The Chichester Festival’s musical of Sweeney Todd arrived in the West End in March 2012. A West End move is always an exciting time for a show’s cast, but not always for the reasons you might think of: when the transfer was confirmed, one of the first thoughts of the cast was that they would be able to take part in West End Eurovision. 2012 marks the fifth anniversary of the popular MADTrust event and the West End Eurovision debut of Sweeney Todd who, as well as winning Best Creative Entry, were voted by the judges and audience collectively as the 2012 West End Eurovision champions – quite an achievement for their first outing. The surprise appearance of the show’s stars, Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, had the audience on their feet, but the performance from ‘mini-Michael’ Matthew Gent was a spotlight-stealing one, which is why he is the ensemble member featured in this week’s In Profile.
Gent led the Sweeney cast in their performance of the UK’s 1992 Eurovision entry ‘One Step Out of Time’ (which placed second in the competition) in an inspired homage to Ball, who represented us that year. Gent had Ball down to a tea, from every action and facial expression – until Ball sneaked up from behind to slit his throat and take back his mic, of course…
Gent is a 2008 graduate of the Mountview Academy Of Theatre Arts. That same year, he joined the ranks of students on the Les Miserables barricades at the Queen’s Theatre as Feuilly, also covering the principal role of Marius. From there, he moved on to the second of the West End’s biggest hitters, The Phantom of the Opera, performing in the ensemble as well as understudying the leading role of Raoul. His other theatre credits include the roles of Michael in Christopher Lane’s European premiere of Bright lights, big city (Hoxton Hall), Tom/cover John in the acclaimed production The Hired Man (Landor Theatre). He also participated in the 25th Anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 and has performed with the cast of Les Miserables at the Royal Variety Performance and Classical Brits, as well as an involvement in the 25th Anniversary concert celebrations at the O2 Arena.
Gent is also a regular host of the Show Off Piano Bar, a musical theatre sing-song around the piano that is held every Friday night at Café Koha in the West End. He and Sarah Lark can often be found there with musical director Nathan Martin, hosting the evening’s events and singing themselves. I’ve been there and it is a wonderful, laid-back and intimate night that is probably about as ‘stagey’ as can be and fabulous with it.
I’m hoping that Gent’s superb display at West End Eurovision will help to bring his name to theatre fans who may not have previously been aware of it, or his considerable talent. Matthew Gent has a very bright future ahead of him – and not just as an expert air puncher! For now, he is surely having a ‘ball’ of a time in Sweeney Todd (a favourite musical of his), but when that adventure comes to an end, I think Gent is going to have many more to look forward to.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Saturday 28th April 2012