I'll Cover You: Performing Angel in Rent

LGBT+ History Month / I'll Cover You: Performing Angel in Rent

The University of Wolverhampton presents an online talk with Alex Thomas-Smith, Will Wilhelm and Layton Williams. This was recorded on 5th February 2021.

The musical Rent holds an important place in the hearts of many LGBTQ people with its central positioning of two queer couples and its setting in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s. Alex Thomas-Smith, Will Wilhelm and Layton Williams have all performed as Angel in recent productions of Rent in Manchester, Chicago and on the UK tour. 

This panel is hosted by Dr James Lovelock and will look at how the role of Angel can be interpreted in different ways according to emerging gender and sexual identities in the 21st century.

Alex Thomas-Smith (they/he)  is a professional singer, dancer and actor from London. He works both on stage and screen. Alex is originally from Leeds, but he moved to London at the age of 18 for his training. He started his television career when he was only 11 years old in the BAFTA award-winning CBBC drama, The Revenge Files of Alistair Fury. Alex made his on-stage debut in the Olivier nominated musical Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith. Currently appearing in Dear Evan Hansen, He is understudying Jared Kleinman and Evan Hansen as part of the West End cast.

Will Wilhelm (they/them) is a trans/non-binary actor based in Chicago, IL. They were born and raised in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where they grew up with their parents and a myriad of younger siblings. Upon graduating high school, Will moved to Evanston, IL to attend Northwestern University. Will began their professional career in Chicago while studying at NU and has since had the pleasure of working with some of the finest regional theatres around including Steppenwolf Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. They were in the resident acting company at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland for two years where they created several genderqueer characters in classic works.

Layton Williams (he/him) is an actor, singer, and dancer, best known for playing the role of Stephen in the television series Bad Education. His first job was at the age of twelve playing the title role in Billy Elliot on London's West End. During his childhood he also played young Michael in Thriller the musical, Kylie in the BBC series Beautiful People and featured in the CBBC Documentary School for Stars, which documented life at the acting school Italia Conti. From late 2016, he began playing Angel in the 20th anniversary tour of Rent around the UK. The production, particularly his performance, received rave reviews.[1] Since January 2019 he is playing the title character of Jamie New in Everybody's Talking About Jamie and is currently taking the role on tour around the UK.

Dr James Lovelock (he/him) is a musical theatre academic with a background in improvising and creating musical theatre. He was the original musical director for Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, and his musical Sunshine Guy was premiered at the University of Birmingham in 2013 and subsequently performed at the Landor Theatre in February 2013 as part of the From Page to Stage series. James is the director of Baron Sternlook Productions, which produced two full runs of Baron Sternlook's Improvised Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014 and 2015 and continues to perform regularly in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

James graduated with a PhD from the University of Birmingham in 2017 after submitting his thesis titled 'Not Just For Gays Anymore: Men, Masculinity and Musical Theatre'. He has been involved in a range of LGBTQ initiatives including a concert performance of Soho Cinders as part of LGBT History Month in February 2015 and the establishment of a staff-student LGBTQ* Performing Arts research group at the University of Wolverhampton in 2017. James has over 15 years of teaching experience and has presented papers at both national and international conferences.

Black History Month 2020, Wolverhampton School of Art, University of Wolverhampton

We are embracing Black History Month beyond the confines of a single month. Our intention is for Black History Month to transcend seasonality and 'tokenism’ so that the original initiative itself is eventually no longer required.

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