Tag Archives: Musical Theatre

NEWS: Musical theatre student at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland shares new song and video about the pandemic-hit performing arts industry.

A musical theatre student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has penned a new song about his passion for performing and how it feels to be part of the performing arts industry through a global pandemic.

What If I Told You was written by second-year student Harry Gascoigne in response to the challenges facing the theatre sector. It expresses the frustration of a ‘lost’ year of opportunities and the emotion of seeing dreams being put on hold before professional lives have even begun. There’s a note of hope too, conveying the dedication of young artists for whom the performing arts are a fundamental part of who they are.

Together with his year group on the BA Musical Theatre degree at Scotland’s national conservatoire, Harry recorded the song and accompanying video that’s shared for the first time today.

What if I told you,

That you couldn’t do what you wanted after years of waiting?

After years of training.

And what if I told you,

That you couldn’t be who you wanted after years of dreaming?

’Cause that’s how it’s seeming.

You tell us to adapt, you tell us to rethink our lives.

But not just for us, for you, arts need to survive.

So, where’s the compromise?

Because art is a fundamental part of our lives,

And the arts will survive and will continue to thrive.

View the video on YouTube

Harry said: “I wrote What If I Told You about the crisis in the performing arts industry when it felt that there was no support from the UK government or reopening dates in sight. Now, it feels like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. As the artists of the future, we stand together as we move into a new era of theatre.”

After writing What If I Told You on his piano at home, Harry shared the track with Emily Reutlinger, Head of the three-year BA Musical Theatre degree programme at RCS.

“Emily said it would be great to get the rest of the year group involved to record the song,” said Harry. “Everyone was up for it so I worked with my classmate Molly Stirrat, to pull it together.”

Emily Reutlinger, Head of BA Musical Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Harry has written a beautiful and meaningful song that captures the emotion of the last year for performing artists, who had to watch from the wings as theatres fell dark, with so much uncertainty surrounding their futures. What If I Told You is a rallying cry to the industry, a reminder that the arts will survive to see us through the darkest of times, and that these vibrant young artists are still here, still creating and producing work, and are ready to make their mark on the world.”

The second-year Musical Theatre cohort rehearsed and recorded What If I Told You under strict Covid guidelines at RCS: “There was a great atmosphere in the rehearsal room and it was such a special experience to come together,” said Harry, a songwriter and composer who also plays the saxophone, flute and guitar.

“Lots of students played instruments on the track. That’s one of the unique things about the Musical Theatre programme at RCS, that actor-musician element.”

Harry’s classmate, Molly Stirrat, who arranged and edited the music, said: “I’ve always been interested in composing and producing music. Harry and I wanted to incorporate as many people as we could so I decided to write parts for other students and their instruments. It was nice to see what first started as a basic backing track of drums, bass and keys become something more with the involvement of our amazing classmates who play instruments including viola, violin, cello, flute, sax, guitar, trumpet and banjo.

“It was a very enjoyable, new learning experience. From the first draft to the final production, a lot of hard work from both myself, Harry and all the other fantastic artists went into this and we’re very excited to share it with everyone.”

What If I Told You encapsulates the ethos of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s #WeAreStillHere scholarship campaign that aims to ensure the next generation of artists can follow their dreams at one of the world’s top three destinations to study the performing arts (QS World University Rankings 2021). The campaign is backed by Hollywood and West End actor James McAvoy – a BA Acting graduate – who narrates a short film that captures the creativity, resilience and dedication of students, staff and alumni throughout the pandemic. It voices an urgent call to support their future and that of the arts through scholarship.

REVIEW: Collabro with special guest Kerry Ellis – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Rarely does a review of musical theatre boy band Collabro start without mentioning their 2014 win in the eighth series of Britain’s Got Talent. It’s now five years, four albums and as many tours on from their triumph. From meeting to rehearse in a London pub to winning the show in a few short months, they’ve supported Barry Manilow on his arena tour and now they’re headlining venues around the country on their biggest tour to date – The Road to the Albert Hall. Such is their stature that they have managed to secure West End veteran Kerry Ellis as a supporting player in their latest two-hour show.

The evening gets off to a fine start with Georgia and the Vintage Youth whose breezy sound has Caro Emerald vibes delivered with an Adele/Amy Winehouse vocal. The trio have an enlivening effect and the audience appear appreciative of the chirpy, bluesy, ska, poppy tunes. The set is short and sweet and the Collaborators, as the band dubs their fans, are more than ready for the main attraction.

Undoubtedly classic musical theatre is still very much their metier, but Collabro have branched out into more popular jukebox musical territory in this latest set. They bounce onto the stage to the strains of Grease is the Word with choreography à la The Overtones, there’s also a spirited medley from Jersey Boys to close the first act, as well as an up-beat pop/soul encore. Rest assured though that all the classic musical theatre big-hitters are here: Maria, As If We Never Said Goodbye, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, On My Own, Why God Why?, are present in the first act, interspersed with Ellis’ rendition of a Brian May arrangement of The Way We Were. There’s Electricity with local 32-piece Stageworks choir, Glee’s version of Journey’s Faithfully, their original song Lighthouse, Bring Him Home, the almost inevitable medley of Greatest Showman songs, given a cabaret treatment by Ellis (This is Me and A Million Dreams), and Collabro’s own take on Never Enough, there’s Defying Gravity and the song that started it all for them – Stars, making up the second act.

