PHOTO: Jacob Smith, a 2000 MHS graduate, is a full-time actor, living in New York. He is currently on tour with “Rock of Ages” and will perform in Cedar Rapids on May 23. (Photo from www.jacoblsmith.com)
PHOTO: Taking on the role of Dennis Dupree in “Rock of Ages,” Jacob Smith (center) is transformed into the character while on stage. After performing in “The King and I” while at MHS, Smith quickly got over his stage fright. (Photo courtesy of Scott Butner)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Growing up in Monticello, Jacob Smith has certainly made a name for himself on marquees and in theater programs all across the country.
Smith is a 2000 graduate of Monticello High School. His parents are Sally and Joel Smith.
Twelve years after he graduated, Smith is hitting it big! He will soon appear on stage at the newly renovated Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids, starring as Dennis Dupree in the Broadway hit “Rock of Ages.” Alec Baldwin also portrayed this character in the movie “Rock of Ages.”
“But his (Baldwin’s) take on Dennis is very different from mine,” noted Smith.
He joined the “Rock of Ages” tour in May 2012 in Alaska.
“I was a short-term replacement and ended up staying with the production through Chicago,” said Smith. “I went back to New York (where he’s lived since 2008) in late July and then rejoined the tour in January as a full-time cast member.”
The tour ends in Philadelphia in mid-June.
“We’ll have about six weeks off before we head to Singapore for the month of August,” noted Smith. “All-in-all, I should hit around 300 performances with this show.”
Smith, who is a full-time actor now, said he actually didn’t get involved in acting and theater until he graduated from UNI. He mentioned he did play a role in “The King and I” while at MHS, giving a shout out to former mentors Deb Bowman and Francie Head.
”I had such horrible stage fright then (in high school) that it was a non-singing role,” said Smith.
Later in life, he gave in and auditioned for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Oster Regent Theatre in Cedar Falls. He landed the role of Simeon.
“Once I got in and started going, I was able to confront my stage fright and move past it for bigger roles, which eventually led to me heading to New York to pursue acting professionally.”
A small-town guy from Iowa living on his own in New York can be quite a culture shock. Smith said even though he’s been there since 2008, he’s really only lived in New York for two and half years because he’s been on the road touring for so long.
“It was a huge transition,” he admitted. “There was so much I was unprepared for, but I acclimated quickly. I had a headache for three days straight just because I couldn’t stop looking around at everything.”
He said in New York, there is always something going on, always something to see and do.
“It really didn’t take long to adjust, but I wish I would have done more research before heading out.”
Prior to “Rock of Ages,” Smith has had quite an impressive string of great roles in a variety of acclaimed productions. In 2010, he performed as a featured soloist in Broadway Rising Stars in New York. Some of his notable roles in theater productions include Willard Hewitt in “Footloose” and Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” both at the Hope Martin Theatre in Waterloo. His New York performances include Sir Dennis Galahad in “Spamalot” and Peter Ilyitch Boroff in “Silk Stockings.”
Smith toured with “Spamalot,” which is produced by the theatrical company Phoenix Entertainment, for two years. That same company is also producing “Rock of Ages.”
“The producers knew me and apparently liked my work,” Smith said modestly. “When they needed a short-term replacement to go into ‘Rock of Ages’ quickly, I got the call.”
Smith said the call came while he was in New York. His producer asked him if he’d like to be in “Rock of Ages” and asked how quickly he could be on a plane to Vancouver, Canada. He jumped on a plane the very next day, and only had five days to learn the show for its opening in Anchorage, Alaska.
Being involved in an international tour like this, Smith said, “It really blows my mind sometimes.”
A few weeks ago, “Rock of Ages” was performing at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. He recalled seeing his first theatrical show on that very stage years ago.
“Getting the opportunity to perform on that same stage? Crazy!”
Life on the road… Smith explained it can be both exciting and tedious.
“Most of your job on tour is travel and your reward is getting to do the show,” he said. “I have been to places I never would have (seen) if not for this tour.”
Smith said he’s performed in 49 of the 50 states. “Hawaii is a little elusive,” he offered.
“It’s been an amazing and exciting experience!”
“Rock of Ages” features a mix of ’80s tunes from such musicians as Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Poison and many more. The story follows Sherrie and Drew on their path to stardom on the California Sunset Strip, and all of the characters they meet along the way.
The show will be at the Paramount in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 23, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to see Smith in action on the stage can be purchased at www.paramounttheatrecr.com.