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.


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