While each singer has their own chance to shine, they are undoubtedly at their best when singing in harmony, sounding glorious when singing together. There are a few issues with pitch throughout, created mostly by matching the wrong song to the wrong singer and while the quartet feel like a thoroughly nice bunch of chaps, the dialogue to the audience seems stiff and contrived. There’s also an issue that the group themselves acknowledge – too many “sad” songs – the ballads overwhelm and while they are stunningly good, they do nothing to create a balanced journey through the course of the evening.

It will be interesting to see how the group move forward after several tours, to deliver something original next time. Collabro are polished and professional and undeniably provide a first class evening’s entertainment, fans will not be disappointed.

Continuing on tour throughout the UK this spring.

INTERVIEW: Kieran Brown, Scottish star of Titanic the Musical

Scottish actor Kieran Brown has an enviable theatrical CV, having appeared in Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, Les Mis, Wicked and our own Glasgow King’s Theatre pantomime, to name just a few. He’s a member of the hugely successful Barricade Boys and a concert star in his own right. Kieran from Larbert, returns home to Scotland this week to appear in Titanic – The Musical at Glasgow King’s and at Edinburgh Playhouse from June 12th – 16th. I had a chance to catch up with him about life onboard the world’s most famous ship before it sets sail in Glasgow!

Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect in Titanic the Musical?

It is a multiple Tony award winning musical written by American composer Maury Yeston with book by the late Peter Stone. It tells the tale of some of the real life passengers and crew onboard the ill fated ship. It was first produced by Danielle Tarento with direction from Thomas Sutherland and musical staging by Cressida Carre at the Southwark Playhouse in London, before transferring to the Charing Cross Theatre, and then crossing the Atlantic to Canada. This is the first major professional production of the show in the UK. I should state, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the 1997 James Cameron movie…! It has a stunning score with not a hint of Celine Dion..!
What about your role?

I play First Officer William McMaster Murdoch, who was essentially second in command of the ship, and was in charge at the time it hit the iceberg. He was Scottish, from Dalbeattie. He was treated quite unfairly in the film (which Cameron apologised for), but this is a much more sensitive treatment of his character. He very much blamed himself for the tragedy that unfolded. In actual fact, there were a great number of factors which led inevitably towards the sinking. It’s fascinating to learn throughout the show exactly what went on, but without ever placing judgement on anyone…

What songs or scenes should we particularly look out for?

The opening is really pretty epic..! It’s about 20 minutes long, and doesn’t pause for breath..! To be honest, it is such a stunning score and the sound of our 25 strong ensemble make accompanied by our 6 piece orchestra under direction of musical wizard Mark Aspinall is incredible! The audience are frequently blown away by the wall of sound that washes over them. It’s so humbling to be part of it!

How has the show been received as it’s toured around the country?

Phenomenally. Instant standing ovations practically every show. There’s the odd grumble about people expecting the film onstage, but those who have either informed themselves or allow our beautiful touching story to be told are usually left very affected by it. It’s a very emotional night at the theatre – because it’s not just a film – it’s true – I often wonder if people have forgotten that! We all know the ending of course but the final scene features direct quotes from the survivors – It’s very touching, but ultimately uplifting.

What’s life like on tour/backstage with such a large cast?

It’s been a while since I’ve toured and I actually enjoy it. We have a very mixed company age wise, but we do genuinely all get on great, and organise nights out, day trips to the countryside castle hunting etc. It’s a very supportive company onstage and off, and it’s a real joy to share this experience with them all.

Why should we come along to see the show?

It’s a story we all think we know, especially those who have seen the film (much of which was fiction), so I think it’s important to retell the story with tremendous respect and honour those who died (and survived). It’s not tap dancing and feathers, there are no hydraulic lifts and razzle dazzle spectacle, but there is a poignant layered story, accompanied by a beautiful, beautiful score, told by one of the most talented bunch of actors and musicians I’ve had the honour to work with. I think of all of the jobs I’ve done, this really ranks as one of those I’m most proud of. I love it. And I am particularly proud to be telling this story at the Kings in Glasgow. Last time I was here I was riding a magic carpet as Aladdin! I love the city (I lived and studied here at the RCS) and it feels very much like home. I’m curious to see how Scottish audiences respond to it…

Any roles you’d love to perform/shows you’d like to be in that you haven’t yet?

To be honest I’m keen to do a play – it’s been 7 years since I last did a play (The Woman In Black in Vienna). I love singing and musicals, but I’d love to do something where I don’t have to worry about my singing voice for a while..!

What’s been your favourite role to date?

