Joe Locke
Joe Locke

Joe Locke on Sweeney Todd and Patti LuPone’s Opening Night Advice

Two years ago Joe Locke skyrocketed to recognition with his debut screen performance in Netflix’s Heartstopper. He is now taking Broadway by storm with his New York stage debut in the Sweeney Todd revival as Tobias Ragg. Shortly after beginning his run, Locke spoke with Broadway Direct about joining the iconic musical.

Taking on the role originally played by fellow Netflix star Gaten Matarazzo, Locke’s immense singing talent came as a surprise to many of his fans. “Theater played a huge role,” Locke says of his upbringing. “That’s where I met most of my friends as a kid doing amateur theater in my hometown. It’s where I really sort of found myself and had so much fun. I used to call the local theatre near my house my second home ’cause I was there so often.”

London’s West End seemed like the natural dream destination for a young theater actor hailing from the Isle of Man. For Locke, however, “Broadway has always been the unachievable goal.” “The West End’s amazing,” he adds, “but Broadway’s like, wow, that’s the top tier. So it feels very, very superficial and surreal to actually be here.”

In achieving this personal goal, Locke says he made it known to his agent that he wanted to be in a musical. Not long after was there an email in his inbox asking him to audition for Sweeney Todd.

“I had a music session with [musical supervisor] Alex Lacamoire, which was very nerve-racking and it was also at, like, 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I was like [mimics clearing his voice] trying to sing. But then I had an audition with Tommy Kail, the director, and Jeffrey Seller, the producer. And then they gave me the part, which was very, very nice of them.”

Now portraying Tobias, Locke’s loving approach to the character ensures that the young lad isn’t seen as unintelligent. “He wouldn’t have survived in Victorian England on the streets if he didn’t have some level of street smarts.” And what he can really tap into is the safety he feels around Mrs. Lovett. “He warms so much to Mrs. Lovett, I think because he hasn’t had much of a maternal figure in his life and she becomes that to him, which is why he cares so much about her.”

Joe Locke and Sutton Foster in Sweeney Todd. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

Chatting with Broadway Direct shortly after Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster’s first performance in the show, which Locke remarks felt “like a Taylor Swift concert,” Locke was excited to be joined by the leading duo of Tony Award winners.

“I’ve loved them both for many years. It feels very much like a huge honor to be able to share the stage with them and do this every night with them. It very much fulfills a childhood dream.”

Speaking of Tony Award winners, Locke has a special and unexpected connection to a living Broadway legend: Patti LuPone. The two met while filming the upcoming Marvel Disney+ series Agatha: Darkhold Diaries and have remained close ever since.

LuPone herself starred in the previous Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, but avoided giving tips to Locke as he joined this production. “She wanted me to make it my own and listen to the directors of our production. ‘Cause, you know, there are so many different ways of doing it.”

She did, however, send along opening-night flowers, offering words of encouragement in the card: “‘Be present and breathe and have fun.’ Which I have now stuck up on my dressing room wall,” Locke says with pride.

Shortly after Locke’s debut, LuPone attended a performance of Sweeney Todd. “She was very complimentary. I mean, she would never have told me I was bad if she thought I was, but I actually believe she didn’t think I was bad,” Locke bashfully recalls of speaking with LuPone after the performance. “I was almost as nervous about knowing she was watching as I was for my opening night.”

Joe Locke in Sweeney Todd. Photo by Angela of York for Broadway Direct.

Now that the world is aware of Locke’s musical talent, he shouts out some dream roles for down the road. “I would love to do The Last Five Years. I’d love to one day play Whizzer in Falsettos. There are so many roles I would love to do.” He also mentions his desire to work on an original musical, noting composers Jason Robert Brown, Lucy Moss, Toby Marlow, Jeanine Tesori, and Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez would be dream collaborators.

For now, Locke can be found at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre most days of the week and enjoying his days off as a temporary New Yorker. “I absolutely love New York. I feel like it’s the perfect thing, working here for a few months. It’s the perfect way to experience the city and get to know it more.”

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