Speaking backstage after a matinee performance of Broadway's "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," Matthew James Thomas recalls being 8 years old and sleeping on his mother’s lap while the late night train took them home to Buckinghamshire from London. He was playing his first professional role as one of Fagin’s workhouse boys, and understudying the lead in the West End revival of "Oliver!”
"I remember thinking I want to do this for the rest of my life,” he said.
Now age 24, and moving from sharing the lead in "Spider-Man" to the title role in "Pippin," Thomas seems matter-of-fact about being poised for super stardom.
Since "Oliver!" he’s worked non-stop, piling up a string of stage, film and television credits in his native England. He won the part in "Spider-Man" after the creative team came to London to see him on stage and he traveled to New York for the singing and flying auditions.
Unlike the fictional Billy Elliot, Thomas comes from "a theatrical family,” as he puts it. “Mom has a dance studio, dad and grandmother are pianists. My dad writes songs but he’s a math teacher.”
True to his genes, Thomas and a friend are working on a musical called “Malenkaya,” based on a Russian story. “I never imagined moving to America. We’re both writing music and lyrics. We work by Skype,” he says. And, yes, he did appear in the film version of "Billy Elliot."
His American agent suggested he audition for "Pippin," even though "Spider-Man" is a huge hit. “How can I leave 'Spider-Man,' this incredible show? I live for adventure,” he answered. “ We’re exploring me being an acrobat. I certainly hope to be doing some of the circus work. There are no wires in Pippin. That’s exciting to me,” he says.