Tinley Native Scores Leading Role in Traveling Musical
By Kristen Schorsch | Southtown Star
Sporting a black blazer with a red shirt peeking out, Tinley Park native Joseph London revels in his journey to the Broadway musical scene.
The 28-year-old Andrew High School alumnus and opera singer has been trying to score his big break for years, mastering Italian, French and German and training with some of opera’s finest.
London’s finally done it, snagging a leading role in the traveling Broadway National Tour of “Chicago the Musical.” He starts rehearsals Monday in New York for an adventure that will take him to about 70 cities in North America in the next five months.
“This has been a long time in the making,” said London, sitting in his parent’s Tinley Park home Friday. “This is really my love, musical theater.”
He auditioned for “Chicago” in 2004. Since then, casting directors have called him every few months to make sure he was still interested. The role recently opened.
London, who has performed in about 20 operas, will play the role of Mary Sunshine, a reporter who follows the murder case of two cabaret stars who kill their lovers. The audience is supposed to think he is a woman, much like actor John Travolta’s role as the mother of teen dance sensation Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray.”
Luckily for him, London, whose singing voice is similar to an alto’s, played the same role this fall in “Chicago” in Albany, NY.
“It’s a huge artistic outlet,” London said of musical theater. “Every time you’re on stage, you can be something else.”
The youngest of four children, London played sports as his athletic brothers and cheerleader sister did. But in junior high, he discovered music after ditching class at Grissom Junior High School.
“A friend of mine wanted to get out of math, so we skipped to try out for choir,” London said.
London credits his Andrew High School voice teacher with launching his love for opera and preparing him for his career.
London was in the varsity and show choirs his freshman year. He did every musical he could, performing in four to five shows a year.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in opera studies at Roosevelt University and was part of the first apprentice program between the college and the Chicago Opera Theater.
In his sophomore year, London studied in Italy for nearly three months with the former teacher of the late opera star Luciano Pavarotti.
“I lived with an Italian family that didn’t speak English,” London said. “It was great because it really solidified my training.”
He then earned his master’s degree in music at the Manhattan (NY) School of Music and studied at the Juilliard Opera Center in New York. London also spent some time back home, teaching voice lessons in Niles and coordinating performances at the Ravinia outdoor music fesitval in Highland Park.
“That was a dream of mine,” London said of Ravinia, where he met his idols, among them opera star and Broadway phenom Audra McDonald, who stars on the television drama “Private Practice.”
But London kept getting calls for auditions in New York, forcing him to fly back and forth two to three times a month. So in January, he moved back.
“It’s a rough business,” London said. “To know that right now for the next seven months I’m in a show, that’s great.”
London’s mother, Betty, said she worried the most when her son moved to the East Coast because he’d have to audition for every job.
“I feel the struggles that he did,” she said. “Living in New York, not knowing when you’re going to get a job next.”
For “Chicago,” Betty London plans to see at least five of her son’s performances. She’s already marked every one of them on a large desk calendar.
“I’m ready to go, which is great,” London said.