I Capture the Castle showcase rehearsal, Drury Lane 2012

Monday, 24 March 2014

Musical Theatre "the uncool school"

Libby Purves talking with Richard Thomas


Above is a lovely moment from  Libby Purves and Richard Thomas "In Conversation" at the Almeida Theatre during the MTN MMD Conference on Musical Theatre on the set of 1984 - which I thought was rather amusing.

Richard is a compelling speaker, I hung on his every word, but was astonished to hear him say that musical theatre was "the uncool school".  He had gone from devising work at Battersea Arts Centre to a major name in musical theatre and opera - so I am inclined to think that it is really worth listening to him.  He is best known for writing JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA.  Sadly, I have never seen this although I did end up smoking cigarettes in the back room of a friends house with Michael Brandon who had just been cast to play Jerry Springer at the National!

Libby Purves writes a fantastic blog Theatre Cat and clearly is entranced by Richard.  She really drew him out and it was the most amusing and interesting talk in the afternoon for me.

We also listened to Kim Poster in conversation with Jeremy Harrison (Goldsmiths), Mark Powell and Sarah Travis talking about actor musician musicals - which of course isn't a new thing at all, but somehow feels new in musical theatre.

Andy Barnes from Perfect Pitch chaired a panel talking about bringing new voices into musical theatre with Coara Bissett, Gurinder Chadha and Tim Sutton.  I was in awe of the wonderful Gurinder Chadha, who wrote Bend it like Beckham.  She is now working with Howard Goodall on a new musical!  And very excited to hear that lovely Tim Sutton is going to be MD on MEMPHIS when it comes to town with Beverley Knight - who is starring in the Bodyguard at the moment.

Neil Marcus, the executive director of MMD chaired a panel about Chamber musicals, which included Arianna Knapp, David Babani and Vicky Graham.

The conference was extremely exciting and I think Richard Thomas  was perhaps slightly wrong when he said musicals are uncool because there were so many cool people speaking.   But it looks like the way forward is with "Chamber Musicals" that cost less to put on and also for the regional theatres, London theatres and commercial producers all collaborating together  to eliminate such a fear of risk.






Wednesday, 19 March 2014

MTN & MMD Annual Conference at the Almeida Theatre on Friday

So looking forward to the conference on Friday, especially because it is at the Almeida Theatre in Islington - one of my favourite theatres.

This year we have some great speakers and people hosting events including: Libby Purves, Richard Thomas, Andy Barnes, Tim Sutton, Kim Poster, Sarah Travis, David Babani and Arianna Knapp.

Some of the discussion points will be:

Bringing New Voices into Musical Theatre, Actor Musicians, and the renaissance of the "Chamber Musical".

Sarah Crook has sensibly emailed us all the list of delegates as well so we know who we'll be spending the day with.  I have been head down on my new show for the last couple of months so I think it's going to be a bit of a culture shock to be back in the world again - but it will be lovely to catch up with friends.


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Rossetti's Price Tag of £7 Million!

Pandora by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1871


I was very excited to discover that at Sotheby's Sale of British and irish Art on 22nd May 2014 a painting of Jane Morris as Pandora, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is going to be auctioned.  It is estimated to be sold for between £5m-£7m.

What fascinated me is that the question of sex between Rossetti and William Morris's wife, Jane is still newsworthy enough to be included in articles about the sale of the painting - this is the story of our musical.

The painting was not included in the Tate Britain's landmark show about the Victorian Avante-Garde.  But the success of the show was undoubted and its subsequent travel to Washington and Moscow shows the increasing popularity of the PRB.  Simon Toll the British and Irish Art Specialist at Sotheby's said recently: "what we've noticed is that the Pre-Raphaelites have suddenly become a lot more internationalised.  We've now got a lot more interested collectors from America and Russia."

