A Conversation With Jackson Head

An interview with Beauty and the Beast the Musical Australia's Gaston



Since mid-2023, Australian audiences have been able to fall in love with Disney Theatrical Production’s official Australian production of Beauty and the Beast the Musical, offering the iconic story revolving around beauty being more than what is on the outside, a spectacular cast, and ultimately showing that even if it was the first animated feature film Disney adapted to the stage, it still greatly holds up to even their more modern works like Frozen or Aladdin. You can read my full review of this ★★★★★ 5-star musical HERE. The tour is now performing at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s (QPAC) Lyric Theatre until June 2024, where it will travel down south to Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Since the Australian tour commenced at the Sydney Lyric Theatre last year, Jackson Head has been with the Australian cast. This young performer originally served as understudy to the role of Gaston (whom I happened to see perform early during the Sydney season, and praised immensely), and has since dropped the ‘understudy’ from the title, entertaining audiences as the charming antagonist 8-shows a week. A graduate of Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University’s Bachelor of Musical Theatre program, he performed in many major roles for QCGU, in addition to a range of stage roles including Orlando in As You Like It (Melbourne Shakespeare Company) and Joseph Cover / Naphtali in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (Recent Australian tour).

Jackson Head was kind enough to provide time from his busy schedule to respond to some questions about his experiences touring with Beauty and the Beast the Musical, his thoughts on Gaston as a character, advice for those looking to make a name for themselves in the performing arts industry and more. You can read the full interview below!

A Conversation With Jackson Head 1
Jackson Head, Imagery Provided
You are now more than six months into Beauty and the Beast Australian season – having wrapped up the Sydney season and now mid-way through performing the Brisbane season. How has the Australian tour been treating you so far, and what have been some highlights on your journey with the production? Are you excited about the months ahead, to be performing in Brisbane?

It’s been incredible. There have been so many cool moments so far, but a real highlight has to be working with this cast and crew. We are so lucky, we have some of the best artists in the country working on this production. I feel really honoured to be working alongside and learning from them on a daily basis.

On top of that, of course, it’s always a highlight seeing how audiences really enjoy the show. As a performer that’s all you hope for; seeing the audience leave the theatre happy. It’s something Disney does so well.

Opening night in Brisbane was so special to me. The Lyric Theatre is somewhere I spent a lot of time growing up, watching other productions, so it was really special to be able to perform in this incredible production of Beauty and the Beast for my first time on the Lyric Theatre stage.

As a graduate of Queensland Conservatorium, how does it feel returning to where you performed in many of your earliest roles and did your professional training? I am also curious from an academic perspective, what was a key takeaway from doing the course?

It’s very special to be back here. As a young arts student in Brisbane, the Lyric Theatre is one of the stages you dream of performing on, and now I get to perform there eight shows a week! In a Disney musical no less.

It feels even more special now because the Academy of Music Theatre is now based at QPAC. In fact, I’ve run into some of QUT faculty since we opened here, which is really fun. It’s great to see them again.

I studied at The Con from 2017 – 2019. The university challenged me to give things a go. Prior to my studies I was hesitant to branch outside of what I had always known, trying new vocal styling or exploring theatrical texts… The Con is a place where you can make mistakes; in fact it is welcomed to explore your mistakes and learn from them.

The Con, in my opinion, values developing not only good talent but good people. They really put an emphasis on that. So leaving the university, as much as learning to perfect techniques, the biggest takeaway was how to be a good person and a good company member working in the industry.

Gaston is a character that audiences love to hate. What do you think makes him such a compelling antagonist?

Gaston is not your traditional villain, I think he genuinely believes he’s the hero of the story! He’s charming and charismatic and used to getting his way more often than not, but it’s his deception, his lack of empathy and compassion, and the way he handles his losses, that leads him to become one of Disney’s most villainous characters.

Also, I think there’s part of Gaston that is so familiar to all of us, and that’s why we love to hate him. Maybe there’s someone in our lives who’s a bit like him, or maybe we’ve even seen a tiny bit of him in ourselves at times. He’s a lot of fun to play.

Gaston is a character with complex layers – considered to be the villain of the story yet possessing very charismatic qualities that charms many. How do you approach portraying the multifaceted nature of Gaston, and are there any personal touches have you added to the role?

Gaston is so different to how I am and who I want to be personally, so it’s a lot of fun to jump in and play around with this role. On the other hand, when you perform a character you resonate with – their layers are a lot closer to yours, so it’s more about sharing rather than playing with something new.

Beauty and the Beast features a number of extended, “endurance” songs if you will, the one that comes to mind surrounding you being Gaston’s titular song. Requiring you to be a peak triple threat throughout the song, how do you prepare for and sustain the high energy and vocal stamina needed for Gaston’s titular song, and how do you ensure your performance remains engaging and dynamic throughout the entire number?

‘Gaston’ is a very demanding number across the board; physically, vocally, and energy wise. A lot of my pre-show prep is catered towards ‘Gaston’ and ensuring I can sustain what’s needed for the number. It’s huge!

