Born to perform: Matt Henry speaks about the importance of being an all-rounder, embracing criticism and his love of dogs.
Matt Henry is a Laurence Olivier Award-winning British actor, singer and performer. Growing up in a single-parent family, Matt speaks about how his mum was his inspiration, constantly encouraging him to follow his dreams. Among his many accolades, Matt co-created and starred in the new musical, The Drifters Girl, alongside Beverley Knight.
“I wanted to leave university early and won a scholarship for the course at Urdang Academy leading to The Trinity Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre – they advised me to finish my degree and said they would hold my place until I could come and join them.”
Matt loved music as a child and remembers singing in church from the age of 4. While he was always keen to pursue a career in the performing arts, his mother urged him to finish his studies and go to university. Matt studied at the Roehampton University of Surrey, now known as University of Roehampton, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama and Sociology.
He then continued his theatrical training with a scholarship to study the Trinity Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre at the Urdang Academy, London. He wanted to leave university early to take up his scholarship, but Urdang Academy urged him to finish his degree first.
While he was still in his second year at Urdang Academy, Matt answered an open call to audition as understudy for the role of Simba in The Lion King. Being a student, he was not supposed to audition for professional roles yet but he skipped classes, saying he had a doctor’s appointment and attended the audition! Upon his return, he was summoned to the principal’s office and asked why he had really been absent. The principal informed him that the casting director of The Lion King had called and said he had been awarded the part! Matt took the role and juggled studying and working, remembering that while it was tough, it was an early career highlight.
“My training taught me that I needed to be an all-rounder, a triple threat, a force to be reckoned with. My course honed in on my weaknesses and I embraced the opportunity to be better.”
Known for his performances in Kinky Boots: The Musical; The Harder they Come and Shakespeare's Globe: The Two Noble Kinsmen, Matt’s West End credits also include Saturday Night Fever and Avenue Q. Matt also competed in series two of the BBC’s The Voice UK where his mentors included Will.i.am and Jessie J. He reached the grand final and finished in fourth place with his outstanding performance of Ray LaMontagne’s Trouble receiving over 12 million hits on YouTube.
The training Matt received from his Trinity diploma at Urdang Academy taught him many transferable skills, from having the confidence to walk into and command a room, to adopting an open mindset to explore his creativity.
Matt recalls how the course taught him discipline which he still pulls on now whether that be going to the gym or having a routine to get his child ready for school. His training also encouraged him to read people’s emotions and provide support and encouragement; qualities he attributes great value to. Regarding the importance of seizing opportunities, he says:
“You are given one opportunity. If you’re going to follow a career like this, you have to commit to it. It’s a critical industry but I just embrace my chances and use them to make myself better.”
Matt is a keen dog lover and if he hadn’t pursued his stage career, Matt would have worked with animals. He recalls using his drama when he worked for a charity that paired abandoned dogs with young offenders and the positive impact this had on all those involved in the scheme.
With career highlights including receiving an Olivier Award for his role in Kinky Boots, an MBE for his commitment to musical theatre and being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for Kinky Boots, Matt has certainly achieved his early ambition to be an all-rounder and is a very compassionate force to be reckoned with.
“I sang in church and performed in school nativity plays. I fell in love with theatre and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”