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Jacob Hemphill knows that good things come to those who wait.
After two summers of playing minor roles in P.E.I. summer productions, the fourth-year Dalhousie theatre student has landed a lead in Anne & Gilbert – The Musical.
Hemphill will play Gilbert Blythe in the 2020 production of the musical based on the sequel novels to L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.
“It’s very fulfilling; it’s great to know my hard work is paying off, and people are putting their trust in me to take on the role,” says the Summerside native, who comes by performing naturally.
Hemphill's father is P.E.I. Premier Dennis King, who was a founding member of The Four Tellers storytelling show that ran for several years in halls across the Island.
“My father is my role model. As a child, his storytelling inspired me to get up on stage because I saw how much fun he had entertaining and sharing stories that I wanted to try it, too.”
His dad says when he sits in the audience on opening night of Anne & Gilbert – the Musical, he’'ll have an "ear to ear smile".
“I will be proud that he is following his calling, chasing his dreams and doing what he was born to do. We should all be so fortunate,” says King, who has high praise for his son.
“Jake stands on his own because he had tremendous dedication and commitment to his craft. He’s gotten to where he is because he has a tireless work ethic and always tries to get better. It’s great if he says that he has found something in me to look up to. I’m most flattered that he is — in his own way and own voice — carrying on the family tradition.
Up close and personal with Jacob Hemphill
- Parents: P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and Jana Hemphill
- Graduated: Holland College School of Performing Arts
- Favourite food before performance: Pickled beet and goat cheese salad.
- Favourite musicians: Johnny Cash, Lawrence Maxwell
- Favourite colour: Yellow.
- Favourite book: The Snowchild by Eowyn Ivey
- Favourite story: The Day They Shot Reveen, the title story in his father’s book of small-town stories.
- Five things to take to rehearsal: Water bottle, script, working clothes, pencil, eagerness to work.
However, performing wasn’t love at first sight for the would-be actor.
Hemphill recalls being “pretty nervous” the first time he ever stepped on stage.
“But I was more excited than anything else because I knew it was going to be fun to share a story. Even today, I have fun in every show because of the unique stories I get to share with people.”
Hemphill describes landing the role for the 2020 season at The Guild as "a dream come true". That's because it was the character of Gilbert Blythe who inspired him to become an actor when, at the age of nine, he saw Anne of Green Gables – the Musical at the Charlottetown Festival.
"Seeing that this actually is going to be my first professional lead role in a musical, it’s kind of fitting that it’s the role of Gilbert. So, I’m super excited to do it ... I’m stoked to perform with such a great team and perform in such a great show," said Hemphill.
Campbell Webster, artistic producer of the musical, is also excited to have Hemphill in the company. He first saw the actor perform a small role in A Moon for The Misbegotten at the Watermark Theatre two years ago and was impressed with his performance.
So, when the director, Rebecca Parent, mentioned Hemphill as a possibility for the role of Gilbert, he was interested.
“I didn’t realize he could sing and dance. But when he came in for an audition, his performance was phenomenal. He was so funny, responsive and thoughtful.”
Now, as he waits for rehearsals to start, Hemphill is anticipating getting back to the Island and back to the stage.
“It’s going to be exciting," says Hemphill of playing the beloved character. "It’s going to be nerve-racking, but I’m excited for the challenge it brings on. I’m also excited that it’s happening in my home province.”
Anne & Gilbert – The Musical runs April 28 to Oct. 21 at The Guild in Charlottetown
It is based on Montgomery's books Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island and is adapted by Jeff Hochhauser, Nancy White and Bob Johnston.
Set in the late 1880s, it’s the love story of Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley. In the first act, Gilbert gives up the position of Avonlea schoolmaster for Anne so she can stay close to home to care for her adoptive mother, Marilla Cuthbert. In songs like Gilbert Loves Anne of Green Gables, it’s revealed that almost all of Avonlea knows Gilbert is in love with Anne and she with him, although Anne will not admit it.