After making its UK première at the St James Theatre earlier this year, the award-winning musical Urinetown is following the success of its sold-out run there by making the move to the ‘Big Time’. The production transfers into the West End at the end of the month, opening at the Apollo Theatre on 29th September. Unlikely though it may at first seem, this satirical musical set in a fictional future where droughts have led to the banning of private toilets was a hit when it first appeared on Broadway in 2001 and went on to win three Tony Awards. Now it’s coming to the West End, and theatre-goers here couldn’t be happier about that. Excepting the notable cast change of Matthew Seadon Young taking over the lead role of Bobby Strong, most of the show’s original company are coming with it too, including ensemble member Jeff Nicholson. It’s been a while since this highly skilled performer was seen on a West End stage, so his return here as part of the Urinetown team is being celebrated by featuring him as the chosen ensemble member for this week’s edition of In Profile.
Jeff Nicholson is a man that’s hard to miss; not just because he’s rather tall, but also because he is an exceptional talent. He grew up in Watford, Hertfordshire and started performing at a young age, joining a local dramatic company and appearing in a great number of shows at the Palace Theatre, Watford. He achieved a BTEC in Performing Arts at West Herts College and was subsequently accepted into the London -based Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, where he continued to hone his craft. The renowned performing arts school has produced a wealth of successful alumnus over the years, with such stage stars as Julie Atherton, Connie Fisher, Oliver Thornton and Leanne Jones all being former Mountview students. He appeared in many productions while training there, including playing Sir Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goes, Jack in Vinegar Tom, Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Greg in A Chorus Line, Billy Bigelow in Carousel and featuring as a principal performer in Elegies.
In 2005 however, he graduated from Mountview with a BA (Hons) in Performance (Musical Theatre) and stepped into the professional world of theatre. In that same stride, he entered the West End after being cast in one of the biggest shows in town: He made his professional and West End début at the Queen’s Theatre, having won a place in the ensemble of classic musical Les Miserables. He spent two years as a member of the company, playing Grantaire and also appearing as Prisoner 2/Factory Foreman. Additionally, he was 1st Cover for the principal role of Javert.
Nicholson remained in London for his next stage role following his departure from Les Miserables. He moved down-town to Clapham’s Landor Theatre for the production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins which was being staged there between 23rd January and 2nd February 2008. He played the role of Charles Guiteau, the American lawyer who assassinated President Garfield in 1881 after being denied the position of Ambassador to France, and was singled out in most reviews for his praiseworthy performance. That same year, he returned to his home town for the Christmas period, also returning to the Palace Theatre where he had previously performed as a youth in such roles as Winthrop in The Music Man. He played Alderman Fitzwarren/King Neptune in the panto production of Dick Whittington, which also starred his wife, Alice Jackson. The actress and dancer played a Londoner, an octopus, and in an added twist, King Neptune’s daughter, Persil.
In 2009, he re-joined the West End production of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre. Once more performing in an ensemble capacity, he played Factory Foreman/Brujon and was 1st Cover Grantaire, as well as covering and playing Inspector Javert again, to great acclaim. He remained in the company until 2011, and during that time, also had an involvement with the concert production of the show which took place at the O2 Arena in October 2010 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. He appeared onstage as the Factory Foreman during the performance, which starred Alfie Boe, Lea Salonga, Norm Lewis, Matt Lucas, Katie Hall, Ramin Karimloo, Samantha Barks and Nick Jonas.
He previously featured on the BBC’s concert recording of Les Miserables for its 20th anniversary, and was still a cast member when it celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Queen’s Theatre with the original London company in their entirety for a special finale after that night’s performance.
Nicholson’s special relationship with the show continued when it transferred to the big screen. He was asked to work alongside Tom Hooper and Cameron Macintosh in helping develop the score for the film adaption, and also had a cameo in the film during the ‘Master of the House’ scene. He was subsequently invited to be one of five Brit performers included in representing the film cast at the Oscars ceremony in 2013,singing in the chorus for a Les Miserables medley led by stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Russell Crowe, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.
Nicholson’s other stage credits include playing Dude in Dude, Where’s My Teddy Bear? (Wimbledon Theatre), Nick in Fame (James Theatre, Watford) and Principal Singer in Showstoppers (Tour). He can be heard on a number of musical recordings, such as the workshop performance of original musical The Golden Fleece, and also features on various film soundtracks, including Mamma Mia, Sweeney Todd, Angels and Demons, Hell Boy 2, Pirates of the Caribbean and 10000 BC. He regularly performs live in musical theatre cabarets and concerts, such as the live showcase event, Scrapbook Live, for songwriters Verity Quade and Rob Archibald at the Leicester Square Theatre. It was at one such event that I first saw him perform. He appeared in the line-up of Direct From the West End, the touring concert which was created by then-Les Miserables cast members Scott Garnham and Martin Neely and played at several venues during 2011. He appeared alongside the likes of Gina Beck, Killian Donnelly, Jessie May, Antony Hanson and Samantha Barks, singing musical numbers from such shows as Chess, West Side Story, Joseph and Guys and Dolls. I recall that he particularly impressed in his The Phantom of the Opera performances, first duetting with the equally delightful Gina Beck on the title song and then with his solo rendition of ‘Music of the Night’. If ever he lands the role of The Phantom in the West End production, audiences are in for a treat.
Other achievements include his teaching efforts at various theatrical schools and companies, including Pineapple Dance Studios. He is a regular teacher of Drama at Shine On Stage, a performing arts school for children and young adults which was founded in 2008 by his wife, Alice Jackson, and has bases in Stroud and Watford.
Nicholson was last seen at the St James Theatre when he appeared in the UK première of the musical Urinetown, and is soon to be seen again when he transfers with the production for its West End début He plays Tiny Tom/Dr. Billeaux in his ensemble role.
A husband and father, and a successful actor/singer, the 32-year old Hertfordshire boy has certainly made good, and now he is returning to the West End in one of this year’s most popular and eagerly anticipated shows. Jeff Nicholson is one of the most promising up-and-coming stage stars around right now and has more than enough talent to become a West End leading man. Here’s hoping audiences get to see that happen.
You can follow Jeff on Twitter: @Jeffjeffdejeff
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Booking From: 29th September 2014
Booking Until: 24th January 2015
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.45pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 3.00pm
Saturday 14th September 2014