When I went off to the States to go to a show of new musical songs, which included one of our Possessed songs, I went to the Delaware Gallery and discovered that it was really only the impressionists that the American's had taken to their hearts at the turn of the Century and the Delaware Gallery was one of the few that housed Pre-Raphaelites paintings in the States.  It looks as if the tide is turning at last.  Which is good for our pre-Raphaelite show that tells the story of Jane Morris, her husband William Morris and lover Dante Gabriel Rossetti.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The A-Z of Mrs P



The A-Z of Mrs P has just opened at the Southwark Playhouse. This is a long awaited, brand new British musical, with book by award winning playwright Diane Samuels (Kindertransport) and music and lyrics by Gwyneth Herbert.  It is a musical fable inspired by the diaries of Phyllis Pearsall, who invented the London A-Z.  


It is directed by Sam Buntrock and the cast includes Isy Suttie, Frances Ruffelle Michael Matus and Stuart Matthew Price.

Above is a beautiful paper sculpture used to advertise the show, by contemporary British artist Sue Blackwell.

The musical is produced by Neil Marcus, Paul Tyrer & Jamie Clark for the Booking Office and Micheal Peavoy Productions.  They had a  stroke of publicity genius getting Stanford's, the travel book and map shop, involved in the show!

I am really looking forward to going to see it on Saturday 15th March.  With this and Alex Loveless's show Bel-Ami opening within days of each other I feel so exciting to see my talented friends creating and producing new British shows of real craft and merit. As Neil Marcus says this is all part of the new British musical theatre Renaissance.  And if you want to be part of that don't forget the show is only running until 29th March!

This great theatre is easy to get to from either Borough or Elephant and Castle and only a short walk from either station.

For more information and tickets go to the Southwark Playhouse Website HERE

Reviews:

‘There’s a real heart to the production, particularly in its tender portrait of Pearsall, whom Isy Suttie invests with a stunning blend of the gauche and sincere, the knowing and the vulnerable.’ 
Mark Shenton, The Stage
‘Herbert’s character-driven score is accomplished — melodious (particularly the lilting and already award-winning Lovely London Town), articulate and fun, especially in the patter songs in which Suttie and company rattle off the street names to which the elusive, complicated Pearsall owed her livelihood.’ 
Donald Hutera, The Times
‘Isy Suttie has real charm – as does the whole show.’ 
The Independent
‘Isy Suttie has an appealing aura of wounded romanticism, as well as the air of a young Victoria Wood.’ 
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
‘Full of fresh, inventive touches. The way in which the ensemble enact the bustle of London life, becoming trains and taxis, is beautifully choreographed. The cast is top-notch. Isy Suttie is someone to root for, while a wild Frances Ruffelle and blustering Michael Matus are excellent as her feuding parents.’ 
Tom Wicker, Time Out


Monday, 24 February 2014

Bel-Ami a new musical by Alex Loveless


My brilliantly talented friend Alex Loveless has a new musical based on the Maupassant novel Bel-Ami, which has recently opened at Charing Cross Theatre.  It has had fantastic reviews and if the songs and scenes he has brought to our MMD writing workshop have anything to do with it, the show will be fabulous! 

To find out more about Alex and the show go to his website HERE

I am going to see the show this weekend but tickets are selling fast with some days sold out so if you want to check out the most exciting new musical to hit Off-West End click on the link below! 

To find out more about the show and buy tickets here is a link to the Charing Cross Theatre 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Student Performer of the Year

Turlough Coventry from the Guildford School of Acting who won last year 
and the amazing Julia McKenzie

I have just heard that the Stephen Sondheim Student performer of the Year show is to be held at the Vaudeville Theatre this year.  The host will be the lovely David Badella and will be presented by Julia McKenzie.  The judges will be Ed Seckerson, Maria Freidman, Jenna Russell and Nigel Lilley.

Performers have to sing one song by Sondheim and another from a new musical.  Quite a few of our songs have been shortlisted for this but it is always very difficult to decide which songs to enter.  They have to be solos, which for musicals is difficult because songs are often for two or more singers. We are trying to decide which two to enter.  Last year, the brilliant song writer Tim Sutton won this award.

