which starred Haydn Oakley as Gilbert Chilvers and Amy Booth-Steel as Joyce Chilvers. They opened the tour at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester on 19th March 2014 and embarked on a five-month tour across the country that visited venues in Ipswich, Salisbury, Norwich, Oxford, West Yorkshire, and ended in Liverpool on 2nd August 2014.
His other theatre credits include playing Fernando in the studio recording of The Postman and the Poet (Abbey Road Studios), Uncle Karl in an adaption of The Trial, Anyone Can Whistle in Concert (Savoy Theatre), A Handful of Keys (Prince Edward Theatre), Cora’s Boy and a cabaret with Nathan Taylor (Pheasantry).
He was most recently seen in Paul Kerryson’s new production of the classic musical, The Sound of Music, which ran at the Leicester Curve over the 2014 Christmas period. He starred opposite Mark Inscoe (Captain von Trapp), Laura Pitt-Pulford (Maria) and Emma Clifford (Baroness Elsa Schraeder) playing the principal role of Max Detweiler in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical from 28th November 2014 to 17th January 2015.
Harrop is a talented musical theatre performer with years of stage experience behind him and a wide-open road of opportunities before him. He has previously referred to his time in the National Tour of The Rocky Horror Show as the best job of his career to date, but his career is far from its end, and who knows what is waiting for him in the future…
You can follow Matt on Twitter: @mattharrop
You can also follow him on his YouTube channel: Matt Acta
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 4th April 2015