Interview with Ivano Turco

In his short career so far, super-talented musical theatre star Ivano Turco has already demonstrated formidable range: having made his professional debut playing Prince Sebastian in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella in the West End, he then transformed into reggae icon Bob Marley in bio-musical Get Up, Stand Up! But his latest role, as Jamie in the new touring production of heartwarming British musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, is particularly fulfilling because “it’s the closest character to my actual character that I’ve played,” he says. That’s in part because, playing the gay teenage hero and aspiring drag queen, Ivano is getting to embrace his queerness in a way that he hasn’t on stage before. “I really wanted to be able to experience playing within those realms, and to not have to put on several layers to try and be somebody else.” 

What this means in practice, Ivano explains, is that in the rehearsal process, he has found he doesn’t “have to do as much in terms of trying to figure out what Jamie’s mannerisms are, and all of these small nuances… it’s very freeing in that sense, in that I can put a lot of my natural movement into it.” One of the other aspects of the role that really resonates with Ivano is Jamie’s close relationship with his mother. “For the most part I grew up in a single parent household with my mother as well, so we really had that kind of connection,” he says, adding that “[like Jamie too] I know what it felt like to have a dream that was different from everyone else’s”.

Since it premiered in 2017, Jamie has been a huge international hit, and Ivano believes a lot of that has to do with the pioneering nature of the character of Jamie himself. “He’s just a boy who happens to be gay, and wants to be a drag queen. I think that’s a refreshing lens to have a queer character to look at through – [someone] who’s not burdened by their queerness. I know I really felt empowered by that, watching it.” Meanwhile another key draw, he thinks, is that “the music is really easy to digest. It’s a lot like what we listen to nowadays, so it’s much more realistic [than most musical theatre].”

If Jamie has had a remarkable run over the last few years, then so has its new star. Having set his sights on performing ever since singing in church, when growing up in Milton Keynes, he graduated from drama school in 2020, only to find himself personally chosen by Lord Lloyd Webber to be the male lead in his hotly-anticipated new musical. For a first gig, it was a wonderful, if nerve wracking, experience, he says. “To have a multimillion pound musical resting on your shoulders was hard to navigate for me and I found at times it was hard to really [appreciate my achievement] because there was just so much work to be done. But then somewhere about halfway [through the run], because I really knew the show and what I wanted to do as an actor, it became perfect.” Then to top that challenge, he took on the lead role in Get Up, Stand Up! last year – off just two weeks rehearsal, astonishingly enough.  “The first Bob had a year to prepare … so for me to try and get all that work done in two weeks was … a challenge,” he laughs.

As for what the future may hold? Ivano really isn’t thinking too far beyond Jamie, “dream show” that it is. “[This role] is my chance to put all my techniques that I’ve learned over the years and over these other shows into overdrive, as this character is so much closer to me. I feel like there’s a lot more power with it that I’ve been afforded.”