As kids all over America head back to school, Broadway.com decided to ask our favorite Broadway stars to look back at their own years in the classroom—and share a school picture! Matthew James Thomas, who plays the title prince searching for his corner of the sky in the Tony-winning revival of Pippin, remembers his days as a cigarette-smoking, hyper and curious “little shit bag.” Read below to find out his most embarrassing moment, his favorite teachers and more!
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
It’s hard to say—little did I know at the time, but the teachers I had at school set the bar extremely high for the rest of my life and have probably brutally infected my ambition and curiosity of the world and the people in it. The person that sticks out to me the most is Ray Lamb, who was my music teacher at Sylvia Young Theatre School in London. He was an absolute contradiction and combination of complete professionalism, discipline and respect. He was completely and undeniably intelligent, intellectual and talented and also seemed to me completely insane and irrational but balanced all at the same time. He always seemed to know what he was doing. However, the real genius to me was that I'm pretty sure he had no idea the profound effect he was having on my life. Sometimes he would ignore me in the hallways between classes if I said “good morning.” When in class he would hold up my music and embarrass me by using my work as an example. I also loved how he simply couldn't understand laziness and sloppiness. It wasn't that he didn't like it; it's that he simply couldn't fathom how it was possible. He was inspirational to that effect and even to this day, the attention to detail and absolute passion he exuded is so impressive and inspirational to me.
What advice would you give to your school-age self?
Stop smoking so many cigarettes, don't waste (all) your money on modifying cars and listen to your parents because they know what’s best for you, you little shit bag.
In school you would have been named “most likely to…”
Cause trouble, answer back, stay late and work hard.
What song sums up your school experience and why?
Dr. Dre—forgot about Dre—no I'm joking. I can't think of a song that sums up my school experience? “Genie in a Bottle”?
What’s your favorite back to school item?
Stationary and my pencil cases—I was obsessed with underlining my titles with gel pens and I loved writing. I had so many different Parker fountain pens. It must have cost my parents a small fortune in patience and cash when I wouldn't stop nagging them for pens and drawing equipment.
What class did you dread and why?
At my public school, before I went to Sylvia's, I dreaded almost every class except for Geography with Mr. Skrme (I think that was his name?). At Sylvia's I didn't dread anything but I do remember feeling a little nervous when entering some of the more “disciplined” classes. I won’t say who the teacher was, but my passion for my pencil case often literally went out the window, pencil case included, if I wasn't focusing on every second of how to correctly use the tongue with the “th” sound in a word like “thing”. I can't say I've ever managed to forget the horror of that situation. A boy pronounced it “fing” (that's how the cool kids speak in London) and a teacher got entertainingly angry at him. And I also wasn't focusing properly, so my pencil case got taken and thrown out the window—what my pencil case did I will never know!
What is your most embarrassing school moment?
It wasn't at school, and probably not the most embarrassing moment in my life, but my friend (now turned best friend—not so much at the time) TOM BLACKBURN purposefully kicked a football in my face in front of our whole group of friends and was very proud of himself. That was quite embarrassing.
In which extracurricular activities did you participate?
I was already at a school with so many different subjects that I loved to study. We would often stay behind to write music or do extra drama classes. I wasn’t in a chess club, which is a good thing because I'm not very good.
Describe your school-age self in three words.
Hyper, ego, revolutionary.