The actor Jack Mullen
When Jack Mullen steps onstage as Scuttle, The Seagull, in “The Little Mermaid” at Reagle Music Theatre, he’ll bring with him more professional experience than the average 21-year-old might offer.
The Millis native began his professional stage career as a child actor in New York. At the age of 10 he joined the national company of “Beauty & The Beast,” playing the role of Chip. He followed that by making his Broadway debut in “Matilda: The Musical,” where he earned his Actors’ Equity Card. He also appeared in “Peter Pan LIVE” on NBC, starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken.
When he grew older and saw child roles begin to diminish, he returned home to attend the esteemed Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick. Earlier this summer he played Will Parker in “Oklahoma,” also at Reagle. And he recently offered his own master class for Reagle’s Summer Youth Theater Workshop. This fall, Jack will enter his senior year at The Boston Conservatory, where he’s working on his BFA.
Jack’s full name is John Nicholas Mullen. He’s proud to be named after his grandfather, a longtime Boston firefighter, who was also known as Jack.
“The Little Mermaid,” playing at Reagle from July 28 to Aug. 6, is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale as well as Disney’s animated film. With music by Academy Award winner Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, and a book by Doug Wright, this fantasy tale tells of Ariel, The Mermaid, who longs to find love and adventure beyond the sea. Songs include "Under the Sea," "Kiss the Girl," and "Part of Your World.”
Jack and I chatted recently prior to rehearsals for “Mermaid.” Here’s an edited look at our conversation.
Q. You’ve had quite a career so far. Do you remember your first time on stage?
A. Oh, man. I might have been six years old in “The Nutcracker” . . . It was all ballet, so it was just dancing, but it definitely sparked my interest . . . I just wanted to do more, and sing and act on stage. It was a very positive experience.
Q. You went to New York to work at an early age. How did that happen?
A. I was 10 years old. I had attended a master class in New York with Broadway Artists Alliance. I was just there to have fun. I had no expectations of what was going to come from it, or really any idea that anything could come from it. I did the master class with a casting director who worked on the national tour of “Beauty & The Beast.” They were looking for a replacement for the kid who played Chip for five weeks in California because the child labor laws there say that a child under the age of 10, I believe, cannot perform past nine o’clock. I was 10. That was my first opportunity, and I went on tour.
Q. And that opened the door for more?
A. The people I was on tour with said, “You should go on auditions and try things out.” I wound up getting an agent through Broadway Alliance, so it sort of all snowballed into this amazing dream-come-true journey.
Q. You were only 10. Was your family supportive?
A. My mother was a huge supporter and made sure that I had a parent on tour with me . . . My mom’s a full-time nurse, and she said, “If you still want to do this, we have to figure out a plan.” So, I actually moved in with my grandmother — my grandmother retired early. We went on tour together and traveled and lived in New York. It was definitely an all-hands-on-deck experience. I went into it with no idea, and I just never wanted to leave once it started.
Q. Did your family discuss how challenging a stage career can be, no matter your age?
A. In the beginning, I was very sheltered. This is fun and this is gonna be an experience and we’re gonna come back home in five weeks. So after those five weeks ended and I realized I had an opportunity to continue this, that’s when we did have a chat. But it was mostly about the safety for a child actor and making sure you’re with a parent and that this is home and that is a world of fun. And one day it’s going to end, and you’ll come back home and restart life in a different sense . . . that reality was going to check in one day. And thank God they did, because when I turned 14, I hit puberty, and I started to see the child roles sort of disappear. That’s a daunting experience for someone who’s been living in New York for almost three years.
Q. Did you have any special mentors along the way?
A. Many people have come along, but my first ever musical theater teacher, Tracy Lane – (Assistant Director) at Franklin School for the Performing Arts Center –was actually the first person to approach my Mom and say “I think you should put him in some classes. He really likes this.” . . . When I saw an opportunity for myself to go to New York and try the real thing out, I was very grateful I had a lot of people in my corner, and she was a big encourager of that.
Q. What brought you to The Boston Conservatory?
A. I did a summer intensive there when I was 15 . . . for musical theater dance. I fell in love with the program, especially Michelle Chasse, who’s the head of the musical theater program. That’s my number one love: dance and choreography. That’s inspired me since I was 15. The Conservatory was my number one school and I was lucky enough to get in.
Q. And how did you wind up at Reagle?
A. Since Covid happened, I hadn’t done any theater — obviously, no one had done theater . . . My friend sent me the open call for Reagle’s “West Side Story” [in 2022]. I had just seen “West Side Story" in the movie theater. I definitely had goose bumps watching the movie and said,” I really miss theater.” So. I said, “I’m just going to give it a shot." It was daunting because it was my first audition since high school. And I went there and had the best time in the dance call. And that’s where I connected with Rachel Bertone [Reagle’s Artistic Director] for the first time.
Q. And you got cast?
A. I was cast as Action. Something happened with the man who was to play Riff and Rachel had me jump in as Riff. I had the best summer . . . She was kind enough to let me in again this summer and I auditioned for Will Parker in “Oklahoma” and I got that. I love the Reagle family. They’ve really taken me in and shown me the ropes and I’m forever grateful. It’s an amazing company and great people.
Q. And now you’re playing Scuttle in “The Little Mermaid,” also at Reagle. As fans of the story know, Scuttle, The Seagull, is possibly the most eccentric of Ariel's circle of friends. He sees himself as a true expert on humans. Plus, you get to do two big numbers, "Human Stuff" and "Positivity."
A. We have other characters in the show, of course … but he’s the voice of reason, being someone who’s on land . . . He shares that perspective with Ariel, who is longing for that exchange, to be on land. And Scuttle gets to tap as well in “Positivity, which I’m super excited about.
Q. “The Little Mermaid” is a real audience favorite. Is it an advantage or a challenge that audiences come in knowing the story and the songs so well?
A. I think it’s definitely a plus . . . It’s a great opportunity, especially for young families to come in . . . Obviously it's not the animated film or live action movie. But there’s a huge advantage to coming into this place where we’re all sitting down together and watching something happening in real time. There’s something super exciting about that.
“The Little Mermaid”– July 28 - August 6. Info: ReagleMusicTheatre.org, 781-891-5600.