LSC alumnus Jason Pennycooke stars in Hamilton, West End
Published: Friday, 08 December 2017 11:08
Hamilton: An American Musical has already made big waves over in America. The musical, which is sung and rapped throughout, follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers. Hamilton opened off-Broadway at the The Public Theater in February 2015 where it had an extended run and completely sold-out. It transferred to Broadway in August 2015 at the Richard Rogers Theatre where it gained unprecedented advance box office sales and impressed audiences and critics alike. At the 2016 Tony Awards, Hamilton received a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations, winning 11 including Best Musical. The show was also awarded the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. That same year the Chicago production of Hamilton opened at the CIBC Theatre and the show began its U.S Tour.
And now Hamilton has been brought to the West End at the Victoria Palace Theatre and stars LSC alumni Jason Pennycooke in the joint role of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
Jason Pennycooke as Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre (2017) - Photographer: Matthew Murphy
Jason trained at London Studio Centre under a scholarship and graduated in 1993. For his first professional job, he joined the UK tour of CATS playing the roles of Coricopat and Mister Mistoffelees. In 1994, Jason joined the original European Tour for the award-winning Five Guys Names Moe, playing the role of Little Moe and the next year reprised his role at the Albery Theatre in London’s West End. In 1996, Jason joined the cast of Starlight Express at the Apollo Victoria, where he played Rocky 3.
Jason Pennycooke as Little Moe in Five Guys Named Moe at the Albery Theatre (1995) - Photographer: Michael Le Pour Trench
Jason then went on to appear in Soul Train, a musical compilation devised by Mark Clements and Michael Vivian celebrating classic soul hits such 'Under The Boardwalk', 'Soul Man', 'Dock Of The Bay', 'Living In America' and 'Love Train'. From 2001 – 2003, Jason played the role of Benny in Rent and performed in the record-breaking original UK tour and in two successful runs in London’s West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
In 2002, Jason played the role of Joe Grant and was the Associate Choreographer for Sammy, a musical biopic of Sammy David Jr which was produced in association with the Sammy Davis Jr Foundation, New York. The following year, Jason played Joe Grant again, but this time in Golden Boy at the Greenwich Theatre for which he received some great reviews.
”As Joe, a lean Jason Pennycooke suggests a boxer with some brains as well as brawn and demonstrates natty footwork both on the dance floor and in the ring. After the Greenwich run, this certainly deserves to go a few extra rounds.”
- Evening Standard
“One of the best things about the evening besides the tremendous array of terrific black talent on stage, is the way it shows ordinary black people struggling in a white man’s world. The major performances are a knockout – particularly from Jason Pennycooke as the wiry and rather winsome Joe.”
– The Guardian
“Jason Pennycooke as the young hopeful Joe balances a superb physical performance with a fine tenor voice. Pennycooke grows into his character naturally through the songs.”
- The Stage
Jason went on to appear in the European company of Stomp where he also performed with the French Touring Company, visiting Mulhouse, Versailles and Brest and then London’s West End.
Jason Pennycooke on the poster for Stomp at the Vaudeville Theatre
From 2005 - 2006 Jason played Sammy Davis Jnr in the The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas at the Savoy Theatre, London, which was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. He was then nominated for the 2009 Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor his performance as Jacob in the La Cage aux Folles which opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory and subsequently transferred to the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End in 2007 – 2008.
Jason went on to play Paul in Kiss Me Kate directed by Trevor Nunn at the Chichester Festival Theatre before transferring to The Old Vic in 2012. He then joined Memphis The Musical as Bobby Dupree at the Shaftesbury Theatre which closed in October 2015 after a year of sold-out shows.
“Pennycooke injects piles of humour into Bobby, a janitor with hidden skills of the performing variety”
- Talk Stagey To Me
Jason Pennycooke as Bobby Dupree in Memphis The Musical (2014) - Photographer: Johan Persso
Last year, Jason played Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls at The Phoenix Theatre, performing alongside Samantha Spiro & Richard Kind, later taken over by Rebel Wilson and Nigel Lindsay. Jason received fantastic reviews again.
“Olivier nominee Gavin Spokes’ Nicely-Nicely Johnson is now joined by Jason Pennycooke’s dazzlingly elastic Benny Southstreet, making a comic and musical treat of the title song.”
– The Stage
“Pennycooke is the brightest and most idiosyncratic Benny this production has seen, alternating between camp humour and furtive lewdness with calm and measured aplomb”
– Live Theatre UK
Jason Pennycooke as Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls at The Phoenix Theatre (2016)
Jason also has a great background in choreography and has worked on shows including I Was Looking At the Ceiling and Saw the Sky (Barbican/TTRSE 2010), Crazy For You (Sweden 2011), Five Guys Named Moe (Belfast 2010; Underbelly 2016), End of the Rainbow (Trafalgar Studios and Broadway 2011), Soul Sister (Hackney Empire and Savoy Theatre 2012), Shrek (Sweden 2013), and Into The Woods (Manchester Royal Exchange 2015) to name but a few.
Last July, London Studio Centre was proud to welcome Jason as the Guest of Honour for the 2017 Graduation Celebration at New Wimbledon Theatre. Jason presented all graduates with their certificates and awards and gave some great words of advice for those starting their new performing arts careers.
Jason Pennycooke presenting the Espinosa Award to Rebecca Bennett at the Graduation Celebration at New Wimbledon Theatre (2017)
Last week (Wednesday 6th December), Jason took to the stage for the opening night of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre, which opened its door for the first time after a year-long expansion and restoration. Jason plays two characters in the show. In Act One he plays Marquis de Lafayette, a close friend of Alexander Hamilton and a Revolutionary ally. In Act Two he plays the key role of Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton’s rival and future president of the United States. The role is incredibly important in the show and requires the ability to adapt and play two very different characters.
Hamilton at the newly refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre
Audiences have been waiting in anticipation as the first run of tickets which cover December 2017 – June 2018 sold out way back in September. But it seems the wait was worth it as audiences have been taking to social media to sing the show’s praises with #hamiltonldn trending on Twitter. Even the show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also played the title role in the original Broadway cast) took to Twitter to say:
“That. was. insane. Thank you.”
- Lin-Manuel Miranda
Whilst tickets are sold out, the show is now offering a daily £10 lottery which can be entered here.