Westwood Actor, Jack Manning, Stars in Tony Award Winning Play, "Torch Song"


Photo courtesy of Moonbox Productions. Westwood resident Jack Manning takes on his second professional stage role in Moonbox Productions's upcoming production of the Tony Award winning play, "Torch Song."

Jack Manning, a Westwood resident who has acted in community theater productions in Medfield and Dedham as a child, now stars in an upcoming production in Boston of the Tony Award winning play, Torch Song, by Harvey Fierstein, which opens December 2, 2022 at BCA Calderwood Pavilion – Roberts Theater.

Although a new graduate this year from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Manning already has had some professional experience with performing onstage. Around this same time last year, while still at Berklee, Manning nabbed a starring role as Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“Just getting to do such a fun show like that, that’s kind of silly and flashy and [has] catchy songs, it was just a really awesome first professional experience. . . . It was the perfect job to get my foot in the door, really,” says Manning.

That first professional experience for Manning, like the second, was a Moonbox Production. “They rehired me, thankfully,” says Manning. A musical theater major, Manning has embraced the challenge of acting in Torch Song. After Torch Song concludes, Manning will continue a blossoming performance career in New York City, where Manning has signed with an agent.

Manning credits these professional opportunities as the result of nurturing of relationships with mentors in the industry. One mentor is Peter Mill, who plays Torch Song’s protagonist, Arnold Beckoff. It was Mill who suggested Manning for a part in Torch Song.

Manning describes Torch Song as a story centered about Arnold, a gay man who is on a journey to find love. Manning plays the young adult character, Alan, whom Manning describes in one word as “free.” At age 14, Alan moves on his own to New York City. He does “sketchy” things to get by until he meets the main character, Arnold, says Manning. In Arnold’s presence, for what may be the first time in Alan’s life, Alan experiences what it feels like to feel completely protected and safe with someone.

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Arnold and Alan are not a good match on paper, Manning continues, but “I think they provide a missing element that each one is searching for. [ ] They somehow check the boxes for each other that each needs to be in a relationship.”

Arnold gives Alan safety, security, and unconditional love that Alan has never had, says Manning. 

On the flip side, Alan gives Arnold unconditional, unexpected love. Arnold feels the relationship with Alan is too good to be true, and that Arnold does not deserve it.

“There’s some heavy material in the play for sure,” hints Manning, broadly referencing experiences of the character, Alan, without giving too much away to those unfamiliar with the plot. “But somehow, at the end of it all, I would say [that] I hope, and I think people will leave it feeling somehow uplifted and reminded of the love they have in their lives.”

“My hope is that people will walk out of the show with a refreshed sense of what it means to love and be loved and how empathy allows us to transcend conflicting experiences and points of views, and just have a better understanding and be more accepting of each other," says Manning.

“We are so thrilled to be able to bring Torch Song back to Boston stages,” says Allison Choat, the play’s director and Associate Artistic Director and Founding Partner at Moonbox. “It’s a beautiful snapshot of an incredibly distinctive time and place – the bustling streets and vibrant ‘scene’ in late-1970s New York. More importantly, though, it’s also a profound and timeless meditation on togetherness, relationships, and chosen families that feels incredibly relevant to the world we navigate today,” says Choat.

Thanks to Jack Manning and Moonbox Productions for providing information for this Westwood Minute article. Performances of "Torch Song" run from December 2 to December 22, 2022 at the Roberts Studio Theater in Boston.

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