In Conversation with KATY LIPSON of ARIA ENTERTAINMENT

Interview lead by Nathan Deane

From Page To Stage is a London based musical theatre festival showcasing brand new musicals, featuring staged readings, concerts, snippets of new shows and one fully produced musical by Aria Entertainment. Click here to read more about FPTS on The Thespians Blog, and click here to read about the amazing cast at this years FPTS.

The Thespians Blog were invited along to an event at The Other Palace, marking the opening of the 5th year of FPTS. This included watching some amazing performances from the new Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater musical, Some Lovers (tickets here), which looks absolutely fantastic. We also got to watch a performance by Miiko Toiviainen from the new musical XY (tickets here), which also looks amazing.

Amongst watching the amazing performances, we got to sit down with the woman behind the festival, Katy Lipson. Katy is director of production company Aria Entertainment and has produced many fan favourites, including Lizzie, The Addams Family (UK Tour), and YANK! (Off-West End). 

From Page To Stage 2017 Launch

Steven Sater (book/lyrics – Some Lovers), Chloe Carrington (Dinostory and Chicken Little), Gemma Wardle (Some Lovers), Ben Richards (Some Lovers), Jenna Innes (Some Lovers), Aaron Kavanagh (Some Lovers), Gloria Onitiri (Showcase), Miiko Toiviainen (XY), Katy Lipson (Producer – From Page To Stage).

You’ve worked with Burt Bacharach before, you did Promises, Promises back in February, so what is it like working with Bacharach again but with a completely now show that’s never been produced?

Maybe I’m playing this too casual, but I guess I feel extremely lucky to be presenting in the same year, but a new musical that’s never been put on in this country and never had a production before in the US. He’s one of the most iconic living writers thanks to this 50 year career he’s had. The songs are amazing, they’re really, really beautiful. The sound is as commercial as some of his early hit songs. I’m just really keen to see that we get this show right and move this show on. I’m more focused on nailing it and getting it right, we all want it to be successful and we want people to connect with it. If Burt was coming over I guess I would be nervous about that performance, but he’s not coming over for this first performance but he will come over when we do the show for a full run with a press night. Steven Sater’s wonderful to work with, he’s a great book writer and lyricist, he wrote Spring Awakening which was a game changer for musical theatre and one of the shows that I love, and I feel just so incredibly lucky!

Promises, Promises has some iconic numbers like “Turkey Lurkey Time” which has iconic choreography and everyone knows it, is there going to be anything as iconic in Some Lovers?

I think you’ve got some hit songs in there in a different way. Turkey Lurkey was famous for being quirky but I think there are some hits in here because they’re stunning. We’ve got some hits like Say a Little Prayer and I’ll Never Fall In Love Again and I think the album will become a hit album, rather than a song. It is an album of love songs, and it’s very arty. I assume people will get lost in the music and love it!

 This is your fifth year doing FPTS, how has the festival changed each year?

I’ve become more ambitious and more savvy and my reputation is higher so each year more and more industry come, more  and more venues come, more and more work is submitted of higher standard, I reach out to more and more established writers as well. We wouldn’t have had a Burt Bacharach musical five years ago. I raise more and more money, get more recognition. We moved from The Landor Theatre from the first two years to the Tristan Bates Theatre and now we’re at The Other Palace so I’ve learnt a lot more. I’ve learnt more about who I want to collaborate with and what I want to get out of it. Whereas in years one and two I’m establishing a brand, something that people recognise as an investible festival, whereas now we’re  starting shows out on the right track.

You’re working with Paul Taylor-Mills, another producer, whilst you’re in The Other Palace, so how has that worked out?

So Paul and I didn’t actually work together. It’s just our festival. Andrew Lloyd-Webber invited us to The Other Palace and Paul saw the repertoire we are doing but we’re an outside company that are coming in and rent the theatre, but with Andrew’s support. We all want the same things, new musicals and a safe space for new musicals to flourish and to present them.

