Jac Yarrow and Ben Mark Turner
L-R: Jac Yarrow and Ben Mark Turner. Photos provided by Mirvish Productions
Joe Szekeres compiled Jac's and Ben's answers
‘Joseph’ fever has struck the city of Toronto once again. Word has it the show is on its pre-Broadway run.
Thank you to Mirvish Productions for allowing me to e interview Jac Yarrow who will play Joseph and Ben Michael Turner, the Musical Director, of this newest production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’
One tidbit of information. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber gave his blessing to Yarrow to play the title character. How does Jac still feel about it:
“When Having Lord Lloyd Webber see my audition and think I was capable of being up on the London Palladium stage, playing this iconic character is still unbelievable to me. I will be forever grateful to Andrew for taking a chance on a new kid like me. It’s an experience that has shaped my life.”
Can you please share where you completed your training as an artist?
Jac: I attended The Arts Educational Schools, London (ArtsEd).
Ben: I read music at King’s College London; I received my performance training from voice tutors at the Royal Academy of Music, and I was a conducting scholar of Sing for Pleasure. In between rehearsals and performances here in Toronto, I am currently writing up my Master's thesis - which I am also completing at King’s, albeit from a distance…
How are you feeling both personally and professionally about this gradual return to the live performing arts even though Covid is still present?
Jac: Naturally I’m so happy to be back on stage after such a frightening, unpredictable time. To share a theatrical experience with live audiences after so long feels so special. It’s something I won’t take for granted, ever.
Ben: Personally, and professionally, I am utterly thrilled about the safe return to live performance. The pandemic was a uniquely isolating time. Being able to come together once again, to create and share in the glorious experience of live performance, feels like a definitive, joyful step towards rekindling life as we used to know it. At the Princess of Wales, we are testing twice weekly, wearing masks backstage and adhering to the latest guidance; it feels like a very small price to pay for safely returning to work and be able to bring this gorgeous show to this wonderful city.
How have rehearsals gone so far here in Toronto as you prepare for this Toronto engagement of JOSEPH?
Jac: Rehearsals have been so exciting. We have Vanessa Fisher joining us here as the Narrator and Tosh Wonogho-Maud as Pharaoh. Along with a fresh batch of 16 Canadian kids (Two teams of 8.) It’s brilliant to see the new takes on these roles and to feel the buzz from these new cast members, who are raring to go.
Ben: It has been so lovely to rehearse in Toronto. Collaborating with the musicians here as we workshopped the new 14-piece orchestration was a personal highlight. Combining Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s music with these magnificent players has made for a truly extraordinary musical experience. Our young acting company (also made up of Toronto’s finest) has taken the challenge of learning this mammoth show in their stride. It filled my soul with pure joy to see our first audience shower them with the love and praise they truly deserved. n.b. they also took mocking my British-isms and pointing out my lack of Canada-appropriate attire in their stride, but that’s beside the point…
Is this your first visit to Toronto? What has it been like for you?
Jac: Yes, it’s my first time in Toronto! I love it here. I’ve been to a Raptors game, explored the city, shopped am desperate to try Puppy Yoga! I’m so glad we’re here for multiple weeks (10 weeks) so I can fit in as much sightseeing as I can. The people are also some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. We’ve been welcomed here with open arms and it’s so lovely.
Ben: I have never been to Canada before and absolutely love it. It is frightfully chilly though, isn’t it? – and I’m promised it’s only going to get colder. Nevertheless, I’ve found that there are a few things here that can’t be fixed by a plate of poutine and a glass of ice wine. Our dark day is a Monday, so I begin my week living my best tourist life. I’ve started with the classics (the CN Tower, St. Lawrence’s Market, Niagara Falls etc.) – obviously – but we’re here until February and I’m a massive foodie so any niche ‘must-do’ suggestions would be hugely welcomed.
These last 2-plus years have most certainly altered the face of the live performing arts scene worldwide. Tell me how you’re both personally and professionally feeling and experiencing this JOSEPH. What is it about this new London Palladium production that you believe will make it worthwhile for Toronto audiences to see this Christmas and holiday season, and well into 2023?
Jac: Joseph is a timeless show. The music is so iconic and resonates with so many generations. That’s why I believe it has stood the test of time. This particular production of Joseph is not to be missed as the show has been completely reimagined for a more modern audience. The colourful story is presented on a huge, lavish set with beautiful, colourful costumes, athletic dancing, glorious voices, and real theatre magic. Direct from the stage of the London Palladium, our production of Joseph has all the excitement and surprises it did in London's West End.
Ben: Joseph was Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s first collaboration in 1968. Back then it was only fifteen minutes long and it was performed as a one-off pop cantata in a school in south London. This year we took Laurence’s Palladium production around the UK to eighteen cities, and it was truly remarkable to see the show’s fifty-year history sewn into the fabric of British culture. From the first ‘Any Dream Will Do’, two thousand people in the Liverpool Empire Theatre were singing along with the “ahs”, reciting the colours of the coat, clapping the accelerando in ‘Potiphar’, and dancing in the aisles to the ‘Megamix’.
Ben: At our first preview last Sunday, there was a wonderful exchange when the audience at the Princess of Wales let us in on their Joseph story: clapping, dancing, and singing along, just as they did with Donny Osmond in the nineties and with every Joseph since. To me, this new production, and its North American premiere, feel like the start of a glorious new chapter in Joseph’s history, as a new generation of theatregoers – led by lifelong fans of the show – take this iconic story and its music into their hearts. There is something irresistibly infectious about the joy that pours out of this show every night, we are so thrilled to have brought it to Toronto for the festive season, and I feel incredibly lucky to be a small cog in amongst it all.
Once JOSEPH has concluded its run, Jac, what’s next for each of you?
Jac: I can’t say as of yet. I’m trying to soak up my last few weeks playing the role after four years with the show. Joseph has been a huge part of my life and I will miss both the show and the role very dearly.
‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ opens Friday, December 16 at The Princess of Wales and runs through the Christmas and holiday season to February 18, 2023. For tickets, visit mirvish.com or call 1-800-461-3333.