A little over 10 years ago, Alex Jennings - he, of the booming voice, unruly curls and much acclaimed acting range—was asked: What are your plans for the future?
“I have none,” he candidly replies. “…I don’t know - more film, more TV, that’s the hope. I mean it’s stage ultimately for me, but it’s nice to punctuate.”
With a degree from Warwick University and a stint at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, regional theatre experience, performances in numerous productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Olivier awards for best actor under his belt, it seemed logical for the veteran thespian to take it easy for a while. Yet, his career insouciance seemed to pave the way for more opportunities for Jennings’ to leave his mark on and off stage.
Fresh off from winning a prestigious Olivier Best Actor in a Musical award for the Cameron Mackintosh and Trevor Nunn revival of My Fair Lady, Jennings appeared in numerous film and television projects, which included the widely screened British drama The Queen, where he played the Prince of Wales, Charles (opposite Olivier Best Actress Award winner Helen Mirren) and the BBC period drama, Cranford.
His Olivier awards not only served as a testament to his talent but reinforce his diversity and range as an actor. All one needs to do is to review what he won them for - Best Comedy Performance in Too Clever By Half, Best Actor in Peer Gynt and Best Actor in a Musical for My Fair Lady. It should be noted that he is the only actor to ever have won this prestigious honor across the drama, musical and comedy categories.
His most recent project comes at the behest of a golden ticket - one that will take him into the wonderfully idiosyncratic and fantastical world of Willy Wonka’s famed Chocolate Factory as it opens on the West End.
Taking over for Douglas Hodge, Jennings plays the eccentric confectioner beginning 19 May for the Sam Mendes helmed musical of the beloved Roald Dahl story at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory marks Jennings’ much awaited return to musical theatre. His last display of musical prowess was showcased in his award-winning performance in My Fair Lady and his operatic debut in Candide.
For this particular staging, the children’s classic tale gets revamped and is given a contemporary overhaul, thanks to the David Greig’s adaptation, featuring music and lyrics from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The musical has already been extended until 20 May 2015 and has quickly become one of the West End’s most popular stage musicals, breaking records at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where it is being performed.