21st June 2022
Photographer & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent
Stylist & Art Director: Rory Mcnerney
Stylist Assistant: Oliver Slade
Clothes Designer: Corey Dixon / Somebody Else's Guy
Make Up Artist & Nails: Rita Nieddu
Make Up Artist Assistant: Juste Vaskeviciute
Hair: Lucy Muyanga
Interview: Tadek Chmiel
Logo Design: Emily Curtis
Assistant & Videographer: Joe Reed
Jewellery: Lucy Quartermaine & We Are PR
Shoes: ATIKA London
Over the past few years, Jordan Shaw has built up an impressive CV of notable productions which have made waves in the musical theatre industry. Boasting credits in critically acclaimed shows such as “Hadestown” and “Follies”, both at The National Theatre, as well as blockbuster musicals including “Miss Saigon”, “Motown the Musical” and now “Les Misérables” in which he is appearing as Enjolras, Jordan has a wealth of experience which we delved into during our chat.
Taking on a role in the West End’s longest running musical must present any actor with the challenge of living up to a part that is already incredibly well known and has been performed by many actors prior to yourself, whilst also wanting to put your own stamp on the role. How did you find navigating this balance?
Les Mis has been open for 36 years, so naturally there have been so many guys who have played the role but I’m the third black boy to play this role, so I come in with a visual difference to most of the previous actors. Vocally and physically, I just try to approach it as myself because at the end of the day they hired me as me. I just try to make the role as human as possible. It’s a role that I’ve always wanted to play since I was a teenager, so there’s obviously a huge pressure that I put on myself to push myself to be the best I can be, but I think the role is written so beautifully that you don’t have to do too much with it and I’m really lucky with that.
Before going on to play leads such as Enjolras and before that, Simba in “The Lion King”, you were an ensemble member for countless productions, as well understudying many roles. I still vividly remember your performance in the National Theatre’s production of “Follies” with your dancing being one of my highlights of the production. With many lead performers in musical theatre coming up through the ranks of the ensemble, what lessons did you learn during your time which have stuck with you as your career has progressed?
I just wanted to be a sponge. I was always told when I was at Arts Ed that the training doesn’t stop once you leave and especially with Follies, I was lucky to be sharing the room with people like Imelda Staunton and Janie Dee, all these incredible actors, so I just tried to learn as much as possible. I was lucky to understudy a lot of parts so I would watch and steal. I wasn’t one of those people that was like, “I’ve left drama school as an amazing performer.” I knew there was so much that I had to improve on, and I think that was definitely my advice to myself; just to take in as much as I can, listen and learn, ask questions and don’t be afraid to take risks and be instinctive. I learnt to find what it is that I do best and stay on that, because when you try to be a different version of yourself it won’t come across as authentic. There are certain things that I learnt that I could do very well as myself and I try to put those into each role and it’s worked for me so far.
Having been a part of so many iconic productions over the past few years, is there a particular job that you feel especially proud of?
Yeah, annoyingly my first job, which was “The Scottsboro Boys” at the Young Vic. I think I was just so spoilt because I left (drama school) and was thrown into this incredible production and I was working with Susan Stroman and John Kander. It was the last show that Kander and Ebb collaborated on and I was just spoilt to be sharing the space with Broadway stars, again that I could learn from. During that period of time, there was so much going on politically that meant the show was a voice for a lot of anger at that time. During our run at the Young Vic, three of the boys from the 1931 case were pardoned. We felt that we were part of something powerful. So, if it was ever to come around, I would love to do that show again.
In 10 years’ time, what changes would you like to have seen within the musical theatre industry?
It’s going in the right direction, but I feel like right now there is a lot of tokenism going on, and as a black artist I know full well that I’m being invited into rooms that I wouldn’t have been invited into before George Floyd was killed, period. I know that, and it feels weird, but I have to brush that off and step into these places because there’s a lot of imposter syndrome when you’re suddenly being invited to an audition that you weren’t invited to for the last 5 years. You have to shake it off and say, you know what, I’m lucky to be a part of that change, and in 10 years’ time I hope that any black boy that is also gay can step into a room and feel invited and not feel the same imposter syndrome. Musical theatre is a fantasy land and I believe that we should represent that, there shouldn’t be any rules, there shouldn’t be any walls in terms of casting, and I hope that’s where we’ll end up.