Our next guest comes from across the pond in London! He has performed in seven (!) shows on the West End, and has toured around the world with many musicals and vocal groups. He's an upstanding gentleman and has been known to tickle the angels with his dulcet tones. He is also an accomplished voice teacher, so we wanted to pick both sides of his brain. Here is our chat with Jez Unwin...
Innovative: Can you tell us a little bit about the audition process for the first West End show you booked?
Jez: My first West End show was Joseph. It was such a baptism of fire as I was the only cast member joining the touring production transferring to London. I got the phone call on Friday (elated obviously), started rehearsals on Monday and we opened previews the week after! It was like jumping onto a moving train and I learned so much about myself as a performer and a human in those short weeks. The most interesting audition process I suppose would be for Once The Musical. For my recall I was asked to learn a song on the guitar and sing it having never even picked up a guitar. I was absolutely terrified and was visibly shaking when I had to perform it in front of the creative team for the final recall as well as Barbara Broccoli, one of the most powerful women in show business! It obviously wasn’t too horrendous as I was offered the part the following week. :)
What is the one show that you've been a part of that has had a lasting impact on you, and why?
I’ve been lucky enough to perform in a really wide variety of shows and roles in my career. Two shows spring to mind, the first was a regional production of Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures. I had no idea what to expect when I started rehearsals and was presented with the most sublime music I have ever had the pleasure of performing. It was an ensemble cast and we all played multiple roles and I have rarely been so creatively sated. The second was being cast in Michael Grandage’s production of Evita in the West End. Myself and my partner at the time had been to see the show in previews and were both blown away with it in every way. I really had to pinch myself the night I opened in the same production about 6 months later.
What is a piece of advice you heard from a director or music director that stuck with you?
I didn’t attend drama school like most of my fellow performers and I had very little experience in acting early on in my career. The early years were a baptism of fire. I knew instinctively in one show that the multiple roles I was playing were all merging into one. The resident director in the show was very supportive and gave me some great advice about changing the speed of the characters’ movements, hence giving them different physicalities. It was life changing advice for me. Aside from this watching and listening to people I work with and respect has proved priceless for me. However experienced we become there is always more to learn and always brilliant people to learn from.
Innovative: Switching gears, how do you define belting?
Belting is a form of singing akin to controlled yelling. It is usually used in a higher register and with the correct technique (ie the right posture, no tension and anchoring) is perfectly safe.
What are your top 3 vocal exercises, or vocal "techniques" used in your studio?
Sirening is a godsend when done properly and should be used by all singers when warming up. Other than this I usually tailor the exercises to the specific needs of the students. I currently draw mainly from the Estill technique as well a some older Bel Canto exercises.
Tell us one fun fact about yourself!
When I was 10 years old I was awarded first place in Britain’s Choirboy of the Year competition. I haven’t changed in the slightest! ;)