We talk to Twan Lentjes – member of our Musical Theatre Company, and mastermind being the stunning costumes worn during the recent City Academy Pantomine – about his time in the company so far and his new project Twan Lentjes Creations…
You’ve been with the Musical Theatre Company for a while now, do you remember your first City Academy course? How did you feel before the first session?
I remember my first class very well; it was in January 2012. I wasn’t sure whether to sign up for Musical Theatre Beginners, but someone gave me that last bit of encouragement I needed to get involved. I was very nervous as I had never sung or danced in front of other people before (only at primary school). I kept thinking about how good the others would be and how bad I would be in comparison. But from the moment we started it was great fun and even though my dancing wasn’t brilliant, I pulled through. I am so happy I signed up as it has changed my life.
Where did you grow up? And have you always been interested in singing and performing?
I was born in Nijmegen, a city in the southeast of the Netherlands, and grew up in places around there. The head of my primary school was always putting on plays & musicals for us to get involved in. They were fun experiences, but after that my interest tailed-off.
That all changed when I went to see a mix of The Wizard of Oz and Rocky Horror – Rocky Over The Rainbow. Thanks to that show I fell in love with musical theatre. At that point I knew I wanted to be part of it – either on or off stage. When I moved to Amsterdam I started taking acting classes, worked as an extra and I joined a theatre group. I was always singing at home and in my car; never on stage as I didn’t think I could sing well enough. After I moved to London and caught lots of West End shows, I started looking for musical theatre classes and ended up finding City Academy.
…even though my dancing wasn’t brilliant, I pulled through. I am so happy I signed up as it has changed my life.
Where do you work? And how does it tie into your after-work classes?
When I first joined City Academy I worked as receptionist in the W London hotel. Sometimes I had to work during class hours or right after class for an overnight shift. I have to credit the managers for being really flexible – always trying to schedule my shifts around classes. Now I work in corporate reception and I don’t have to worry about any clashes, as I only work day shifts!
How has being in the Musical Theatre Company changed/complimented your life?
The Musical Theatre Company has given me so much more self-confidence and I’ve made lots of great friends. It really feels like being part of a family. I now dare to stand up and sing and be myself.
What was the first show you were involved in at City Academy? How did it make you feel?
I was the only person from my Improvers group that went on to join the Monday Company, everyone else joined the Tuesday group, so I didn’t really know anyone. But from the moment I joined I felt accepted as a new family member. Everyone was really nice and it was a great experience to be part of a full show – the first City Academy pantomime, Cinderella. I’d never seen panto before, so I did have to get used to that style of theatre, but it was great fun.
To me it was a dream come true when I finally had the chance to sit down, relax and watch the full show on stage.
What is the social side of the Musical Theatre Company like? Do you meet outside of classes?
We usually end up in the pub after rehearsals for a drink to get to know each other better. There was a period when we used to go to karaoke after the pub as well – sometimes until the early hours of the morning!
We also like to support members who perform in shows with other groups, or see shows in the West End together. I see some people outside of the Company quite a lot, so the group’s an important part of my social life. I was still new to London when I joined and I didn’t know many people then, so it’s always great to make new friends.
You recently started a new venture, tell us a bit about Twan Lentjes Creations and how it started…
I’ve been sewing since I was little and I have always made my own clothing. Since I joined the Company I picked it up again as we source our own show costumes and I usually don’t like the store-bought outfits. My partner at the time inspired me to do more with my self-taught sewing skills and that is why I created my own brand as a costume designer & creator – Twan Lentjes Creations. Not only does it fit my name, I also put tender loving care into what I create.
I’ve had the opportunity to work as costume supervisor on a few of the City Academy shows. When I was cast as the Genie in Aladdin, I went all-out on my own costume and also created Aladdin’s Prince Ali costume and Jasmine’s dress. I received so much positive feedback, that I decided to really go for it with my costume making.
Our most recent show – Sleeping Beauty – really helped me realise I can do this to a high standard. Instead of performing, I designed all of the costumes and together with a small team we made over 70 pieces for both the Monday and Tuesday Company. It taught me so much as a designer and costume maker, and I also had the chance to teach others about my passion. I am so proud of the people who helped me with all the sewing. They’d not done much before and now they have made full dresses all by themselves. How amazing is that? To me it was a dream come true when I finally had the chance to sit down, relax and watch the full show on stage.
She gave birth on Tuesday night after class and on Sunday she came to see the show.
You’ve been taught by a number of different City Academy tutors. How would you describe them? And what have they taught you?
All the teachers I have had have been amazing. Everyone is really friendly and they care about the group.
They try to push you to do greater things.
What I really like about the Company is that there are always other roles to be fulfilled besides performing, such as the costume department, stage management, props, assistant musical director etc. To be given the opportunity and trust to take on the task is a great learning curve and the teachers are always happy to help you.
Can you give us a couple of your favourite moments or anecdotes about a City Academy class, show or group?
There are so many great moments. I think one of them has to be from when we did Witches of Eastwick. Rebecca [Wicking; Head of Musical Theatre] was pregnant and still taught on the Monday and Tuesday before show weekend. She gave birth on Tuesday night after class and on Sunday she came to see the show. When we saw her at the end during the curtain call, everyone was so surprised to see her there.
A funny moment to me was when we performed Dick Whittington. Joanna Reyes was playing Queen Rat and she and 4 of her minions (I was one of them) performed ‘Bad Guys’ from Bugsy Malone. At some point she was climbing on top of us as we were on all fours, however we sort of collapsed and her high heeled shoe came off right before the end. Quickly I tried to get her shoe back on as we acted like it was meant to be, without trying to laugh. I think that’s the fun about performing live, things can go wrong and you just have to sort it out right there and then.
You’ve taken a lot of classes with us. What would you say to someone who was thinking of trying a class?
Don’t think too much about it, just do it! If you have a passion for something, show it. Look where is has taken me over the last few years.