BY CARMEN ANDERSON
As any performer will confirm, auditions are challenging to say the least. Some auditions, such as that for a part in the world-renowned stage musical, The Lion King, are as tough as they come, Jonathan Lutwyche, told the Gibraltar Magazine. “It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done audition-wise,” says Jonathan, “It was physically and mentally demanding. I had to process so much information in such little time to try to get everything as perfect as I could.”
The casting team had been ruthlessly cutting swathes through the 400 hopefuls that responded to the open call audition. Jonathan was one of those who escaped the first cull and was asked back for the next round of auditions the following day. However, on that second day, he was also competing against even more auditionees, people who were represented by agents: the field was significantly more skilled.
Jonathan found himself called to a final audition, now with only eleven others in the fray. There was another cull – auditioning is nothing if not harsh – leaving Jonathan as one of eight waiting to get that call that would decide their future. From that eight, only two men were cast. Jonathan was one of them.
“I just had tears rolling down my face.”
“I was super grateful,” he says with characteristic modesty, “I think I did well in the audition, but there were so many amazing dancers there, so I was really surprised when I got the call.”
At only fifteen, Jonathan, who had been dancing since he was twelve, left Gibraltar to go to New York where he studied at the Joffrey Ballet School. It was here that he began to train as a professional dancer.
He then moved to join the world leading Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London. He was just completing his third year when he discovered he had been cast. “They were telling me all of the information about the part, and I just had tears rolling down my face.” After those tough days of auditioning, Jonathan recalls an overwhelming sense of relief; “Everyone dreams of getting a job in their third year, so I was super proud of myself.”
This, of course, is not just a graduate job; it is a part in a world-renowned West End musical production. “When I first saw the poster up at the theatre and saw my name on it, it almost didn’t feel real,” says Jonathan, “The fact that I not only got a job, but I got a job on the West End is crazy.”
Dedication to an art and to performance means overcoming numerous challenges. Not just auditions, but also moments of self-doubt, an occasional faltering in that self-belief that drives people to their personal successes. Jonathan shared his personal experience of this: “You have your doubts and your days where you think ‘I don’t want to be a dancer anymore’ but everyone does, whatever job you do. However, it’s all paid off.”
“You have your doubts where you think: ‘I don’t want to be a dancer anymore.”
Stepping into a West End production is no walk in the park: success at the audition is only the first step in a demanding process, as Jonathan goes on to explain: “The rehearsal experience has been extremely demanding, but so rewarding. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve just realised how talented people are. Obviously, everyone was very talented in school, but this was a step up from that. Everyone is so good at what they do – the singers, the dancers, the actors – and it is amazing to watch.”
The rehearsal process was difficult for Jonathan, as he describes the impact of the pandemic: “I would say this is one of the hardest things I’ve done, especially having had fifteen months off. During Covid I was taking as many classes as I could, but it isn’t the same intensity as this. It was really hard on my body, but somehow I got through it!”
Jonathan is fired up by his excitement at performing, a flurry of different feelings colouring each day: “I’m quite nervous about performing, but I do feel prepared. I wasn’t sure if I would be, especially during the first week of rehearsals because it was so difficult, but I feel ready which is comforting. I’m so excited but I do feel a sense of calmness; it’s a mix of emotions!”
Despite his young age, Jonathan is able to reflect on some of the things he’s learned through this tremendous experience. “I think that sometimes when you go into an audition you will put up a wall,” he reflects, “My advice to anyone taking steps into the world of the performing arts would be to just be yourself because when it comes down to it, people want to work with you, not a character. You will get the jobs because of who you are as a person and the talent that you bring. Be yourself and work hard.”