You’re a really innovative producer, you’ve got an iconic musical which is touring right now (The Addams Family), and you’ve done Lizzie which isn’t so traditional with a blistering rock score, you’ve done Burt Bacharach, he’s only written two shows and you’ve produced them both, and this year you’re doing Hair. It’s just been leaked that you’re selling tickets to a clothing-optional performance. How did that performance idea come about?

We were approached by a naturist group. They said “oh my god you’re doing Hair and in this intimate theatre, would you consider doing a clothing optional performance?” This group had been trying to get other theatres in Westminster to do it and they all said no but we said ‘why not?’ So we made a private link that you could only buy tickets for if you were sent. Somehow, it leaked out and so we told the press that we were offering this performance. Hair is a show about being liberated, it’s a show about free love, it’s a show about having a free sexuality, free with your identity, free with who you’re marrying, interracial marriage. It’s amazing. If you see Hair, you’re going to love it. So we’re doing it for one performance and if it’s successful,  we’ll do another it’s as simple as that!

Have you had a favourite musical you’ve produced?

I think a new musical I did called Return of the Soldier was very special because it was brand new and I really, really loved it. I’ve loved doing some of the cabarets I’ve done. Also Jerry’s Girls, the Jerry Herman musical. I absolutely adored putting one two of my biggest shows so The Addams Family and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which I did in 2012. And also my latest show, The Toxic Avenger, which is absolutely mental. It’s so fun. Before Toxie (The Toxic Avenger) I didn’t do any comedy in my shows but to hear an audience erupt in laughter is an amazing feeling. My portfolio is so diverse like with YANK! which is an incredible show about the officers in the army falling in love and gay rights to Toxie which is completely un-PC and hilarious, then to The Addams Family which is a caricature of these iconic characters to Burt Bacharach. There’s no point of strategy, you gravitate towards pieces you love and they really take off and you think ‘Oh. Okay. I need to make room in my life now to make the most out of it.

 

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Hair at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

I’d really love to thank Katy Lipson for sitting down and talking with me.

From Page To Stage festival runs until the 3rd of September 2017 at The Other Palace in London. For more information and tickets, click here. 

 

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In Conversation with circus performer DANIEL ASH about his upcoming show “SOHO”

Interview lead by Charlie White

On Friday 5th May we were lucky enough to be able to get an interview with a cast member from the innovative new show Soho (at the Peacock Theatre until 20th May), Daniel Ash. In the show Daniel’s main number is a drag aerial act.

So how did you get involved with the show?

” I was doing a circus degree at the National Centre for Circus Arts. This time last year Stufish came to the school and worked with us in our second year to do a Workshop of the show. This is where we made the first version of the show which was 40 minutes then over the last six weeks we’ve been in France turning it in to an hour and half long show. I came in to circus quite late, I actually did a science degree first.”

So what got you in to the Circus then?

“Well I’ve always loved acting growing up but I always thought I should try and get a proper job. When I left Sheffield University and finished the degree I just wanted to follow my passion so I became an actor and I did a lord of the flies tour. Then I did a cabaret course at the Roundhouse for 18-25 year olds where I worked with Marisa Carneski. I also, in Soho did a stripper competition, so the combination of these two things got me in to cabaret and stripping so the last four years I’ve been on the cabaret scene with loads of different acts. I do quite a bit of drag as well, but then I saw circus cabaret show Limbo at London Wonderground and I watched the circus artists and I thought I want to do that so I started doing evening classes. Six months after that I auditioned for circus school and got in.”

So what is the main number that you’re involved with in the show?

“Throughout the show I’m a gym boy in the Gym scene and I’m in the Berwick Street Market scene but my main number is in Madam JoJo’s in the second half. It’s a really famous cabaret club that’s been going for years with Burlesque Dancers and it got closed recently because of gentrification. Quite a lot of gay places are being closed as well for the sake of building high rise flats or something. So yeah in Madam JoJo’s I play a drag queen and I do an aerial silks number to Etta James ‘I wanna make to love to you’. The training has been quite intense with the heals on the equipment it’s very tiring and the outfit is very elaborate. I have feathers on the shoulders and big blonde wig, and I have to do my make up in twenty minutes which is quite scary.”