The judges of the best new song will be George Stiles, Antony Drewe and Adam Guettel.  Adam Guettel is the composer and lyricist of that delicate masterpiece The Light in the Piazza.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Capturing the Castle!



It looks as if the curators of Windsor Castle have read Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle!!

This looks like a wonderful exhibition of the works of Paul and Thomas Sandby opening at the Castle today and running until 5th May.

Here is a link to the exhibition and how to book tickets.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A Matter of Life or Death



Steve and I have submitted another Arts Council, Grants for the Arts, Application through our company Kelmscott Productions.  This time it's not for Research and Development but towards the cost of producing a show, and therefore a much more complicated application.  We won't hear the verdict until April.  We got advice and feedback on the application from so many brilliant, kind and wonderful people but most especially from Watford Palace Theatre.

With help from Watford in 2012 we got an Arts Council research and development grant for a two week workshop and performance of our musical I Capture the Castle at Drury Lane.

I am so glad that the Arts Council have decided to put up the ceiling for the amount usually given for Research and Development grants.  It used to be £10,000 and has now been put up to £15,000.  With musical theatre R & D there is so much more to pay out for than with a straight play, so I'm sure it will be especially welcomed there.

I know now why the application Steve and I made for our first musical, Possessed, never got through. We had partnership from Oxford Playhouse and some other kind investors but it wasn't enough because we didn't understand the process well enough.  We were told to apply for what we needed, which we did.  No one told us that there was a figure that was usually given for R & D.  I see now why we were never going to get that grant. If only someone had told us about the unspoken £10,000 limit.

Now that we have done it once I realise it is something that can be possible, but you really have to ask for help from people who have been making these applications for years as well as from the Arts Council themselves.  It is a lot of work, but that grant can be a matter of life or death as to whether your show gets a future or not, especially in the early stages!




Friday, 10 January 2014

Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies at the RSC


I felt very lucky to see the press performances of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies at the RSC's Swan Theatre yesterday. It almost felt like sitting inside Hilary Mantel's novels - but not quite.  Nothing can quite replicate her exquisite prose.

Ben Miles really brought to life Mantel's Cromwell, Lydia Leonard played the fiery Anne Boleyn, Paul Jesson a vivid Wolsey and Nathaniel Parker an unusually three dimensional Henry VIII - all superb performances,  in these two unforgettable adaptations, which I watched back to back.



Hilary Mantel looked very pleased with it all - at the end of the six hour marathon I saw her in a glorious floating golden outfit fiercely punching the air with joy!  She had worked very closely with Mike Poulton the adaptor and their alliance bore golden eggs, with these two powerful plays about the making of England.

It is still astonishing that Cromwell, a blacksmith's son, managed to work his way up the ranks to become one of the most powerful men in England.  It also really brought home how one single action, word, moment, can change the course of history for ever.

By the end of the second play it was clear that everyone who had upset Cromwell was dead and yet we were still for him.

It was an experience to relish!


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Puss in Boots at Hackney!



The Hackney Panto is another glorious success!  
Written and Directed by Susie McKenna with Music by the one and only Steven Edis!
Choreography by Frank Thompson
Design by Lotte Collett
Musical Direction by Mark Dickman

There are just a few more days left of the show, which runs until 5th January with Kat B as Puss in Boots, Sharon D Clarke as Queen Tallulah the Hoo Ha, Josefina Gabrielle as Evil Witch Evilena and Stephen Matthews as Dame Nettie Knowall.  The reviews, as always, have been fabulous:

"All Hail Hackney, basically" - Telegraph

"A slick machine of tongue-in-cheek contemporary references, ebullient choreography, singing that rocks the building and teasing innuendo" Time Out

"Gleefully eclectic" Metro

"Puss in Boots is really full force panto" The Upcoming

"When it comes to pantomime, Hackney Empire wears the tinsel crown." The Times