Funny Girl in the Spotlight
Coming to Minnesota with the touring Broadway production of Funny Girl, Jackson Grove, a former Spotlight Education student, shared a little bit of his journey to the Broadway spotlight with us.
So, Jackson, you’re a Minnesota native, you’re a Spotlight alum from Alexandria. You’ve performed on our stages before. How does it feel to be coming back to the Cities as part of the touring Broadway production of Funny Girl?
It just makes me so happy. It’s a feeling that I haven’t had a ton in my life; to be so happy and excited and also grateful and reminded of all of the things that had to happen in order to get me to this place. Even before Spotlight, I remember seeing my first musical at the Orpheum, and I remember exactly where I sat and just being so happy and inspired by the performances. Being back here, being at the Orpheum, it’s just filled me with so much gratitude. Gratitude and joy and excitement. And I get to see my Spotlight people and it just is really exciting and thrilling.
What did the road from Alexandria to Broadway look like?
I remember doing the Triple Threat experience my senior year of high school and how that really opened up so much for me, both literally and just emotionally. To start, I just remember how happy I was being surrounded by so many other people who were my age and interested in the thing that I was most interested in. And I think that’s something that was super, super special, and still is special, about Spotlight; you’re able to include kids from everywhere across the state and bring them together. For me, there was nothing more inspiring than that, it was a huge thing for me. Of course, following the fun and joy of doing Spotlight Showcase in the summer, I also had the opportunity to attend the Jimmy Awards in 2018, which was just another situation where people from everywhere—students, directors, everyone who loved what they did and wanted to take it professionally. It just opened my mind to everything I can do with my life. It cemented the goals I had for myself, and I really knew what I wanted to do with my life. From there, I got to go train and audition, and now here I am getting to bring it back to where it all started.
It’s something that I don’t take lightly. I hold immense gratitude that I have the opportunity to do this.
What skills would you say Spotlight gave you? How did it prepare you for a life in the arts, both onstage and off?
Offstage, I think the interpersonal relationships and connections I created are super important, not only connections in the sense of the people who know and the jobs and contracts they could lead to, but learning to take care of your company members is super important. The experience meeting people, bonding and feeling a sense of community is just so beautiful and important for students and artists.
As far as onstage goes, I think about the workshops we did with Spotlight, and I remember thinking ‘Wow, the more times I’m able to just get up and do this in front of people, the more it becomes habit and skill and muscle memory.’ And whether it be singing and dancing or acting in front of people, those workshops made it a skill that’s in my back pocket and a muscle that I can rely on whenever I need to. It gave me greater success as an auditioner and performer.
Speaking of performing, Funny Girl has some incredibly highly stylized dance numbers. Do you have any favorites from the show?
I do! I do I think our choreographers did such a great job of really encapsulating the Ziegfeld Follies-ness of the 1920s and revamping it to make sense here, now in the 2020s. I’ve been loving our tap number in Act II, it’s called Rat Tat Tat Tat, and it’s really fun because almost the entire ensemble is in the number. It just feels really cool to be doing such difficult, historic choreography all together—it creates the sense of community like I was talking about earlier. We also all worked so hard on this one number towards the middle of Act II, towards the end of the show. It’s called Henry Street, and it’s a celebration number in Brooklyn where our main character Fanny is from and it’s fun because, again, almost the entire company is in that number, and it’s really a celebration of Fanny’s success. And we get to celebrate it through dance, and I just love performing it.
Final question: for all the Spotlight kids out there or for all the younger versions of yourself that will be sitting in the audience watching you perform at the Orpheum, what is your advice to them as they are getting ready for their spring productions or just finding their love for the performing arts?
I would tell them to have fun with their musical this year and to really enjoy the process. I would say try not to force anything and just really look inside to see what you want to do as an artist with whichever role you’re given in your show and do it to the maximum. Fully commit to whatever you’re trying to do with your role and put as much time and nuance work into it as you possibly can, because you will definitely be rewarded. And, if you are participating in Spotlight Showcase, enjoy being around so many other talented people and try to soak in as much of it as you can! It’s an awesome week with tons of different things going on, so you can easily slip away or the moments can become blurry. So, the more you are able to just be present and enjoy the moment, the better. Become a sponge that can soak up as much information and learning as possible. I think that will only benefit you and make the event even more enjoyable and rewarding.