Julian Lokash plays the title character in Carousel Theatre’s James and the Giant Peach. (photo by Tim Matheson)
When asked how long he’s been an actor, 11-year-old Julian Lokash didn’t hesitate. “Since I was born!” was his immediate response.
The young actor is the star of the upcoming Carousel Theatre production of James and the Giant Peach. As James, he’s in every scene, which has meant that he has been in rehearsals for two months, from 9-5 each day, except on Mondays, when he has the chance to go to school like other children his age. He is in Grade 6, in the French immersion program École Jules Quesnel in Point Grey.
Julian is not only an actor. He is what the theatre world calls a triple threat. “I dance and sing as well,” he said. “When I was just 1 or 2 years old, I was always dancing around and singing, even before I could talk,” he explained when asked about how his parents knew he was interested in the performing arts.
Julian shook his head emphatically (perhaps even a bit theatrically) when asked whether anyone else in his immediate family has any talent for musical theatre. He did say that his father’s cousin works for Dreamworks and that his dad also has an aunt who played in an orchestra but, as far as Julian is concerned, he’s an anomaly in his family.
Looking outside of the family for performance role models, Julian said he is a big fan of many of the actors on the TV show Glee because he thinks they have great voices. He also loves the Disney movie Frozen and, specifically, Idina Menzel, the voice of Elsa.
When he was younger, Julian was involved in Stage Coach, a theatre arts program that developed his interest and talent for musical theatre. More recently, he spent his last two summers in the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! musical theatre summer school run by Perry Ehrlich. “Perry was the one who told me to try out for James and the Giant Peach,” said Julian. “He’s sort of like a musical theatre agent because he’s watching out for things for me.”
In fact, Julian has had an acting agent in the past. Through that agent, he did a commercial for Crayola. “I’m at a pause right now because I don’t have time for TV or commercials right now,” he said. He admitted that, at this point in his life, he prefers musical theatre but thinks that, in the future, he may have to do some TV. He’s confident that he’s found his calling and already has part of his acceptance speech ready for his Tony or his Oscar. “My friends wanted me to tell you that they are really supportive. My family is so supportive, too,” he said.
With theatre such a big part of his life, Julian does ballet, tap and jazz dancing, as well as voice lessons. The busy schedule of rehearsals, not only for James and the Giant Peach, but for any production, requires strong family backing. Luckily, his parents are happy to see their son doing what makes him happy.
It’s not all about the arts, however. Julian likes to be active and he gets that through dance as well as regular family ski weekends at Whistler. “I love to ski but I think this winter my brother and I are both going to tone it down and maybe only ski Saturdays,” he said. He admitted that he’d like a bit more time to spend with his friends.
Despite his busy schedule, Julian has found time to participate in a Jewish education class organized by a number of parents in his neighborhood. All of the students are kids living in Point Grey who attend public school and whose parents want their children to have some Jewish education without formalizing a connection to a synagogue. He mentioned that he’s not very religious but he does like to celebrate the Jewish holidays.
James and the Giant Peach tickets are available through Carousel Theatre for Young People. The musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel is at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island from Dec. 6 to Jan. 4, after which Julian will return to the life of a regular, but talented, Grade 6 student.
Michelle Dodek is a freelance writer and community volunteer living in Vancouver.