I think playing the Phantom probably ranks as a major career tick and I was lucky that I managed to get on a lot during my two years at Her Majesty’s. The feeling I had inside when I stepped on to take my bow at the end of my first show was something I can’t really describe..!

What’s next after Titanic?

Who knows! The life of a jobbing actor..! TBH we are all loving this Titanic experience so much we are all hoping it may not be ending mid August in Hamburg! Crossing everything there is another life, whether continuing the tour or sailing into the west end, who knows…!
You can catch Kieran in Titanic – The Musical at Glasgow King’s Theatre from Monday 28 May until Saturday 2 June 2018 – tickets here
Edinburgh Playhouse from Tuesday 12 June until Saturday 16th June 2018 – tickets here.
Titanic photography: Scott Rylander
Kieran Brown headshot in article: Kate Scott

REVIEW: Side Show – West Brewery, Glasgow

Based vaguely on the true story of British-born conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, vaudeville performers of the 1920s and 1930s, Side Show isn’t your average, jaunty musical. Instead it’s the story of two women with very different inner lives, forever joined, whose hopes and dreams are subsumed by the other, their individual potential never to be fulfilled.

Violet wants a home, a husband, a ‘normal’ life, Daisy desires fame, fortune and the bright lights of the Orpheum circuit. Those whose care they’re in, their only aim – to make as much money as possible exploiting them. Would-be impresarios  Terry and Buddy enter their lives, to, on the surface, help the twins escape their side show lives, only to in turn exploit them for their own ends.

The cast of self-proclaimed ‘freaks’ who populate the side show include a bearded lady, the Cannibal King, a human pincushion and a lizard man. Played here by a cast of actor/musicians in minimal costume/makeup.

Having the distinction of having failed twice on Broadway, this 1997 musical is rarely seen and it is easy to see why. The faults lie entirely with the writing and not the performers.

Act One plods and it takes until well in to act two for it to hit any kind of dramatic stride. It barely scratches below the surface of these complex women’s lives. There’s a lack in variation in tone, too many songs and a discomfort at the subject matter that doesn’t sit well with the modern psyche. The book is quite frankly, badly written and the lyrics tediously bombastic.

What is a winner is the cast. Despite fighting with an overly loud band (that sounded frequently out of tune) and questionable acoustics (although in a hugely atmospheric venue) that deadened the lyrics almost entirely, the cast gamely fight on. Their quality never in question. On the occasions they managed to break through the cacophony they are sublime. Their harmonies glorious. Grace Galloway is magnetic as twin Daisy, overshadowing the less effusive (as her character dictates) Violet from Emma Harding. Callum Marshall’s (Sir) vocals are unfortunately drowned out by the band and the lyrics are lost in the important first few songs that establish the plot. None of this is Marshall’s fault as he is visibly projecting. The ensemble are talented, but it sounds as if musicianship is not their forte and the playing space is sprawling (long and narrow) leading to the audience’s focus dancing all over the room uncomfortably.

A brave attempt but it doesn’t feel fully thought through by the production team. What seems like a match made in heaven – unusual, atmospheric venue and a musical set in the 20s/30s about side-show freaks – doesn’t work in reality. There are practicalities that need to be thought out when you present to an audience. Their viewing experience is paramount. If the sound is distorted by the venue and the staging renders watching it a physical feat, you are doing a disservice to your viewers and also your actors, whose undeniable talent is masked through no fault of their own. All of this added to the fact that Side Show just isn’t a very good show, makes this a rare misstep from RCS.

Performances at West Brewery until 23rd May 2018.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Be Fruitful and Multiply, C Venue C

This post was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews.

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★☆☆

Be Fruitful and Multiply is billed as a light-hearted take on the story of creation and suggests that God and the Devil might not be the universe’s opposing forces but merely highly incompatible business partners. It substitutes a powerful multi-national company for God and tells the story of the “Company” as they embark on their latest business project – creating the earth.

The show claims to tackle fundamental issues such as choice and determinism whilst maintaining a comedic atmosphere. Mmm… not exactly the most obvious basis for a musical and treading the fine line between satirising religious belief and being just plain offensive requires a deft touch indeed. The writing is at times sharply witty, however the story lacks overall cohesion and the relationships between the characters isn’t always clearly defined.

The female characters are the standout performers. Of the male cast only Jamie Budgett (Addy) has the voice to fill the space, the others are seriously underpowered especially in the lower range. The baby-faced Adam Farrell (Sam) also lacks the requisite devilishness required of his role and the full effect of his words is often lost in a somewhat hesitant delivery.

The music is nothing new and has more than a hint of the familiar about it. That said there are some excellent songs here, in particular the standout One Call. The problem is that by and large they don’t fit the script into which they’ve been inserted, and in some cases the whole momentum of the storytelling is lost.

The fact this is a piece by multiple writers may be to blame for many of its shortcomings. The concept has huge potential and there are glimmers of some truly excellent songs but it’s definitely a work in progress needing to find a cohesive voice.

Runs until 27th August