The last time Riverside audiences saw Nat Jobe he was a donkey. Before that, he toured Australia dressed as a sheep and played a hyena in Disney’s The Lion King. He was both Dog and Frog in the family show Room on the Broom. This winter he joins us in Around the World in 80 Days.
Actor, singer and musical theatre specialist, Nat Jobe is a true stage animal.
“I have played so many different animals, it’s ridiculous!” he laughs.
Those who saw him as Donkey in Packemin’s production of Shrek the Musical at the Riverside earlier this year would remember his hilarious performance. Few would have appreciated what hard work it was.
“That costume was incredibly hot,” Jobe says. “It looked stunning but it was a fleecy material that covered every inch of my body. Plus it’s a hugely physical character so I was working really hard and sweating a heck of a lot. I had two big ice packs inside my costume that melted after every scene. We had to swap them for fresh ones after almost every scene.”
Things will be a little cooler (perhaps) for Jobe during his next visit to Riverside, aboard the stage adaptation of the classic Jules Verne adventure novel Around the World in 80 Days.
Verne’s story is well-known through its film adaptations, notably a 1956 epic starring David Niven and a 2004 Disney movie starring Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg and Jackie Chan as his manservant Passepartout.
This version, adapted for the stage by Toby Hulse and Terence O’Connell, faithfully traces Phileas Fogg’s attempt to circumnavigate the globe and win a huge wager in a show featuring 39 characters, all of whom are performed by three very busy actors who also have to conjure up storms at sea, runaway trains and elephant rides.
“We’ll be constantly swapping hats,” Jobe explains. “It’s one of the great things about doing a show like this. You get so many characters to play with.”
Chief among Jobe’s long list of characters is the wily and determined Detective Fix, who has been dispatched from London in search of a bank robber and mistakenly believes that Fogg is his man. A merry chase commences, one that takes the characters through Arabia to India, to Hong Kong and America.
“I also play the Indian Princess they rescue along the way, so I’ll also be in Bollywood drag,” Jobe says. “When I graduated from WAAPA (the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts), I did some work with a company called Bollywood Sensations. They trained me up and taught me some beautiful Bollywood routines and I became a bit obsessed with the whole genre after that. It’s so infectious and energetic and I’ll definitely be bringing a little bit of that to my Princess. I’m already working on all those Bollywood hand gestures to get them perfect.”
Raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Jobe grew up singing along to the musical theatre cast albums his parents collected.
“My dad would cook us breakfast and then we’d listen to records and sing along to The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables and Cats,” Jobe recalls. “As a child it just got my imagination sparking, I was so fascinated by the whole world of theatre. I was only four or five years old and too young to understand what was going on in Les Mis but my sisters would cry when Fantine died and so I did too without really knowing why.”
It sounds like a noisy and chaotic breakfast time but Jobe’s father always encouraged his children’s interest in the performing arts.
“My dad is Anglo-Indian and he didn’t have a creative outlet when he was a kid, which was something he always regretted. So he made sure we all learned musical instruments and sang and danced.”
Jobe says the British actor Michael Crawford was a big influence.
“In a school project in Year 6, we had to say two things we’d like to do when we were older. I wanted to play The Phantom and be a comedian,” Jobe says. “I think it was because we watched the TV show Some Mothers Do Have ’Em with my grandmother. I couldn’t believe it was the same man who also played the Phantom [Crawford played the role from 1986, for more than 1300 performances]. They are such different roles, television clowning and such a huge role on stage. The idea that you could do that as an actor really stuck in my mind.”
Jobe studied musical theatre at WAAPA, graduating in 2008. His early stage credits included Crikey!, a cheeky Steve Irwin themed musical, Opera Australia’s The Pirates of Penzance and Stuart Maunder’s production of the gritty musical Floyd Collins at the City Recital Hall. He was also The Gruffalo in an early iteration of the beloved family show (another animal, albeit a fictional one) before turning his hand to performing the title role in Monkey Baa Theatre Company’s award-winning adaptation of children’s author Jackie French’s Pete the Sheep, a production directed by The Wharf Revue’s Jonathan Biggins.
“I think it’s right up there as one of the best shows I’ve ever done,” Jobe says. “Seriously, I think that show was something special. It was so well written, the music by Phil Scott was incredible and it was so cheeky. It’s a perfect mini-musical really and we toured it all over Australia. It was one of the best years of my life.”
That, in turn, led to Jobe being cast in the revival of Disney’s The Lion King.
“I always seem to be cast in very physical roles,” he says. “Pete the Sheep was where that all began. I spent the majority of that show in a very deep squat with my back hinged over. It was incredibly painful at first but I got so strong. After that, the animal roles kept coming.”
The Lion King, says Jobe, “was an absolute joy to be part of, mostly because of its cultural content. We sang in different African dialects and it felt such an honour to be immersed in such an incredible show.”
All that experience feeds into his performance in Around the World in 80 Days, says Jobe.
“When I go into a rehearsal room, I tend to make very big physical choices because that helps me find the character.”
Around the World in 80 Days is perfect for family audiences, says Jobe. “The kids will love it for all the action and parents will enjoy seeing a story they know quite well done in such an unusual way. I think it’s going to be hysterical.”
Written by Elissa Blake and originally published on Audrey Journal
Around the World in 80 Days plays at Riverside Theatres for two performances only – Tuesday 14 August at 8pm and Wednesday 15 August at 8pm