If you are a regular theatre-goer, then you will see many shows and even more performers in your time. It is the principal cast that naturally tends to command the most audience attention, but there are always those in the ensemble who manage to capture a little of the spotlight themselves. These individuals may be in the less-prominent supporting roles, but their talent shines through so brightly that you just can’t help but notice them, and these are the people who appear here in In Profile; the stars-in-the-making who are often overlooked and under-appreciated. Following that thread leads readers to the featured performer for this edition of In Profile: Jay Bryce.
Jay Bryce is a talented performer who has appeared on stage in the West End and all over the world – as well as in his home county of Cornwall, where it all began. The early years of the St Ives actor were spent developing his natural skills with the award-winning youth theatre company, Kidz R Us, and the performing arts institution, Playrite Theatre Company, later going on to continue his training at the renowned Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London. One of the UK’s leading drama schools, Mountview has built up a reputation for high-quality, effective education through the achievements of such former students as Julie Atherton, Jon Robyns, Leanne Jones and Oliver Thornton. Bryce graduated with a BA in Musical Theatre, and has worked hard in the years since to prove himself as another of the school’s success stories.
One of his earliest professional roles saw him appear at the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, performing alongside Niamh Perry, Keith Jack and Tom Soloman in the première of critically acclaimed new musical, Only the Brave. A few months previously, he was stood on the prestigious stage of the Royal Albert Hall for Chess in Concert, and can be seen with the ensemble in the televised productions, in addition to featuring on the cast recording.
He made his West End début as part of the original London cast of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, which opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 14th January 2009, following previews from 12th December 2008. Based on the 1994 staging at the London Palladium, the production starred Rowan Atkinson as Fagin and I’d Do Anything! winner, Jodie Prenger, as Nancy, with Bryce a member of the ensemble team and also understudy for the principal role of Bill Sykes, which he played on stage over 50 times during his time in the show.
Other theatre credits include Handsome Stranger in Mathilde (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Sammy in Blood Brothers (Madinat Theatre, Dubai), Understudy Curly in Oklahoma! (Broadway Theatre), and Thomas Andrews in Titanic the Musical (Shaw Theatre).
In 2010, Bryce returned to the West End to join the long-running London production of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre. He performed in the ensemble and was also 2nd Cover Javert, playing the leading role on stage on multiple occasions, to great acclaim. I saw him in the show several times – that was where he first came to my attention – and my initial opinion of him as a stand-out performer was further bolstered by his involvement in the Les Mis Gives… charity cabaret events for The Make A Difference Trust at the Delfont Room. In Les Mis Gives…Again (28th May 2011), he accompanied himself on the piano for the wonderfully amusing and passionate, ‘Ode To Cornwall’, to the tune of the nursery rhyme, ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’. He also performed with Scott Garnham, Martin Neely and Matthew Seadon Young for a barbershop quartet-style medley of pop songs such as Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’ and Leona Lewis‘ ‘Keep Bleeding’, which you can see on YouTube, in fact.
He was also involved in the 25th Anniversary concert of the musical at the 02 Arena in October 2010, appearing as Bishop’s Constable.
After 2 years in Les Miserables, he played his final performance on 16th June 2012. Since then, he has appeared in several theatre projects, including a return to the Madinat Theatre in Dubai for a production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which he played the role of brother Reuben from 29th March to 13th April in 2013. Most recently, he travelled to South Korea with the international touring company of Mamma Mia! He joined the tour production of the ABBA musical in November 2013, appearing in the ensemble and playing Father Alexander. He also understudies the leading role of potential father Harry, which he has performed on stage several times. He was with the show when it played its only 2014 UK date last summer, in a 10-week run at the Blackpool Opera House from 20th June to 31st August 2014. While in Blackpool, he was also involved in organising A Summer Night Cabaret, a fundraising event featuring performances from members of the Mamma Mia! cast in aid of Trinity Hospice.
Further credits include cast recordings for Only the Brave and Oliver!, vocals for the Les Miserables feature film, and workshop roles as Pete in Defect (Perfect Pitch) and Bert Baxter/Barry Kent in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ The Musical (Leicester Curve).
In addition to his stage work, Bryce also founded West End To Southwest in 2013, a week-long performing arts summer school for young people in the Southwest of the UK. Students get the chance to take part in song, dance and drama workshops, led by performers and teachers with professional industry experience. Former workshop tutors include Laura Bennett and Jonathan Williams (2013), and last year, he enlisted the help of director Kate Golledge (Drama tutor), composer and MD Chris Whitehead (Singing tutor) and choreographer Darragh O’Leary (Dance tutor). At the end of the week, students then display their new-found skills in a showcase performance for family and friends at St Ives Theatre in Cornwall, where the workshops are held.
He arrived back in the UK in January 2015 but won’t be here for long as, once again working with Popular Productions, he is soon to return to Dubai for a 2-week run of Annie. He will be playing Rooster Hannigan in the production of the classic Broadway musical, which opens at the Madinat Theatre on 2nd April 2015 and runs there until 17th April 2015.
Jay Bryce is a rising talent who brings a fresh breath of life to every song and performance. He contributes to the industry on and off the stage, and his love for theatre is probably only matched by his love for Cornwall. He’ll be entertaining audiences in Dubai in the coming weeks, but UK theatre fans can hope to see him back in the West End in the very near future.
You can follow Jay on Twitter: @thejaybryce
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 28th February 2015