Phantom Veteran Ben Jacoby Goes Rock-and-Roll in a Beautiful Broadway Debut
Jacoby is the new Barry Mann in Beautiful — The Carole King Musical.
After a stint touring the United States as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera, Ben Jacoby is relieved to finally plant some roots in New York City. It's an added bonus that his excuse for settling down is a Broadway debut in a smash-hit musical.
On March 3, Jacoby joined the company of Beautiful — The Carole King Musical as Barry Mann, taking over for Tony nominee Jarrod Spector, who originated the role in 2014. From a guileless male lead with operatic love ballads to a hypochondriacal rock composer with an electric guitar solo, Jacoby has extended his repertoire into unanticipated territory. But if you're going to try something new, you might as well do it on Broadway…with less than three weeks of rehearsal.
Congratulations on your Broadway debut! How has the experience been so far?
I gotta say, it's not a show that I ever imagined that I would be going into. My biggest credit up until this point was the national tour of Phantom (I played Raoul), which is a totally different show and style of singing. So to do a rock musical playing a character based on a real person…was fun and intimidating. And in terms of it being my Broadway debut, once you get started, it kind of feels like, "OK, I'm just rehearsing for anything else." Except that all of a sudden you do start to feel like your friends are paying a lot more attention to what you're doing on Facebook and you're like, "I better not screw this one up."
What is the process of going into a Broadway show mid-run?
It was a quick rehearsal process. It was only two and a half weeks. A lot of it was just with the stage manager and the music director — and the stage manager kind of running around playing everybody else. So to get thrown on with the actual actors in front of an audience, it all felt very fast. But I'm starting to settle in. [When you're] put in the show, you're not sure whether this moment was created by the director or by the actor or what exactly has to stick or what can change. I took over for Jarrod Spector, and I thought his performance was tremendous, but we're totally different people. As much as I would like to just take everything he did and do it exactly the same way, it wouldn't really fit on me and what I do, so I feel like I had to sort of negotiate these things for myself and how they work for me.
Coming from the classical world of Phantom, is Beautiful 's rock score new for you?
My main voice teacher in college was trained in opera, so she trained me a little more in that legit world. I tend to think of singing the same way dancers think of ballet. Once you have the technique you need for ballet, you can start to do other things. So I tend to think, well if I have the technique to sing something classical, I can fool around with some other genres. Broadway is very much musically moving in a contemporary direction — unless you're talking about a revival. So I've tried to push myself to do those things.
How familiar were you with the music before joining the show?
I had seen the show seven or eight months before I actually auditioned for it. And of course a lot of the Carole King stuff I was familiar with, and some of the stuff I was familiar with and didn't know it was Carole King. I think that's the big thing that people love about this show. You see the Drifters come out, and you're like, "Oh my gosh! Carole King wrote that? I had no idea!" That's what I remember about seeing the show.
Have you had a chance to meet Barry Mann yet?
No, he hasn't been around. But I'm told he and Cynthia [Weil] both stop in frequently. So I'm hoping that happens.