Born to perform: West End star Louis Gaunt shares how a fully funded scholarship enabled him to study Musical Theatre and follow a career he loves.
Louis Gaunt is a British actor, singer and musical theatre performer. His most recent role is Bert in the acclaimed stage musical of Mary Poppins in the West End. He won The Stage Debut Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2018 for his performance as Will Parker in Oklahoma! More recently, Gaunt has shot to fame as Lord Lumley in season two of Bridgerton.
With a mum for a dance teacher and an uncle in the West End, musical theatre was a familiar industry, yet Louis kept his considerable talent under wraps at school for fear of bullying. It was not until he was talent spotted while dancing at the touring dance convention ‘Can You Dance?’ that his life changed drastically and aged just 16 with only ten weeks to prepare, he embraced a life-changing opportunity accepting a fully funded scholarship to study the Trinity Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre at Performers College in Essex, UK.
“I hid dancing throughout my whole childhood. Unfortunately, I was worried I would be judged if my peers at school knew that I danced. School can be a very tough place for some.’
Louis learned a variety of dance styles including hip hop, ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary from a young age.
While Louis enjoyed school and academics, it was not an environment where he felt comfortable sharing his love for dance, and he kept his craft hidden in an effort to fit in. His teachers spotted his natural ability and encouraged him to do dance as part of his Physical Education GCSE. In fact, Louis recalls with a smile that his PE teachers were the only people who got to see him dance throughout his school years.
Louis was planning on pursuing his academic studies but fate had other plans for this gifted dancer. He was spotted while taking part in a workshop at a ‘Can You Dance?’ convention and offered a fully funded scholarship for a three year course at Performers College leading to the Trinity Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre. Without the Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA) funding, Louis would not have been able to accept the life-changing opportunity.
Within ten weeks from being spotted to starting at Performers College – and at the young age of 16 – Louis’ life changed drastically. He had to learn how to cook and manage his personal affairs, as well as learn the craft and discipline of his artistry. He didn’t even realise that he could sing, but with the encouragement and support of his incredible teachers, by the end of his first year he had fallen in love with singing, acting and dancing.
He explains that while artistry is subjective, there is so much to learn and understand through the diploma – you learn so much about yourself that you can’t even begin to imagine the journey you take as a performer.
“Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome at times, but you wouldn’t be here unless you were meant to be here.”
Louis transitioned from college to the professional world seamlessly and instantly, taking on his first role in Oklahoma! while still finishing his final year. He won The Stage Debut Award for ‘Best Actor in a Musical 2018’ for his role as Will Parker, giving him a significant confidence boost and a raised profile in the industry. His credits include Oklahoma!, Sweet Charity, Kiss Me Kate, Standing at the Sky's Edge, The Happy Prince, Grease, Gypsy, Piaf and Mary Poppins.
As he progresses through his career, Louis continues to draw on his college experiences and the host of transferable skills he gained there. During his third year he had taken on the role of director for a show which broadened his understanding of theatre and helped further develop his opinions on the arts.
Skills Louis acquired during his time studying Musical Theatre at college and continues to develop as his career grows include:
Career highlights for Louis include playing Tulsa in Gypsy at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester where singing ‘All I Need is the Girl’ really was a “dream come true” for the young actor, as well as acting as Lord Lumley in TV’s Bridgerton. Louis describes his days on set as “the most exciting working days I’ve ever had in my life. Yet it felt like a big family”.
Playing Bert in the West End production of Mary Poppinsis a career highlight for Louis and he is relishing playing the famous role in this multi-award winning musical production.
“Throughout my training I have learned that things should be individual, and that you can find yourself in the creative process without having to mimic the way a previous actor performed a role.”
Without the scholarship and full financial support he received, Louis candidly explains that he would never have been able to pursue his dreams. His immense success is testament to the fact that providing opportunities in the arts for people from different backgrounds benefits the industry and audiences everywhere.
“I had a love for performing ever since I was little. It was something I always did because I enjoyed it.”