Where do you see this show going in the future?

“I think Stufish are hoping to take this on a world tour, which will be amazing. I’ve always been really passionate about the show, like when Stufish came to the school it was obviously right up my street with the whole drag act.”

Did they scout you or did you have to audition?

“They held auditions recently but when they came to the school, they worked with our year for the workshop, but with this version they had to do auditions. So I was in the original but with this version I had to audition. It’s a really important show, though, because a lot of places like Soho and Hackney Wick, where I live, there’s a lot of stuff being knocked down, lots of flats, lots of clubs and places where I used to perform, a really iconic gay club in Vauxhall that shut down. Someone recently said to me “Soho used to be a real hub for the gay community” but it almost feels like the gays are less visible, if you know what I mean, because places are being shut down…I feel like this show is really important and a really important celebration of Soho. I worked with someone who told me that Soho was a great community for the gays, but Soho is a great mismatch of gays, straights, lesbians and queers so the show is a celebration and warning of “try not to kill off the culture” or “don’t get too much into capitalism”. We need to protect and celebrate districts like Soho.”

What, roughly, is the story of the show?

“The story follows a “Lost Man”, he’s from abroad and come to London and he gets lost in Soho. The beginning it’s this really big, spectacular opening. The audience is presented with a train heading towards them and there’s a big commuting scene with people flying through the air and it’s pretty mad.”

Why do you think people should come and see Soho?

“I think people should come and see Soho because there aren’t that many shows out there that will blow you away ten times in the space of an hour. Every scene, there’s a spectacle. There’s an amazing trapeze couple from Montreal. There’s me, a drag queen on silks. You’ll see things that are really amazing. It’ll blow your mind. It’s a wow a minute show. It’s like a cabaret, as well. There are so many acts in the space of an hour so it’s totally worth the money. The projections are amazing, also. It’s a beautiful piece to watch.”

Any words of advice for aspiring performers?

“Never give up on your dream. It’s never too late. People will tell you it’s too late, it’s not! I was sat in my sister’s car, age 24, I actually cried because I just started doing acrobatics and I couldn’t do a cartwheel. I thought “If I can’t do a cartwheel now, it’s too late.” I can do a cartwheel now! I can climb the silks! I can do flips and dangerous stuff. With the right training, you can do anything. I know someone who started circus aged 28 and they’re still going aged 45. Never give up! It’s a long road but i’ve been doing it for five years now and a lot of it is not a lot of money or long hours but it’s all worth it when it pays off. It’s better to be happy and have less money, definitely.”

The world premiere of SOHO – it’s not just a place, it’s a state of mind…..

SOHO – a thrill ride of circus, street and theatre performance re-creating the exciting, edgy and voyeuristic world of London’s Soho!

Saturday 6 May – Saturday 20 May 2017

THE PEACOCK Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT

Performances: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm (no performances on a Monday)

Saturday matinee at 2.30pm (no matinee on 06/05/17)

Sunday performances at 2pm and 6pm

Tickets: £25 – £35

Ticket Office: 020 7863 8222 or www.peacocktheatre.com

Exclusive! In The Writer’s Room of the new JACK THE RIPPER MUSICAL!

Interview lead by Charlie White & Nathan Deane

Hey guys! Charlie and Nathan here, we’re back with another interview with not only one, but two writers of the new Jack The Ripper musical, Christopher Pelling and Aaron Barker. They’re back to discuss more on all things JTR!

Describe your thought process whilst writing the show.

Christopher: I think that my part to play is to really capture the truth in these events, and express them through my lyrics and music. It takes precision to get the right effect, and I know I want to get it right and serve justice to these events. The opportunity to make this has certainly opened my eyes on the subject, and I hope it will open the eyes of others too.

