“They do lots of Broadway musicals in the West End,” says the Manhattan native Jamie Bogyo. “I thought that as an American in London, I’d have a competitive advantage here.” Could be. Who knows? But if it’s the accent we’re talking about, plenty of Brits can hack that. In the crunch, it’s talent that gets you parts. And as the lone U.S. graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s class of 2019, Bogyo, now 29, has been landing only plums. Off his first professional audition, he copped the male lead in the original London cast of Baz Luhrmann’s jukebox hit Moulin Rouge! The Musical. For his second act, he’s sharing top billing with the West End icon Michael Ball in Aspects of Love, that male-chauvinist soap the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (who also wrote the book) reportedly reckons a personal favorite. Perhaps not incidentally, both Bogyo’s characters are Yanks on the loose in la douce France.
In Aspects of Love, Bogyo appears as Alex, raised in Maine (!), who ages from his late teens to nearly 40 over the course of the show’s two acts. That’s the part Ball played (as a Brit) in the original production; now Ball has graduated to George, Alex’s uncle, a generation older. Announcing Bogyo as his successor, Ball told the papers, “He’s tall, good-looking, sings like a dream, and is half my age … I hate him! He will be amazing.” For the record, Bogyo’s top note in the show is higher than Ball’s, which brings down the house.
On a Saturday night in May, after an eight-show week, the new Alex was on his way to Majorca for some whirlwind R&R with his other half, Marisa Abela (soon to be scorching the big screen as Amy Winehouse in the biopic Back to Black). But first he stopped in at the trattoria Bocca di Lupo, across the lane from the stage door of the Lyric Theatre, for a quick bite and some questions.
MATTHEW GUREWITSCH: Why London? Don’t stagestruck kids in America dream of Broadway and Hollywood anymore?
JAMIE BOGYO: I was an undergraduate in the Yale playwriting program when I came over for four months of study abroad, and I just fell in love.
M.G.: What turned you on to theater in the first place?
J.B.: My dad made his career as a general manager on Broadway. In fact, he wrote the book on what that job even is. When I was a kid, he took me to shows the way other kids get taken to ball games. Going to the theater was my favorite thing.
M.G.: But the acting bug didn’t come until later?
J.B.: The program I did at Yale was academic. We usually didn’t get to mix with the grad students in the School of Drama. But when someone dropped out of a Tennessee Williams one-act called And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens, they cast me. That was the first time I got to work with people who wanted to act professionally. The discipline and the focus set the tone for what came later. But I knew I would need more training. I applied to two top American programs and to RADA. RADA accepted me, so here I am.
M.G.: Your grandparents on your mother’s side, James McCracken and Sandra Warfield, were opera singers. Their lifelong dream was to sing Samson and Delilah together at the Met, and eventually they did. Are you following in their footsteps?
J.B.: Well, Aspects of Love is sort of an opera. It’s the closest I’ve come to their world, and it gives me a chance to dip my toe in. But opera isn’t what I was trained in. Also, my granddad died before I was born, and by the time I came along, Nana had moved on to cabaret. If I ever saw her perform, it was before I can remember.
M.G.: Are you still writing plays?
J.B.: Yes, definitely. I’ve written three so far. I got to act in one of them at RADA. Now there’s talk of a major regional production next year, which I’ll act in as well.
M.G.: Aren’t there any issues with working papers?
J.B.: Thanks to my dad thinking ahead and his Hungarian ancestry, I got a second, Hungarian passport while I was still at RADA, pre-Brexit. So that pretty much solved that problem.
M.G.: How about coming back to America?
J.B.: When the time is right, and not just for musicals. There are lots of classic American plays I want to do, plays by Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill. But New York’s an expensive place to be pounding the pavement. I’d love to come back when I’ve got work.
Aspects of Love is on at Lyric Theatre, in London, through August 19
Matthew Gurewitsch writes about opera and classical music for AIR MAIL.He lives in Hawaii