Every time I go to the theatre, I buy a programme and the first thing I do is turn to the page where the musicians are listed. Musicians are often the forgotten part of the show, and when the cast do the ‘band hand’ to the pit at the end, half of the audience don’t even know what they are doing! In this blog I’ll be exploring the neglected music side of theatre, providing insights ‘in the pit’, interviewing theatre musos and a lot more, but over the next few blogs I’ll be talking about a particular project I’m currently working on.
I’m an aspiring music director and keyboardist in the world of musical theatre. I’m still at school studying for GCSEs, but I MD for a few youth theatre groups as well as playing for a theatre school. I’m about to be MD on a variety show, Scousers on the Rampage, that will be taking place at St Helen’s Theatre Royal on 30 October. It stars lots of local celebs, including Margi Clarke, Mickey Finn, Tina Malone and Ozzie Yue. I’m in charge of the live band, and will be playing the keyboards and nodding my head along on the night.
As the show is a variety performance and features a lot of acts, the rehearsal process is a bit different to most shows. We don’t rehearse all together until one week before the night, when we will all rehearse from 10am-6pm every day. Until this time we have varied rehearsals every week – at the moment I have lots of rehearsals with numerous acts, who are all doing completely separate things. This means that a lot of the time the music isn’t set in stone until a very late stage, which definitely keeps me on my toes!
The show is full of Scouse rip-offs, and without giving too much away, there are a few hilarious numbers from the likes of Chicago and Les Miserables. Whilst the Director picks the big musical numbers for the whole cast, such as the opening and the finale, the cast get to decide some of their own songs, which I then take and arrange for the band. I get a lot of text messages asking me to learn a song for the show, which is really interesting as I get to see who suits what songs and how people tackle having their own choice. However, it can be a nightmare to organise the music for, especially if the performers pick something obscure – but then again, the more obscure numbers often turn out to be the most fun.
This week we had our first band call at Vulcan Studios in Liverpool. Our band consists of me on keys, a drummer, a bassist and a guitarist. We had a look at various little bits from some of the songs in the show to see how they worked, and we also had a visit from Ozzie Yue (you may know him from Tomb Raider, Come Fly With Me or White Van Man) who popped in to see how we were getting on as he’ll be performing a few numbers in the show (on his own his guitar as well).
As we work towards opening night, expect my upcoming blogs to contain some pictures, videos and even more of an insight to the process of being in the band of a variety show.
Scousers on the Rampage will be playing at St Helen’s Theatre Royal, Liverpool, on 30 October 2011. For more information visit the website.
Image by Rodolfo Stanic.