Aaron: For me it’s simply abAaout finding the inspiration, and with us writing a musical based on the true events of Jack The Ripper, it’s all about what actually happened and working out how to adapt a true event into a stage adaptation aimed to the vision me and Christopher share, we have a very similar creative common ground and that’s something I value and work with as a writer. The forefront of my mind is the vision and what will look and sound good as a musical.

What parts of the story will the songs tell?

Christopher: The songs will fill some of the key moments and possibly fill in the gaps that have been potentially missed out. I want the songs to stick with the audience, to bring out the truth and highlight the moments that make the events what they are today.

Aaron: The songs will certainly help to develop the plot and with any musical contain a few show stoppers! We want to set up an image of who Jack The Ripper could have been with out saying “Oh yes, it’s him” but give an idea into his mind and madness as well as capture the atmosphere and the aggression of the citizens of Whitechapel and the two police forces in the investigation.

What musicals have inspired this show entirely?

Aaron: Absolutely! For me the main influences for us both be Jekyll & Hyde, Sweeney Todd, Dracula and Frankenstein. Myself personally, as generic as it sounds have taken a hint of influence from Les Misérables and some of my all time favourites like the element of tragedy from both Blood Brothers and Whistle Down The Wind. Absolutely, there’s something about Jekyll & Hyde that’s so capivating and atmospheric, from the very get go, the genius that is Frank Wildhorn has the ability to throw so many emotions in the mix and get the audience locked into a story and feel so many levels of atmosphere! And that’s exactly what me and Christopher what in Jack The Ripper: The Musical.

Christopher: ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ has been something that definitely kept me going. It’s the perfect dark atmosphere, it conveys the story-line perfectly and I believe it’s something I want to live up to. Many other thriller-type musicals such as ‘Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’ have all contributed the desired atmosphere that I want to create in my own way and I’m sure that together Aaron and I will create it perfectly.

Where do you see the show in 20 years time?

Aaron: I hope the show can be in London! The home of Jack The Ripper! A West End run would be perfect, I also have hopes of it touring the UK and Internationally to Europe, Asia and Australia. I also would be honoured seeing amateur, youth and school groups. We have a few ideas lurking groups performing the show, as it’s something different and at the same time for students, educational! We have a few ideas as to where the show will get performed, it’s a matter of aiming for them and hoping that the show can only strengthen.

Are there any novels/books about Jack The Ripper that have become a part of the shows text?

Aaron: Not really no, we’re just watching documentaries and finding out information by informative online resources. If it wasn’t for my history teacher in Year 9 the spark wouldn’t have triggered, and I wouldn’t have been writing this musical! I owe it all to her!

Christopher: I’ve currently been looking at many different documentaries on Jack the Ripper, I’ve also been in discussion with my history tutor on the matter, as he has a large expanse of knowledge on it.

How will you manage the graphic parts of the story?

Aaron: We haven’t yet thought on staging for the graphic nature of his killings, but definitely the atmosphere and the fear! We have a vision and when it comes to staging it we’ll cross that bridge then with the production team. All I can say is, Blood, and hopefully, lot’s of it! In terms of what we’ve written, so far the tension is immense, I often read over the draft script thinking, “did I write that?!” As it’s so sadistic and hopefully justifies what happened on these true events

Christopher: I think currently we just want to get our main material so we have something to work with first. At least with some decent material we have a show to put together! I’m sure there will be plenty of graphic nature to show in the musical, after all, what’s Jack the Ripper without a few buckets of blood?

And finally, any thoughts on ticket prices? Will they be Hamilton extreme?

Christopher: Ticket prices are beyond my thinking. I’d like to think we’d get decent money from the show, but I couldn’t say. Aaron would know more about this than me, I can assure you.

Aaron: For a world premiere, NO, I understand that musical is extremely popular and written by an established writer, therefore the ticket prices are through the roof, but for us as brand new writers and a brand new musical, absolutely not! We want as many people to come and see the show as possible whilst being blown away for good value! We haven’t discussed it yet, so that’s another bridge we’ll cross, but certainly not the price of big blockbuster West End/Broadway shows.