In saying that, Gaston is made a lot easier by the incredible Nick Cox who plays Le Fou. Nick brings so much energy to the role, so naturally you just want to bounce off everything he’s bringing to the number. Also of course my fellow cast members’ energy onstage and in the tavern helps to propel the scene forward. It’s a lot of fun to perform.

What were your earliest memories of watching Beauty and the Beast the film? And why do you think the works around the film, such as this musical, continue to resonate with audiences today?

Beauty and the Beast is a story that touches on themes that are quite timeless and relevant to people from all walks of life, like not judging a book by its cover (Gaston! Beast! Neither are what they appear to be on the surface).

The story also has characters that make everyone feel seen. Young adults resonate with the feisty young Belle who dreams of adventure and making her way in the world, or the Beast who is unsure of himself and trying to get back to who he really is. Parents relate to Mrs. Potts, kids relate to Chip etc … there is something for everyone. 

Growing up, Beauty and the Beast was our go-to Disney film. We would watch the film on VHS, on our old brown TV, skirted with silver, no remote… Just the dials!

Personally, I loved Belle’s story and the Beast’s character arc. My favourite moment from the film is ‘Something’s There’, when Belle begins to see the Beast for who he truly is inside and the Beast begins to show his vulnerability. It’s really sweet. It’s also the one moment in the whole film when the Beast sings, which I love.

What made you originally audition for the role of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast?

Well, for starters, I love Disney. During my singing lessons growing up, there were a couple of years where I would take in the music for ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ and ‘Me’ – two songs that really challenged me. I love the music from the film, so when the opportunity came a decade later I jumped at the chance to audition for Beauty and the Beast. It’s a dream come true to play Gaston.

What advice do you have for those who hope to follow in your footsteps and seek out their own career in the performing arts industry?

It’s been such a whirlwind getting here, I haven’t really taken stock yet haha. I would say – if you love it, keep at it. Be prepared to work hard and, as much as you can, practise all disciplines, because you never know when a movement call will turn into a dance call, or when you may be asked to sight read! Just give everything a go!

Having been part of both classic and contemporary musicals, and surely been immersed in the industry as a young performer. How do you personally envision the landscape of musical theatre evolving over the coming decade or two, and what excites you about its future?

Well, I think we’re already seeing that evolution! One of the really cool things about the arts is that it holds up a mirror to what society is experiencing, and so we’re seeing a lot of new work come through just as we are seeing early 20th century works reimagined (like Beauty and the Beast!) because their central themes speak to a universal truth. To me, theatre is moving forward but also looking back with new perspectives, and the best part is that there is only going to be more theatre, which is exciting!

Rapid Fire Questions!

Favourite song in Beauty and the Beast (Can be one of yours, can be another)

‘If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)’. One of the most beautiful moments in the show, in my opinion.

Favourite moment in the show?

It has to be the Mob Scene in Act Two. It’s crazy but it’s fun!

Favourite piece of choreography in the show?

‘Gaston’ of course. There’s so many moving parts.

Favourite costume in the show in general?

Cogsworth. What they have done with the costume is really cool, lots of intricate details.

Favourite piece of staging / set design?

The Tavern bench as it’s integral to the ‘Gaston’ number in Act One.

Favourite moment with the cast/crew?

My favourite moment is warm up. It’s fun to see everyone before we go on-stage.

First impressions when walking into rehearsals on the first day?

Fear haha. I was really nervous to walk into a room with people I’ve looked up to and wanted to work with forever.

Do you have a favourite pre-show ritual or routine?

I like to go on a walk and listen to different styles of music to inform my day.

Favourite fun fact about Beauty and the Beast Australian tour?

During ‘Gaston’ we clink our mugs over 820 times!

Favourite Disney animated work?

Tangled. As a kid I thought Flynn Rider was pretty cool.

If you had the opportunity to fill another role in Beauty and the Beast for one night, with no limitations, what role would that be?

Definitely the Beast. I love what this production does with the character, I think it’d be fun to explore that. 

Also, Madame is so funny. In the Australian production the role is played by the hilarious Alana Tranter. What she has done with the role is just incredible.

What is something that people might miss on for their first watch of Beauty and the Beast but should keep an eye out for.

The enchanted rose. Disney magic is everywhere you look in this production. 

Something you are most looking forward to doing while in Brisbane?

I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and making the most of the warm weather.

I would like to once again pass on my thanks to Jackson Head for being so generous with their time and insight when responding to these questions! Special thanks must also go to Disney Theatrical Productions Australia and the show’s publicity team at Peach and Pineapple for facilitating this opportunity! Want more? You can read our interview with Shubshri Kandiah from 2023 HERE, with more interviews to come in the future.

Tickets to see the Brisbane (QPAC, Lyric Theatre) and Melbourne (Her Majesty’s Theatre) seasons of Beauty and the Beast the Musical are currently on-sale, with ticketing information for both states available via the musical’s official Australian website.

With the Easter school holidays almost underway in Queensland, Disney Theatrical Productions will also be offering extra midweek matinee performances on Thursdays and Fridays during the school holiday period. Plus, the 5-ticket buy offer, where guests can save $20 per ticket, has also been extended for the holidays and is available for all midweek matinees, midweek evening and Sunday evening performances between 2 April 2024 – 14 April 2024.

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