Every performing arts school student pursuing a career in musical theatre dreams of one day standing on a West End stage. It’s a competitive industry, so landing that first West End show is a defining moment and the realisation of a dream that may have begun as far back as can be remembered for some. If an actor/actress is lucky enough to be cast in one West End musical though, how must it feel to go on to perform in multiple more? One such actor who has a long list of West End credits to his name already is the rather talented Will Barratt, who more than deserves to be recognised for his work here in In Profile.
Will Barratt has always been a musical person. Growing up in Staffordshire, he took piano and keyboard lessons as a child, training as a classical pianist and organist at the Royal Northern College of Music. He also sung in his school choir, once performing ‘The Snowman’ at the Victoria Hall in Stoke-On Trent with the BBC Philharmonic. His father, who is also a performer and does a lot of amateur work, was another influence on his choice of career. He studied English and Music at Eton College and then attended Royal Holloway, University of London, graduating in 2001 with a BA in English Literature. He had already performed in a number of amateur plays and musicals by this point, and it was now that he realised his passion for musical theatre and decided this was the direction he wanted to take. He was accepted into the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) and performed such roles as The Prince in Into The Woods and Bobby in Company while training, graduating from the renowned London-based drama school in 2005.
The musical adaption of Mel Brooks’ film, The Producers, opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in November 2004. Barratt joined the London production in 2005 to make his West End début in his first post-graduate role, appearing as Lead Tenor and also covering the roles of Leo/Carmen. He spent two years in the show, which closed in January 2007, and then moved straight onto his next West End musical. The award-winning classic, Les Miserables, was second on his list of post-RAM theatre credits. Then running at the Palace Theatre, he performed onstage there as a member of the ensemble, playing Bamatabois, and was also understudy for the principal role of Enjolras.
He left after a year in the show and was involved in several theatrical projects throughout 2008, including playing Nur Al Huda in Chiu Chin Chow (Finborough Theatre) and an ensemble role in the workshop of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies. He was then awarded a place in the cast of Carousel, performing at the Savoy Theatre in the West End and on the show’s UK Tour as Heavenly Friend/Ensemble, additionally understudying and playing the role of Mr Snow.
The West End was calling his name again, and Barratt was next seen at Her Majesty’s Theatre in ‘the brilliant original’, The Phantom of the Opera. He spent several years with the London company of the show, starting off as a member of the ensemble and 1st Cover Raoul in 2009. He was offered the leading role of Raoul in September 2010 and was performing in this new capacity for the 10,000 performance of The Phantom of the Opera, which saw composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and original Phantom Michael Ball make an on-stage appearance at the end of the night – alongside a giant Phantom-themed cake.
It was during his time with the show that I first came across him. The cast of Phantom organised a late-night cabaret at the Delfont Room in 2011 in aid of The Make A Difference Trust, an event I was involved in and attended, along with one of their rehearsal sessions. Barratt was performing in the cabaret and demonstrated his talents as a singer and a pianist, as well as premièring the original song he and fellow cast member Nadim Naaman wrote for the cabaret, ‘A Complicated Love’. It was a stunning composition that showcased their skills as songwriters, and he and Naaman were both invited to be special guest performers at the annual MADTrust Garden Party. Barratt also performed at that year’s A West End Christmas, the Christmas-themed concert held at The Actors Church in Covent Garden.
He left Phantom in 2011 and next showed up in the original cast of Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd, performing as one of the ensemble members and meeting a bloody end in the notorious barber’s chair. Starring Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, the critically acclaimed show proved so successful that it transferred to the Adelphi Theatre for a West End run in 2012. He came with the show and reprised his role in the ensemble, while also covering the principal role of Anthony.
His most recent West End appearance was in popular jukebox musical, Jersey Boys. He starred as Bob Crewe in the show, based on the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, which was then running at the Prince Edward Theatre. His final performance in the show was on 9th March 2014.
Barratt’s other theatre credits include playing Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar (RHUL), Jimmy Powers in City of Angels, Roscoe/Patrick in Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (Bloomsbury) and Danny in Baby (Edinburgh Fringe), as well as playing Lewis Lewis in the workshop of My Land’s Shore, recording the role of James Augustus Henry Murray in Defining Dr Minor. He has also performed in various concert and cabaret events, such as the launch event for Nazneen’s album, Can’t Clip My Wings (606 Club), Nadim Naaman’s cabaret (The Pheasantry) and the launch of Naaman’s album, We All Want The Same (Union Theatre). He also recorded the track ‘Jaded’ for writer/lyricist Robert Gould’s album, Words Shared With Friends.
He made a number of appearances at the Hippodrome Casino last year too, performing with several fellow West End stars in the all-male singing group, The 4Tunes. Covering a variety of material, from musical theatre classics to songs from such artists as Queen, George Michael and Stevie Wonder, its members have played the majority of leading male roles in the West End between them and have included Dominic Ridley, James A Gibbs, Matthew Gent, Michael Conway, Michael Pickering, Owain Williams. They played their first West End concert at the Hippodrome in July 2014 and have subsequently returned due to popular demand, with their next date there set for 28th February 2015. They released their début album at the beginning of 2014, which was entitled The Marylebone Sessions and featured ten tracks covering the musical genres of pop, opera and musical theatre. As part of The 4Tunes, Barratt has travelled the world as they are continuously booked for international gigs and cruise ship entertainment, regularly performing aboard such ships as the Queen Victoria, Britannia, Oceana, Aurora, Arcadia and Azura in 2015, as well as further London dates at the Hippodrome in March, May, June, October and November.
When in London, he also regularly performs on the piano at The Players Lounge.
Singer, actor, songwriter, musician, Will Barratt is a man who is gifted in so many ways, The 31-year old performer has already earned a number of accomplishments in his career, including a leading role in the musical which inspired him – Phantom. Barratt still has his goals he’s working towards though, including ambitions to play several particular roles in musical theatre, such as Jean Valjean (Les Miserables), Chris (Miss Saigon) and The Phantom (The Phantom of the Opera), He has also spoken out before on the constant learning curve that comes with working with such a rich variety of West End performers. The musical theatre road is a rocky one full of hurdles and there are many would-be stars who fall at some point in their journey, but Will Barratt has what it takes to make it all the way to the top.
You can follow Will on Twitter: @willbarratt83
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 24th January 2015