James Tobias was born in Spain, spent some formative years as a child in Mexico, lived in several other countries, went to college in Eastbourne and university in Carlisle… I’m hoping that the family was on the run from incompetent baddies like those in Home Alone, because anything else to explain the continuous moving around would be far less exciting, writes Michael Holland.
Mr Tobias now lives in Leighton Buzzard but those years constantly circling the globe has translated to constantly working, with two pantomimes in production this Christmas, The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio next spring, for which he has written the book and lyrics, and his bucket list dream of directing Seussical The Musical happening very soon. But more of that later.
James’ initial attraction to the theatre was seeing the Mexican production of Grease. ‘As a child I was obsessed with Grease,’ he says with a nostalgic twinkle lighting up his eye as he remembers that first theatrical experience. ‘I was in awe of it all: the music, the actors, everything. That’s when I knew theatre was what I wanted to do.’
With a grandmother who encouraged James to pursue his passion and a mother who wanted her son to have a ‘back-up plan’, he trod a fine line between the two women in his life: ‘Having been involved in the music industry, I think my mother knew the instability and challenges a career in the arts would bring.’ Upon arriving in the UK, however, James took drama at college and ‘became involved in as many amateur dramatic productions as I could, and found myself able to at last feed my obsession for the stage.’
James and his producing partner, Rochelle Parry, set up Immersion Theatre as a vehicle for their acting careers, but over time his passion shifted from performing to directing and producing. He explains, ‘The buzz was less from taking a bow and more from sitting in a theatre, watching an audience enjoy a show you’ve created, knowing that they’re all there because of you and the work you’ve put in. There’s no greater feeling.’ After years of doing multiple jobs to keep the company going Immersion became their full-time jobs, and a UK tour of Our House attracted three What’s On Stage nominations. The hard work put in eventually paid off, dreams came true and James is confident that ‘as long as you put the work in, I truly believe you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.’
That belief and effort has led to him directing Seussical The Musical – a dream waiting to happen for 15 years. ‘I remember watching an amateur production in college and falling instantly in love. I adore everything about it – not least what it has to say and what it stands for. My passion is family theatre and this show is family theatre in the truest sense. It has been created for audiences of all ages and boasts one of the most electric scores I’ve come across, larger-than-life yet painfully relatable characters which will resonate with everyone in the audience and addresses a number of issues in a sensitive and intelligent way. I cannot stress enough, whether you’re a child, a parent, a young adult with no children…you will absolutely connect with this show and leave having had an amazing time and feeling inspired.’ The love James Tobias has for this piece of work was unmistakable and I am now as excited as he is. I can’t wait to see what will definitely be one of the standout Christmas shows in London.
Seussical The Musical is on at the Southwark Playhouse (The Large), 77-85 Newington Causeway, SE1 6BD from Thursday 22nd November – Saturday 29th December. Times: Tues – Sat 7.30pm; Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees, 3pm. Admission: £25, £20 concs, £14 previews. Phone: 020 7407 0234.
Phots: Adam Trigg