The West End may be the hub of the UK theatre industry, but fringe theatre in the surrounding London area also produces many stage gems. Travel further afield, and there are more to be found too. Chichester Festival Theatre, for example, has seen a number of its productions transfer into the West End due to popular demand, and there are venues all across the country playing host to touring shows. There is one stage gem to be found in the East Midlands right now, as Legally Blonde The Musical entertains audiences at Kilworth House in rural Leicester. Amidst the cast is another type of gem that goes by the name of James Cohen. A talented performer who has graced the West End and many other stages in the UK during the course of his career, In Profile recognises his worth and is putting him on display as the featured performer for this edition of the series.
Cohen, who has a wealth of performing experience under his belt, trained at the renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School, which has seen many notable musical theatre stars pass through its doors over the years; Denise Van Outen, Simon Lipkin, Frances Ruffelle and Jenna Russell are just a few Sylvia Young alumni who have gone on to have successful careers on the stage.
He toured in a variety of stage shows in those early years of his career, including as a singer in the UK Tour of Dreamboys and as Quentin/Robert in the UK Tour of The eXtra Factor, where he also covered the roles of Cal, Jamie and Ricky. He then spent some time as a singer aboard the P&O cruise ship, Arcadia, before returning to London to perform in several shows at the Arts Theatre, first as Sister Fonteyn in Nunsense-A-Men, and then as The Naked Maid/Perky Porn Star in Naked Boys Singing! He also appeared at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, playing Jake Moore in new musical Studio 54.
The following year, he appeared in his first major West End musical after being cast in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre. He appeared in an ensemble role and was also 1st Cover Frank, as well as representing the show alongside other cast members at the MADTrust charity event, West End Eurovision. He was part of the final West End company of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and was there for the show’s closing performance on 31st December 2011.
His other theatre credits include playing Tootles in Peter Pan The Musical (Cambridge Theatre), Pistol’s Page in the RSC’s Henry VI Part II (Barbican Theatre), Friedrich von Trapp in The Sound of Music (New Victoria Theatre, Woking), an ensemble role in Robin: Prince of Sherwood (Piccadilly Theatre), Max in Adore – The Musical and appearing as a singer in Encore (Trinity Arts Theatre). He has also performed in various pantomime productions over the years, including playing the title role in Aladdin twice (Carriageworks, Leeds and Bridlington Spa Theatre), Colin Goose in Mother Goose (Palace Theatre, Redditch) and Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (Palace Theatre, Newark).
He has been involved in a number of off-stage performance-based projects throughout the course of his career too. He has had TV cameos in shows such as EastEnders, was seen in the final of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Over The Rainbow as the Scarecrow, and has also been heard on BBC Radio (The Snow Queen, War and Peace, Wuthering Heights, Waiting for Aliens, The Cinderella Service and Mr Finchley Goes To Paris). In a TBT moment, he was also once a member of a boy band. Skandal performed on various TV and radio shows and even supported 5ive on their UK arena tours.
He returned to Priscilla: Queen of the Desert in 2013. He jumped on-board the bus as it set off on a UK Tour, opening at the Manchester Opera House on 9th February 2013 with Jason Donovan starring in the role of Tick/Mitzi alongside Richard Grieve as Bernadette and Graham Weaver as Adam/Felicia. He once again appeared as part of the production’s ensemble team, but was also 2nd Cover Bob and 1st Cover Frank.
His time on the road came to an end in April 2014, but he has been keeping busy since then, briefly revisiting Priscilla to represent the show at West End Live in June 2014. He regularly works as a male model and can often be found posing in his underwear, and also dances with The Va Va Voom Boys…often in his underwear. The group are backing dancers for drag artist La Voix, who was a semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent 2014, and have performed at numerous events with her throughout 2014/15, including Pride festivals across the UK.
He is currently appearing in Legally Blonde The Musical at Kilworth House, Leicester, playing the role of UPS guy Kyle. The production opened there on 20th August 2015 and continues to run until 20th September 2015. He plays opposite Jodie Jacobs as Paulette, in a cast which also stars Jennifer Harding as Elle Woods, Greg Miller Burns as Emmett, Luke Newton as Warner Huntington III and Graham Vick as Professor Callahan.
Actor, singer, dancer, model and sometime fitness instructor, James Cohen is a man of many talents. He is a wonderful performer who lights up any stage and continues to move onwards and upwards in his career.
You can follow James on Twitter: @MrJamesCohen
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Saturday 5th September 2015