The Birkenhead actor winning standing ovations in Book of Mormon at Liverpool Empire
1 year ago
When Birkenhead-born actor Jacob Yarlett graduated drama school, a friend pointed out auditions for a musical which was just about to go on its first tour.
“Usually it’s your agent who gets you in the door and gets you the auditions but I didn’t have one, so I just took a chance and submitted myself on the acting database Spotlight which is a bit like Indeed jobs for actors.
“I thought they wouldn’t in a million years come for me without an agent.”
But eight months and about 12 rounds of auditions later, taking a front of house job at Les Mis while he waited, Jacob landed his first professional acting role – in the nine-time Tony Award and four-time Olivier Award-winning The Book of Mormon.
Now after three Covid-disrupted years on tour, the show has brought him back to the Liverpool Empire and a home stage debut he could never have imagined.
As the stand-by for Cunningham, which is one of the lead roles, 25-year-old Jacob got to perform when the production opened here earlier this month.
“It was my first show in Liverpool, on the other side of the curtain at the Empire, and I loved every second of it. I got to do press night which was loads of fun and luckily the reviews were very lovely.
“We’ve played some massive theatres but I think Liverpool has to be our biggest so far and as soon as we hit the last note, the audience was going absolutely wild for it. I’ve never heard a roar like that before so it was incredible. It’s the best high ever, it really is.”
For Jacob, falling in love with theatre was something that didn’t happen until he was in secondary school, after a trip to the West End with his family.
“When I was about 11 I went to London with my mum and my aunties and cousins to see Wicked and that’s when I thought, I’d like to be 20ft in the air, green and screaming my face off!” he laughs. “That was when I caught the bug.
“I never really went to any drama clubs or youth theatre when I was younger, I didn’t know it was an option. My only acting or singing was in school productions, and I was always encouraged by my teachers.
“As soon as I saw Wicked, I’d try to go and see everything I possibly could and my mum would let me and my friends go down to London for the day on the train when we were about 13. The more I saw, the more I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
After A levels at St John Plessington in Bebington, Jacob studied musical theatre at City of Liverpool College before doing his degree at London College of Music.
He was told he’d got the role in The Book of Mormon on Valentine’s Day 2019 and started in the show two months later, only to have it stop for 18 months when Covid closed theatres across the country.
“Once we got into 2021, I think we all started to wonder if it was ever going to happen again, but luckily it did, and our amazing producers got us back up and running.”
As a stand-by, or understudy, for Cunningham, Jacob’s schedule can be unpredictable.
“Whenever the lead guy is off, I step in and in the first year I was on a lot. I made my debut when he injured himself mid-show and I had to come on after the interval, then I was on for a whole month.
“That was really a baptism of fire, getting through eight shows a week and such a massive part. I went on about 70 times that year before we closed down.”
Since the tour came back in September last year he’s had fewer call-ups, partly because the cast are all so well-rested after lockdown, but he still has to be ready every night.
“If I’m not on, I’m backstage in a dressing room with the swings (ensemble cover performers), talking, watching telly and playing Mario Kart. I’ll go and see the wig girls and wardrobe girls, and then wait in case my name gets called on the tannoy.”
Sometimes Jacob has pre-arranged shows, when he’s guaranteed to be on stage. There are at least a couple of those still to come in Liverpool, on August 8 and 11, when his family will get to join the standing ovation.
From Liverpool, the tour goes on until November, finishing in Glasgow.
“Who knows what’s next for me,” he says. “I’m finally looking for an agent and then I’ll start auditioning for the next job. I don’t know what that’ll be yet, but if it’s coming over I’d love to do Mean Girls the Musical!”