Jack The Ripper is written by Aaron Barker and Christopher Pelling. For updates on the show, please visit the official Facebook page.

 

EXCLUSIVE! Interview With The Man Behind a New JACK THE RIPPER MUSICAL!

JACK THE RIPPER: THE MUSICAL is a new musical from upcoming writers Aaron Barker and Christopher Pelling. The new musical is still in the writers room (on both ends) and has currently not seen the light of day, apart from its Facebook page. The Thespians are here to provide you with an exclusive insight into the weirdly wonderful minds of the shows book writer, Aaron.

Question: First off – why Jack The Ripper? What drew you to the sick, twisted world of the unknown serial killer?

Aaron: Well, I have always loved history, from a very early age. I was involved in a lot of musicals as a performer, and back in 2014 had the idea to write my own. As a new writer I wanted to start out with a story set in stone, so I thought a piece of classic history. I wanted to do something dark, as I thought that there where too many happy, cheesy musicals out there. So the idea of a new dark British historical musical came to mind, looking back to year 9 history classes I recalled studying Jack the Ripper.

I was drawn to doing it as there’s so many elements to Jack the Ripper. It’s become an urban myth almost, like a little legend. But it’s all true! This did happen in the darkest, poorest area of London’s slums and there’s so many elements to Jack the Ripper like the mystery of his identity and motives. the gruesome nature of his crimes and the legacy he has left behind. He murdered in a way no serial killer had done before him and would never do again. Frightening people in his own unique way and striking at just the right time in just the right place.

 

Question: Do you have any theories on the identity of the killer and how do you spin it into the show?

Aaron: I have my own idea of who the murderer could have been. we haven’t yet touched on the suspects yet, but I’m sure we will, we certainly won’t point the finger on anyone saying “oh yes it’s him!” as we want the mystery element to the piece and want the audience to ask questions and make up their own minds. Everyone likes a classic who dunnit, and Jack The Ripper is the classic who dunnit!!

Question: What has inspired you music and book-wise towards your musical?

Aaron: We have been inspired by musicals like Frankenstein, Jekyll & Hyde, Dracula and Sweeney Todd. Me and Christopher are after a musical thriller element to the piece to create an on the edge of your seat, tense and very sinister atmosphere so writers like Stephen Sondheim are massive influences! We also look up to Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricuisse who wrote Jekyll & Hyde, the music in that is so atmospheric, beautiful and gripping, as is the book and lyrics of Leslie Bricuisse and we want the audience to feel so many levels of atmosphere, tension, and fear so these writers prove hugely influential in helping us make the show what it will be!

Question: If you could cast anyone in the role of Jack The Ripper, who would it be and why?

Aaron: Me and Christopher haven’t set anything in stone about casting just yet, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. However I myself have an actor called Stephen Carlile in mind. I saw him in The Lion King as Scar here in Liverpool when it was on tour and was blown away by his incredible singing voice and his villainous appeal. He’s one to keep in mind, but as I say nothing is set in stone yet.

Question: When are you looking to premiere the musical and for a how long run?

Aaron: We are looking at anytime between 2019 to 2020 for its world premiere. I have nearly finished the script for Act I and hopefully ill have that done by the end of the year and Act II’s script done for this time next year with all of the music done for 2018. After it’s all done and edited we’ll look for a producer and have the premiere for either 2019 or 2020. Our vision is to have a season of 3 to 4 weeks here in my hometown of Liverpool before a UK and Ireland tour, all depending on the production’s scale and who produces it.

Question: Finally, if you could describe Jack The Ripper in three words, what would they be?

Aaron: Amazing, tense and gripping.

Jack The Ripper is written by Aaron Barker and Christopher Pelling. For updates on the show, please visit the official Facebook page.

OUR OPINION:

We definitely can’t wait to see where this show goes! It looks like it’s gonna be intense and a wild, emotional roller coaster.

Hope you enjoyed this interview! Thanks for reading!

Nathan and Charlie xoxo

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