There have been several new shows opening in the West End recently which have failed to live up to expectations and ultimately exited so fast that they never had a chance to step out of the revolving door.
The musical adaption of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is not one of these however, and just last month, the Olivier Award-winning show celebrated reaching its first milestone anniversary as it hit the One Year mark. It was a slightly different cast who were there to celebrate Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’s first year in the West End though as a number of fresh faces joined the London company in May 2014. Along with Barry James (Grandpa Joe), Josefina Gabrielle (Mrs Teevee), Kirsty Malpass (Mrs Bucket) and Richard Dempsey (Mr Bucket) joining the principal line-up, the ensemble team got the benefit of some new talent in their ranks and one of its newest members was the up-and-coming Matthew Rowland, who has also been chosen as the featured ensemble member for this week’s edition of In Profile.
Matthew Rowland has only been on the professional theatre circuit since 2008, but in those few years, he has already made waves in the industry and ensured his name is one on people’s lips. He received his training at the renowned Arts Educational Schools, London, which has produced so many stars of the stage, both present and future; the performers who appeared in the last two In Profile articles were both ArtsEd alumni in fact. He performed in an assortment of productions while a student at the drama school , including Cy Coleman: If My Friends Could Hear Us Now (Soloist/Ensemble), Night Creatures (Gangster/Policeman), Citizenship (De Clerk), Faith (Brother of the Groom), Saturday Night (Bobby/Clune/Head Waiter), The Yeoman of The Guard (Wilfred), Bat Boy (Bat Boy) and The Producers (Ensemble), as well as making appearances in musical theatre-themed events such as the cabaret Christmas in New York (Ensemble) and the Jack Petchey Theatre Challenge (Solo Singer).
He graduated from ArtsEd in the summer of 2012 with a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre. Fresh out of drama school and ready to enter the theatre industry, it wasn’t long until he won his first professional role.
He was soon cast in a new London production of the Boy George musical Taboo, which was revived in the show’s 10th anniversary year. Performing on the stage of the fringe theatre venue Brixton Club House, he appeared alongside the likes of Samuel Buttery (Leigh Bowery), Paul Baker (Philip Sallon) and Niamh Perry (Kim) playing Boy George and was acclaimed for his portrayal of the role as the production itself was; in fact, this website’s review of Taboo had the following to say of his performance:
‘The standout performance of the whole evening however is Matthew Rowland. What a professional debut! As Boy George, Rowland is spectacular. He embodies the star right down to the last detail and the audience lives through the whole story with him, from the high points of his career to the low points of drug-fuelled rage and heartbreak.’
The revival production was named ‘Best Off-West End Production’ in the 2013 Whatsonstage.com Awards and Rowland himself was nominated in the Broadway World UK Awards for ‘Best Leading Actor in a Musical’. This new Taboo was such a success that its initial run was extended to meet popular demand, although there were several cast changes and Paul Treacy took over as George.
He continued to add to his theatrical CV in 2013 when he was cast as Alf in the European premiere of Darling of the Day. The 1968 Broadway musical was staged at the Union Theatre and featured such names as Rebecca Caine, Michael Hobbs, Katy Secombe and James Dinsmore in the company, as well as Rowland in the role of Alf. The production, which ran between March and April, won over audiences and was generally well received by the critics.
Dan Looney and Patrick Wilde’s original British musical, The Confession Room, also found a place in his list of credits for that year. Having already been chosen to play the role of Frank in the workshop at ArtsEd in July 2012, as well as performing in the full 80-minute show that followed, he reprised the role for a reading of the re-worked script in February 2013 and then for a performance at the Landor Theatre the next month when the musical was offered a 40-minute slot in the one-night-only event, Writer’s Block, which showcased three new musicals. He also features on the original cast recording which was released by SimG Records on 31st May 2013. Accompanied by an eleven-piece orchestra and an twenty-eight strong ensemble, the album featured such stage stars as Alex Gaumond, Anna-Jane Casey, Ross Hunter, Stephanie Clift and Dean Chisnall, in addition to Rowland who performs the popular song ‘Excalibur93’, which won third place in the Stiles and Drewe Best New Song competition that same year.
He was then asked to reprise another role: the role of Boy George in a special performance of Taboo. He and fellow cast member Samuel Buttery were invited to take part in a reunion concert in New York for the Broadway production’s 10th anniversary, which would raise funds for Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS. The exclusively-limited concert performance was presented at 54 Below on 7th and 8th February 2014.
He has performed in other theatrical events in London, including If It Only Even Runs A Minute: London Edition 3 (singing ‘Let Me Walk Among You’ from Bat Boy) and the SimG Productions cabaret, Emerging Artists, at the Crazy Coqs on 26th April 2014 (singing ‘Excalibur93’ from The Confession Room). He also choreographed Putting It Together, a musical review of Stephen Sondheim songs which had its London premiere at the St. James Theatre in January 2014, and has taught as such venues as Masquerade Theatre Arts, Rampart and Pineapple Dance Studios, and most recently, the Brit School of Performing Arts and Technology where he taught an audition class to the Year 12 students on 2nd July 2014.
He made his West End debut on 19th May 2014 as part of the new London company of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. He has an ensemble role in the hit musical, mainly performing as one of the chocolatier’s vertically challenged and orange-faced Oompa Loompa’s. He and other cast members will be representing the show at the upcoming West End Sports Day, which takes place at Wormwood Scrubs Park in West London on 18th July 2014 to raise money for the children of Manila.
Matthew Rowland may not have been part of the professional theatre scene for very long, but his career has gotten off to a flying start and he has achieved much in such a short space of time. This highly talented performer is certainly a name to look out for, and now he’s made it to the West End, theatre fans can only hope he will be a familiar face there for many more years to come.
You can follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewrowlandx
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Page updated 18th October 2014