THE LEADING MEN: Matthew James Thomas Discovers His Corner of the Sky in Broadway's Pippin

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25 Apr 2013

Matthew James Thomas
Matthew James Thomas
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

British actor Matthew James Thomas, who made his Broadway debut as the Peter Parker alternate in Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — going on twice a week for star Reeve Carney — steps into the limelight in Pippin, flying to new heights and discovering his very own "Corner of the Sky."

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As Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark began its lengthy journey to Broadway, an ambitious Matthew James Thomas, 25 — hailing from the small town of Wendover in Buckinghamshire, England — began his journey to New York City. Thomas, known in the U.K. for appearing on the British musical television series "Britannia High," was enlisted by Julie Taymor and the creative team of Spider-Man to play the musical's demanding title role — at certain performances, in place of rocker Reeve Carney. After packing his bags and heading to the States over two years ago, Thomas is now in his second Broadway musical — this time, starring in the title role at every performance. The British twentysomething, who recently received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for his performance as prince Pippin in Diane Paulus' cirque-inspired revival of the Stephen Schwartz-Roger O. Hirson modern classic, heads to the circus eight times a week at Broadway's Music Box Theatre, where he travels down the road to self-discovery. Like Spider-Man, Thomas plays with fire (literally, in Broadway's Pippin) by performing death-defying stunts on Broadway and soaring to new heights to prove that he is "extraordinary."

Had you ever been to New York City before being cast in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark?
MJT: Yeah, on holidays with my parents. I'd been a couple of times. Actually, I always tell a funny story — even to [co-star] Andrea Martin, now, which is funny because everything links: I [had] just auditioned for a big television series in the U.K. [called "Britannia High"], and I missed a flight out with my parents — they planned a vacation to New York — so they said, "Just get on the next plane… Meet us at the Hilton Theatre [currently the Foxwoods Theatre and home of Spider-Man]," which is so weird. So I met them on the steps of the Hilton Theatre, which was playing Young Frankenstein at the time (with Andrea Martin, of course), and I look down the long corridor, which is kind of famous amongst the company of Spider-Man — the Apollo Link, which is where we'd all go and sit during tech because it was nice and cold and big, and we would socialize down there. Little did I know [at that time] that I was going to be spending most of my time in that [theatre, doing Spider-Man]. It's crazy, really, when you think about it. Now I'm talking to Andrea Martin everyday. My parents were in there watching her on stage!

Matthew James Thomas
photo by Joan Marcus

Speaking of the comic genius that is Andrea Martin, it looked like the cast had a hard time keeping themselves together after "No Time At All." She received a full-house standing ovation the night I was at the theatre.
MJT: Yeah, it's the same every night. She's always so present. It's always so funny that moment after she leaves the stage because there's this huge, amazing energy [that] kind of wanders off, and then you're left with it, and it's like, "Woah!" I always find her hilarious. How could anybody compete with [her performance]? It's just groundbreaking. She is so incredible, and I have such a fond relationship with her now — offstage, too. We're very close. As you probably noticed, I don't always keep it together because she does new things every show, and that's part of what this production is about — playing and exploring and trying new things, and Andrea certainly likes to do her… It's so many little things, but they're always surprising, and it always looks like she's surprising herself.

Getting back to moving to the United States, what was that like coming to New York? Were you nervous? Were you anxious? Were you by yourself?
MJT: Yeah, it was kind of tough! I was going through a little bit of a tough time at home — not with my family. My family is great, my parents are so supportive, and I have a really great relationship with them, [but] I was just going through some stuff. Spider-Man had been delayed, and I was doing another TV series and just working really hard — and then, [to] pick up and go, it was all very sudden. My whole life was completely reshuffled, and I knew it wasn't going to be a couple-of-week kind of [job]. I had a sense that this was a long-term venture. It was really exciting, but, at the same time, I was all of a sudden all alone in America, which was great and fantastic, [but], on the other hand, all my friends were at home. I have some really great people in my life who have been very supportive and keep in contact and come visit me, [but] it was scary at first, and my apartment was completely empty. I just found it the day before [I began working on Spider-Man] with a friend of mine, and that was it — I was living on 10th Avenue, which is crazy! [Laughs.]



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