The world of musical theatre is a competitive one, filled with hopeful performers all dreaming of making it on the stage. There is a vast pool of talent out there, but many never achieve a successful career in the industry simply because it is so competitive. Those who do therefore, have to be something very special indeed. Here in the UK, we are fortunate to have such names as John Owen-Jones, Louise Dearman, Kerry Ellis, Michael Xavier and so many more performing on our stages, but its not just about the high profile stars as a whole new generation of stage stars are working their way up through the ranks, in the ensemble and as swings and understudies. Kieran Brown, Ceili O’Connor, Scott Garnham, Lisa-Anne Wood, Shaun Dalton…these are just a tiny percentage of the up-and-coming talent we have currently working in the industry. They surely have big things ahead of them, as does Chris Jenkins, another star in the making who is the subject of this edition of In Profile.
Chris Jenkins is a talented young actor from Penarth, South Wales who received his professional stage training at the prestigious Guildford School of Acting. Joining a list of fellow GSA alumni that includes Michael Ball, Caroline Sheen, Willemijn Verkaik and Daniel Boys, he graduated in 2009 with a BA Hons in Musical Theatre.
Having previously appeared at the Wales Millennium Centre as Prince Tarrogan in Tickledom: An Enchanting Family Musical and in the chorus of Chess In Concert (Royal Albert Hall), his first onstage performance after drama school was as Demetrius in a touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Wales, for which he was also the fight director (he trained to an advanced level* of stage combat with Kevin McCurdy while at GSA). This was closely followed by a return to the Wales Millennium Centre in the role of Bobby Duval, which he originated in the all-new big band musical Come Fly With Me. That same year, he also played Callum King in the Perfect Pitch production of original musical Super Alice Smith at Trafalgar Studios, and appeared at the Liverpool Empire Theatre over the Christmas season in Peter Pan, playing Cecco/Medicine Man and covering the role of Smee in a cast which also featured Les Dennis and Henry Winkler.
He spent 2010 in much the same vein as he continued to expand his list of stage credits with a wide variety of theatrical roles. The first new role he secured in that year was that of a Samurai Warrior in Verdi’s Aida after joining the company of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. He was also involved in other productions for the ROH, playing Guard/Ship Builder in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and as the assistant fight captain for Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Further credits included a workshop of The Devil’s Advocate as John Milton/Devil (Upstairs at The Gatehouse), playing Adraste in The Sicilian (Tour), Harry in Journey Through Jazz and appearing as a singer in The Beatles Philharmonic Tribute: 50th Anniversary Concert (Royal Albert Hall). He rounded off the year with the role of Larry Foreman in the 10th anniversary production of The Cradle Will Rock at the Arcola Theatre, which incidentally, was the last production to be staged at the Arcola Street location before moving to its current home on Ashwin Street.
After playing the role of Jamie Wellerstein in Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years (Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury), he achieved his ambition to perform in a West End show when he was cast in the original London company of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Gielgud Theatre), a stage adaption of the 1964 French musical film by Jacques Remy. He made his professional début there as a Swing, covering the roles of Guy/Cassard, but his time in the West End was cut short after the show’s run ended early and it closed on 21st May 2011 instead of the original October date. This didn’t hold him back though. He subsequently secured another Swing position in the Barbican and UK touring production of award-winning musical South Pacific, for which he was also the assistant dance captain. He stayed with the show through to 2012 before returning to the West End in Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre. He performed with the ensemble team while additionally understudying the principal roles of Galahad/Bedevere/Lancelot in a top-rate cast, which featured some celebrity guest performances from the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Barbara Windsor, Simon Callow, Christopher Biggins and Michael Palin in 2013, who each appeared as God for a week in aid of charity.
He spent just under eighteen months in the Spamalot cast, which he still regards as one of his most favourite jobs to date. He played his final performance in the musical’s closing show on 12th April 2014, and exactly one month later, played his first performance in the newly-apdated cast of Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre. Marking his third appearance in a West End musical, he joined the ensemble and was also 1st Cover Tony, playing the principal role on numerous occasions during his year with the production, including on his last day (16th May 2014).
Since leaving Billy Elliot, he has been involved in a number of theatrical projects, including taking part in the workshop presentation of new musical, The Happy Prince, and filming fight scenes for Singin’ in the Rain in Russia. Where he goes next remains to be seen.
Chris Jenkins has accrued an impressive list of theatre credits in the six years since he completed his training at the Guildford School of Acting. He’s played opposite some high profile names, travelled around the UK in acclaimed musical productions and performed to audiences on a West End stage – and he’s still in the relatively early stages of his career. An immensely promising talent, this is one name people would do well to remember: I have a feeling we’ll be hearing it often in the years to come.
*Stage combat qualifications include:
BADC Advanced (Gold: Broadsword, Smallsword, Unarmed, Quarterstaff, Rapier and Gauntlet) Advanced Specialist Weapons: Unarmed (Gold), Knife (Gold) ,Smallsword (Distinction), Broadsword (High Gold). British Fencing Association Grade 2 Foil.
Other weapon systems studied:
Spear, Broadsword and Shield, Wing Chun, Kendo, Bullwhip, Case of Rapiers, Handgun.
You can follow Chris on Twitter: @chrisjenko
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 15th August 2015