Keith Jack had always known he wanted to be a performer, taking part in amateur dramatics as a child and singing in choirs with his grandad. When he was 19, his sister encouraged him to audition for a new reality TV show from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice; Any Dream Will Do, which offered the winner the chance to be the next Joseph in the West End.
Keith was a favourite from the start, making it all the way to the final, and although he didn’t land the role of Joseph, the former supermarket worker embarked on a musical theatre career that would eventually see him play both Joseph and The Narrator in the UK National tours of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Keith says that appearing on Any Dream Will Do was “a crazy but incredible experience” but he’s grateful to have been a part of it, as it was the launchpad for his now successful career.
Most recently, Keith starred as Nick in the UK Tour of Fame, and with the production streamed online over lockdown, even more people got to enjoy Keith’s performance. This summer, Keith will star in Sunshine on Leith, as part of Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s repertory season.
Audiences may be familiar with the film version of Stephen Greenhorn’s musical, which features the music of hit Scottish band, The Proclaimers, and starred George MacKay and Jane Horrocks. But the movie was adapted from the stage show which was first performed in 2007 at Dundee Rep.
“I would say the stage version is a little bit more heartfelt, just a little bit darker than the movie,” says Keith, “but at the end of the day it’s a proper feel-good show. I think people will laugh, they’ll cry, they’ll feel that kind of overwhelming sensation of family and attachment. But then at the end, they get the big ‘500 Miles’ moment, and they will leave on a high.”
Keith is taking on the role of Ally, “I’m really excited to play this part, because normally, for shows, people would cast me as Davy, it is the more traditional romantic lead and originally, that was the part I was up for.”
“Ally deals with a lot of trauma in terms of how he comes back from the war in Afghanistan, he doesn’t really have a family, I don’t want to spoil it too much, but he finds it really hard to settle back into life.”
“I think the stage show explores the character more than the movie and there are a couple of songs that have been added as well and really lift the show, even more, I think, to a new level.”
Keith recognises that Davy and Ally’s stories will take on even greater significance this year, “I think it’s a massive journey, especially just now with what’s going on in Ukraine, the fact that these two guys come back from the war and both struggle in different ways to return to their old lives.”
Sunshine on Leith has traditionally been a big draw for audiences thanks to the music of The Proclaimers, “the thing about this band is that they have so many variations of songs and emotions, and different parts of life,” explains Keith, “They deal with life situations and different traumas in life as well, and all their songs are so different, so you can put them into a musical, and they tell an amazing story.”
“One thing we feel like we’ve realised through rehearsals is how much the songs talk about hope, love, forgiveness, and passion.”
This production of Sunshine on Leith is directed by Elizabeth Newman, and Keith is already a fan, “She is probably one of the best directors I’ve worked with. She allows you the freedom to create. She talks to you about your characters, but also who you are as a person. We had a really lovely day where she took us out into the gardens, we just started talking and you realise that she knows you as a person, she wants to get to know you and who you are.”
As Sunshine on Leith is part of a repertory season, Keith is also appearing in another production, Noises Off, “sometimes we’re rehearsing one show for a couple days, and then another show for a couple of days, and your brain’s like whoa, what show am I doing today? So it’s very full-on.”
“But as an actor, it’s really fun, because my character in Sunshine on Leith is really strait-laced, and my character in Noises Off is the complete opposite, at one point, my trousers are down around my ankles and I’ve got a robe over my head!”
Sunshine on Leith will re-open Pitlochry Festival Theatre following the pandemic, “that’s really exciting to be a part of,” says Keith, “and I’m really looking forward to meeting all the regulars who come, and I’m told people come from all over the world to visit Pitlochry Festival Theatre.”
Keith is enjoying being in Pitlochry for rehearsals, “the town’s so pretty and everyone’s really lovely, you’re literally in the mountains, so I mean it’s an amazing place, and I hope as many people as possible will come to enjoy the town as much as they do the show.”
The production will also play the King’s Theatre Edinburgh in June, “we’re opening in Pitlochry which has just had a refurbishment, but then we’re closing another venue before it starts its own refurb. So yes, it’s really exciting and obviously, being home in Edinburgh is always going to be fun.”
Sunshine on Leith and Noises Off are just two of the productions being presented as part of the rep season, “I’m really excited to be a part of this,” says Keith, “It’s going to be a great one, and I hope people will come up to Pitlochry because we’ve got loads of different things going on, from these great shows to amazing outdoor live concerts.”
“I think Scottish theatre has a great summer ahead, there’s going to be so much buzz in Pitlochry and we’re all desperate for it after the last two years, I couldn’t be happier to be spending my summer here, and I’m sure the weather will be good for us too!”
Sunshine of Leith, starring Keith Jack, runs at Pitlochry Festival Theatre 20th May to 1st October, including a run at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh 7th to 18th June.
Noises Off is at Pitlochry Festival Theatre 27th May to 1st October.
Full Pitlochry Festival Theatre rep season listings can be found here.