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Right after graduating with the GHS Class of 2019, musical performer and actor Jake Gladwin, 17, spent much of his summer starring as one of four leads in an independent feature film shot around Connecticut, The Dangerfields Class of ’64. (Photo by William Battle )
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Exactly one week after Jake Gladwin graduated with the Guilford High School (GHS) Class of 2019, he went back to high school—and back in time—as one of four leads starring in The Dangerfields Class of ’64.
The independent feature film started shooting on June 21 at locations around the state and wrapped on July 28. That gives Jake just a few weeks short summer weeks to kick back before heading off to Marymount Manhattan College in New York this fall, where he’ll major in musical theater. It may sound hectic, but for this aspiring Broadway star, it’s been the perfect summer.
“It’s a great send-off before I leave to go to college,” says Jake. “It was such a great opportunity and such a great experience, to be doing what I love and be surrounded by people who love doing it as well.”
Written by Doug Lumpkin and directed by Reno Venturi, The Dangerfields Class of ’64 tells the tale of four high school friends/misfits who set out conquer their insecurities and become the most popular guys in school by forming a band. Of course, it doesn’t go as planned—but, as noted by Let’s Do This Productions, the film production’s company, the four friends find out the road to respect “comes not from others’ validation, but by staying true to yourself.”
In the film, that road is mapped out by a series of comedic events and escapades set between 1960 and ’64, with memorable locations, music, and classic cars in the mix. Jake plays Jimmy, who he describes as the group’s class clown.
“For me, that was not hard to fill,” says Jake of the role. “It’s just me in real life, having a great time.”
He also had a great time working with the movie’s cast and production crew, he says.
“Something I love about doing musical theater and movies is working with adults, and watching and learning from them, and making connections,” says Jake. “You would always think there’s a divider between talent and a film’s production crew, then they piece everything together. With this production, we all mingled. It made us like a huge family.”
Jake and the other three teens cast as friends and bandmates in the movie became good friends while working together over five weeks of shooting.
“The very first day of shooting, I’m the kind of person that’s used to chilling out by myself and doing my work, and they all came up to me and were very friendly and outgoing,” says Jake. “Last week I told my mom I never really had best friends throughout high school, because I was always doing musical theater. So for me, they were those guy friends, because I got so close with all these guys, and they became like brothers to me. We have a great relationship with each other that grew throughout the process of this film.”
The film is expected to premiere at film festivals and small local theaters. All proceeds from the movie’s release will be donated to veterans’ causes. Fans can follow @thedangerfields64 on Facebook for more news and to see some great photos and video clips posted during the shoot, including several featuring Jake and friends.
It was another friend, Connecticut native Gabrielle Carrubba, who first introduced Jake to musical theater.
“The very first show I saw was Annie at the [Waterbury] Palace Theatre, because my friend Gabrielle Caruba was in it,” says Jake. “And now, she’s going to be playing a lead role in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway.”
This week, on July 30, Carrubba elevated her debut in the Tony-winning musical by taking over the role of Zoe Murphy.
Jake began studying the performing arts with dance, signing up for classes at the age of seven with his twin sister, Ava. He’s built his vocal and musical theater talent by working with Michelle Natalino Bonavena of Performing Art StudioBE in North Haven as his coach.
“She’s pushed me and developed me as a performer, and I wouldn’t be where I am as well without her guidance and support, and love for the performing arts,” says Jake.
Before graduating from GHS, Jake received the school’s theater-based Ronald Burns Memorial Book Award. He also earned a 2019 Shoreline Art Alliance Arts Top Talent Special Recognition Award for Vocal Music.
“I’m the only musical theater person in the family—we’re actually a very sports-oriented family,” says Jake. “I just got dancing feet at seven years old.”
He gives a huge thank you to his sister and his mom and dad, Andrea and Justin, for always supporting him.
“They have always been such a huge asset for helping me to pursue what I love to do, including my mom and sister waking me up at 7:30 every morning since the end of June to film! They’re my cheerleaders,” says Jake.
“There’s always that question as you’re going along, ‘Do I really want to do musical theater? I love it, but will I be okay?’” he adds. “And my parents were always the ones who said, ‘You love it, you’re going to do it, you’re going to go far.’”
To date, the 17 year-old has been involved in musical theater, independent film, modeling, and TV acting. He was an extra in another feature film (Meadowland, a 2015 drama starring Olivia Wilde and produced by Wilde). He’s popped up on TV series including CBS’ Madame Secretary and Limitless, and even modeled a couple of times for Hasbro Toys.
Local fans of GHS musical theater last saw Jake performing as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, a lead in the 2019 GHS spring musical Anything Goes.
“It was an incredible part and so memorable for me because it was very challenging. I was very happy the director gave me a challenging part that really made me rise to occasion and work on my craft,” says Jake, adding, “I’m very thankful for my four years at the high school and being involved with the productions we’ve done with the help of [directors] Cara Mulqueen-Teasdale and Kevin Buno.”
An Expansive Résumé
But that’s just one of many performance opportunities Jake’s taken on to help fine tune his remarkable talent and stage presence. Since freshman year, he’s been performing around Connecticut and New York as a Stand Up and Speak Out youth ambassador with the Connecticut-based antibullying musical Her Song. As an ambassador, Jake was among a select group invited to sing at the United Nations in March during the Women in Peace program. Performing in a 50-member Camp Broadway teen a capella group, Jake helped open the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in December 2018. He’s also been a regular performer in the North Pole Express on the Essex Steam Train.
Now, he’s excited for the opportunities and experiences set to come his way while studying at Marymount in the heart of New York City.
“Its just a great feeling to get so many opportunities to be doing what I love, and now go to school for what I love to do as well,” says Jake. “I love everything about the city—it’s always been a dream of mine, since I was a kid, to live there. And I fell in love with [Marymount’s] musical theater program right from the moment I walked in on my college tour. I loved the vibe, the students, and one-on-one experience with the professors, and them wanting the best for us, wanting us to achieve our goals.”
While he’s had a blast dancing, acting, and singing while shooting The Dangerfields Class of ’64, Jake says his immediate goal after he graduates from college is to work in musical theater.
“Doing a film like this helps me reconfirm my love and my passion for the performing arts, and it’s humbling that I was able to get this role, and hopefully other roles in the future in other films,” he says. “But I’ve been dreaming of being in musical theater since I was seven years old. I love musical theater because I love the live audience—the feedback, the energy, and the adrenaline you feel when you’re in the wings, just before you go on stage.”
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