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TJ Lloyd - Guys and Dolls Bridge Theatre Interview

The Bridge Theatre's incredible immersive production of the classic musical Guys and Dolls is now playing into its second year.

Nicholas Hytner's production brings to life the streets of New York and the musical like never before and places the audience right at the heart with standing and seating tickets avaliable. 

In April we reviewed the show at the press night for the second-year company where we called it "a truly exhilarating experience" in a 5-star review which you can read here.

Taking over the role of Rusty Charlie for the second year of the production is TJ Lloyd. We caught up with TJ to learn more about the show.

"I've been in musical theatre my whole life. From a child doing school plays, all the way through youth theatre, and did a lot of am-dram. I came into the industry quite late on in my thirties. I've done a bunch of shows including Bananaman at the Southwark Playhouse leading me to Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre."

TJ Lloyd

When did you know that you wanted to perform?
"As a child, I used to watch Grease, Calamity Jane, The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music on repeat. There's a story that my family dine out on where I pulled the sofa out and sat on the back of the sofa like Calamity Jane on her horse and fell over the back and everyone thought "oh my goodness he's going to cry" but I jumped out from the back of the sofa and sang "whip crack away".

Were there performances that inspired to you perform?
"All of those I've already mentioned. For me, the first time I watched the movie of Guys and Dolls and saw Stubby Kaye sing 'Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat', I thought he looks like me and he actually sounds a bit like me. I can do that and then later on as I grew up seeing someone like Josh Gad doing the great things that he's done. It was like I can do this and there is a place for me in the industry and that is exciting."

Now you're in Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre, what can you tell me about Rusty Charlie and how you fit into the show?
"Rusty Charlie is a gambler, he opens the show with Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet with 'Fugue For Tinhorns' where 3 gamblers are talking about the horses they are going to bet on that day. He follows along with the other gamblers where the floating crap game is going to be. This puts pressure on Nathan (Detroit) to let us know where the game is. I also play another couple of parts including a fantastic waiter in Havana which is good fun" 

I know you've previously been in a production of Guys and Dolls, but what drew you to this production in particular?
"The immersive aspect of this show is super exciting. I have been attached to Guys and Dolls as a show since I was 10 years since I first watched the movie. I have done various things, am-dram, youth theatre and sung the songs wherever and then I did the production in 2019 at the Sheffield Crucible but this one feels fresh. The audience are right there in front of you, you can see them and what they like or what they don't and that's what is exciting."

Photo by Manuel Harlan.

What is it like when you've previously done a production of a show and then you come into a new one in a new role?
"It's actually been okay, I thought it was going to mess with my brain a little bit but because I know it so well to be able to do something a bit different. I'm playing a different part to what I played in 2019 and covering a bunch of roles. It's refreshing because I know and love this musical so much I could have tired from it early on but because there's the fresh aspect of who am I going on for tonight and what are the audience going to be like it just keeps it so exciting." 

What is the moment like when you are backstage before you go straight into the pit and directly into the audience? How do you get into the headspace?
"There's a little screen backstage and I always have a look to see how many people are out there and pick the first person I am going to talk to and have that initial interaction. Then I'm good to wander around and see what people are up to. I don't get nervous as such but the adrenaline as you walk through and see all the people that want to have a great evening."

You get the immediacy you don't get with other productions, how is that for you as a performer?
"It's great. When I was younger I did a lot of cabaret stuff so I'm used to being up close and personal with an audience. I actually feel I'm in my happy being that close to people and being able to interact and give them the eye every now and again and have a connection with people rather than playing out to a dark space in front of us"

People who haven't seen the platform won't know the staging is on a series of rising platforms, what was that first moment like when you got to be on them?
"We had 6 weeks of rehearsal and the thought of being told there are 12 platforms and they all rise up at different times and you've got to make sure you are on the right platform otherwise you are not going to be in the scene, I dreaded it. I had nightmares about the fact that there would have to be a show stop because TJ was on the wrong platform but actually we had a great tech period and were able to play around and feel what it's like to go up and down on the platforms. Now I couldn't imagine it any other way. I don't know what it's going to be like going back to a proscenium arch theatre after Guys and Dolls"

Having sat in one of the on-stage seats at the interval and when you go up. The experience of it all is amazing. 
"It feels like a musical, a pop concert and a movie all in one experience. It's like nothing else I've ever done and nothing else I've ever experienced."

What was it like joining the second company of the run, what was that like for you?
"The show was already successful and there is a little bit of pressure that we've got to maintain that standard. My role in Rusty Charlie, Ryan (Pidgen) who played the role last year is still in the company and has moved into the role of Benny Southstreet. It was really interesting to just be able to chat to him about it and understand how I fit into the company as Rusty. As soon as we started, our first day of rehearsal we sat as a company and sang a lot of the material. I sat there and thought we're good, we're in good hands, this is a solid company and a great bunch of people to spend 12 months with. 

"It's a cliche but we are like a big family. We are definitely settled in our roles with the family now. We've had the honeymoon period as we all get to know each other. We laugh all the time. When you're doing a two-show day, everybody wants to get out and leave the theatre but we sit most of the time as a group and have lunch and chat about our lives. It's a joy to get up and go to work every day."

'Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat'. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

It's quite an energetic show but in your role you are part of the interval entertainment. What is that like where you've not got the time to step away for 20 minutes?
"It's something different and I feel like I'm putting a different hat on playing a different character and showing a different set of skills. We're part of the Hi Hi Boys. Anyone who hasn't seen the show should stick around in the interval because there is even more entertainment. It's fine. I like to keep going, if I sit down for too long it's a struggle to get back up again! So actually carrying on and getting on with it. It keeps that energy in my body." 

How is the Bridge Theatre for you being a relatively new venue?
"It feels really fresh, just the ethos of the building. We were welcomed as part of the team as opposed to just being the cast. We're a team and we together create the experience. In the finale, we welcome everyone who has made the show happen that evening to take their applause, in a normal proscenium arch theatre you wouldn't get that. It feels like you're watching the backstage musical and the front-of-house musical at the same time."

Having watched the show from a standing perspective it's amazing the amount of work that goes into making it work especially from a front-of-house perspective.
"They rehearse as much as we do. They are at warm up so when we get notes we get notes together as a company. If we need to tweak or change things. It was daunting on day one when you stand in the circle and you see hundreds of people and you think how am I going to remember everybody's name. It really showcases the amount of effort and hard work that everyone puts in on this show.

You understudy 3 roles within the production. How do you juggle your ordinary role whilst having these stored in the back of your mind?
"It's been fun. I've never covered before, this is the first time I've covered. I cover 3 roles. Lietanant Brannigan, Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Big Jule. Thus far I've been on for 2. Nicely I've played before in 2019 so he was already there in my head somewhere. Brannigan I got to play around a lot with in rehearsals so that felt quite solid. Big Jule is so different, I'm so physically different to Cameron (Johnson) who plays the role. It's been interesting trying to find my version of who he will be. It is like putting something in a box and then opening the box and then you're there. I'd never have thought my brain could do what it's done covering these roles."

"We really champion our covers and swings. There's a board up in our green room where everytime somebody makes a debut in one of their covers there's a little polaroid and it's up on the wall. Whilst I've always appreciated covers, swings and understudies, being one you think the show doesn't go on without swings because they really are the glue that holds it all together. Hats off to them"

The importance of covers couldn't have been more appropriate when days before our chat Marisha Wallace stepped back into the role of Miss Adelaide 3 months after departing the show.
"It was crazy. What a day and what an experience. Sadly we had some sickness in the cast and some holiday which meant we were left Adelaide-less. Then we got the message that Marisha was going to do it and she was going to do a quick rehearsal, a costume fitting and on she went. I wasn't in the cast last year but it just felt like she'd been on holiday and came back and just did it. It was so much fun. It gave the whole show a new energy for the evening. 

Does that energy change night depending on the reaction of the audience?
"Of course, there is an element of that. The show is so brilliant in my opinion that it just goes, it's off like a rocket. As soon as it starts we're off on that journey. Of course, when the audience are raucous you know it lifts our spirits even more. Even if they sat in silence it would still be brilliant because the material is so good."

Cameron Johnson (centre) as Big Jule and Company. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Do you have a favourite moment within the show?
"'Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat' is just incredible. The way it's been created in this production is just sensational. Apart from Miss Adelaide, we are all on the stage together, led by Nicely. It just keeps going and going and you get to the end and I'm on such a high every night."

If you were stranded on a Desert Island and you could take 3 musical theatre soundtracks with you, what would you take?
"Guys and Dolls is one of them. I love old-school musicals. I think Guys and Dolls is the most perfectly written musical. The script and the language is brilliant in my opinion"

"My favourite musical of all time is Me and My Girl which is the British musical with 'Lambeth Walk'"

"The third one, Carousel. Just something with real drama. From the frothy Me and My Girl to the drama of Carousel."

What keeps you inspired?
"I've had to work very hard to be where I am. I didn't take the normal route into the industry. I remind myself of the slog I had to go through to get here. I also teach a wonderful bunch of young people and I think about who inspired me and I try and be that person for them. Then I just get on and do it because that is the best sort of motivation ever.

What does theatre mean to you?
"It has been my whole life in whatever way. Whether performing, watching, directing. I just think it brings such joy. At the minute there is such sadness in the world and I think if we can spread some joy and help people just relax just for a few hours then it's the best medicine."

Guys and Dolls is the most tonic for that, you walk out wanting to go around again straight away.
"It's like the best theme park ride ever"

Why should anyone book tickets to Guys and Dolls?
It's a theatrical experience I don't think you'll find anywhere else in London at the moment. It's one of the best scores and books ever. It's bloomin' brilliant. We have got the cream of the crop in and working on the production. Why would you not want to come? 

Guys and Dolls continues at the Bridge Theatre in London where it is booking until 4th January 2025. Tickets are available from

Timmika Ramsay and Guys & Dolls Ensemble. Photo by Manuel Harlan

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