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.

 

img_5540

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. 

 

Advertisements

MISS HOPE SPRINGS London Concert Followed by UK Tour!

MISS HOPE SPRINGS PUTS THE WIG BACK IN WIGMORE HALL: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT

Experiencing the whirlwind of overnight success, numerous decades after she started her career, this summer will see the West End’s most unique entertainer, the eternally youthful Miss Hope Springs, make her debut at the Wigmore Hall, one of the world’s top classical music venues – which may never be the same once Hope’s sprung there on Friday 16th June 2017 at 10.00pm, followed by UK tour.

The towering blonde ex-Vegas never-say-die show-business trouper Hope brings to the stage a pantechnicon of career wrong turnings and disastrous love affairs. A truly gifted songwriter and captivating performer, Hope will be playing the piano and singing her self-penned all original songs from her brand new LP The Devil Made Me Do It. In a virtuoso performance Hope heartbreakingly moves her audience to tears and then exquisitely makes them laugh out loud. Her new LP is “really a look back over what I call my ‘Ritz to the pits’ life. It’s a trip down memory lane and a bit like that long winter I spent in Copenhagen, back in the day making ‘art films’ it’s not always a pretty sight.”

One of the new album tracks is the previously unreleased Please Don’t Desert Us at Dessert which Hope recently found in ‘her archive’ (an old shoe box under the bottom bunk of the camper-van she shares with her husband Irving and his hairdresser pal Carlos.) “It was written especially for me by Sir Noel Coward over lunch at The Pink Pelican Casino where I was a showgirl in the early sixt – I mean seventies.” Also included in her concert will be firm favourites such as Seedy Little Nightclub in Pigalle, the riotous Zodiac Lover and the truly heart-breaking Queen of Fools.

Hope is cut from the same fabulous sequinned cloth as Dame Edna, Lilly Savage and Danny La Rue, but she responds dismissively “That’s simply a bitchy rumour put about by Goldie Hawn. She’s a nice girl – but can be a little jealous… Listen, I’ve always been tall for my height – end of story!” Hope‘s celebrity fans are as glittering as her stage wear including: Marc Almond, Julian Clary, Rula Lenska, Jonathan Ross, Fenella Fielding, The Beverley Sisters and Lady Helen Windsor.

Still wearing the sequins she left the USA with in 1972, Hope tours her remarkable new show to very selective venues around the UK from June. “I’ve played in the world’s premier rooms from The Dew Drop Inn to the Cucaracha Club, but the Wigmore Hall? My mother Rusty would have been so proud (she’s not dead – we just don’t talk anymore.) Someone said I’m putting the wig back in Wigmore, I don’t know what they’re trying to insinuate, my hair is purely a reflection of my Irish/Lithuanian/Eskimo heritage – just like my double layers of thick black eyelashes…It’s all down to good genes.”

Miss Hope Springs is a truly gifted performer and songwriter, and an accomplished entertainer in the best vaudeville tradition! – Liza Minnelli’s Musical Director Billy Stritch

Wigmore Hall – Friday 16th June at 10.00 pm

Address: 36 Wigmore St, Marylebone, London W1U 2BP.

Phone: 020 7935 2141.

Tickets: £15

Website: wigmore-hall.org.uk

Chapel Arts – Friday 23rd and Saturdat 24th June at 8.00pm

Address: St. James’s Memorial Hall, Lower Borough Walls, Bath BA1 1QR.

Phone: 01225. 461700

Tickets: £20 in advance / £22 on the night

Website http://www.chapelarts.org

Astor Theatre – Saturday 8th July at 8.00pm

Address: Stanhope Rd, Deal Kent CT14 6AB.

Phone: 01304 370220.

Tickets: £20 Website: theastor.org

Wilton’s Music Hall – Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th July at 7.00pm

Address: 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London E1 8JB.

Phone: 020 7702 2789.

Tickets: from £20.

Website: http://www.wiltons.org.uk

The Stables – Friday 14th July at 8.45pm

Address: Stockwell Ln, Wavendon, Milton Keynes MK17 8LU Milton Keynes.

Tickets: £20

Phone: 01908 280800.

Website: http://www.stables.org

Komedia – Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd July at 8.00pm

44-47 Gardner St, Brighton BN1 1UN.

Tickets £15 / £12.50 cons.

Phone: 0845 293 8480.

Website: http://www.komedia.co.uk

Miss Hope Springs is the creation of composer, lyricist, pianist and comic actor Ty Jeffries son of the late British screen legend Lionel Jeffries who starred in many films including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and wrote and directed The Railway Children. Ty’s formative years living in Tinsel Town lend authenticity to his multi-layered portrayal of fading glamour-puss Hope.
Ty is a classically trained pianist (Purcell School) and for the last 5 years his glittering alter ego has been starring in London’s West End top cabaret rooms and in the cabaret rooms and theatres of New York, LA and San Francisco.

REVIEW: The Girl From Mars – The Britpop Musical

Written by Nathan Deane, Charlie White & Jasmine White

Advertised as “The Britpop Rocky Horror”, The Girl From Mars is a jukebox musical currently touring rock venues across the UK. We attended their performance at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth to see the show and review it from a theatre-goer’s perspective. We actually knew nothing about this show before seeing it so our review is completely un-biased.

Our first reaction, as we walked into the auditorium (which is usually used for bands and singers), was that the set design is pretty basic, a few britpop flags dotted around and the instruments pre-set up. The logo also was on the back wall.

The show starts with a voice-over telling the tale of how the martians are, basically, dying and so they’re going to visit earth to find a male to mate with. Then we meet an alien…goddess, shall we call her? And she sings the classic song ‘Ready to Go’. We are then introduced to Sally, a barmaid, and Leon, a guitarist and vocalist for a band. The band don’t want to play rock anymore, they want to be a boyband.

Then they see something crash into the tree, and assume it’s drag racers. Suddenly the alien goddess from before appears, introducing herself as Nyah. She tells the people in the bar of her plan to mate with a male and that they cannot stop her, and to prove so she enlists the help of her pet…robot? Basically, it was a giant marionette puppet that walked through the aisle to the front of the stage, where it was quickly fought by Sally and Leon, who destroyed it with an electric guitar. Sally then locks Nyah in the cellar.

In the cellar, Sally tells Nyah that on earth it’s not just boy-girl relationships. Nyah tells the audience that she might be developing a crush on Sally with the song ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. Leon insults Sally for not killing the alien, thus ending act one.

Act two begins with an argument between Sally and Leon. Two secret agents come to rescue(?) Nyah, much to her dismay. Sally then discovers that Nyah has gone missing. In a dream sequence, we see Leon’s yearning to be a rock god with the song Common People, which brought the house down. Nyah then sings ‘Oops, I Did It Again’ by Britney Spears. Why? I actually don’t know, but it was fierce. Sally comes up with a plan that, instead of taking a man to Mars, she’ll just give Nyah Leon’s sperm. She then asks Nyah to take her back to Mars. Sally and Leon say their goodbyes, and Nyah and Sally depart earth. An agent then comes to watch Leon’s band, and everyone’s happy!

The show has many positive elements but nothing’s perfect. The show, from the very beginning was plagued with microphone and sound issues. We could barely hear the amazing vocals over the drums, yet what we could hear was amazing. From the very beginning, the choreography of the two secret agents was fierce, although sometimes they were out of sync or didn’t know what they were doing.

The show was full of well-known tunes and the (slightly drunk) audience loved to sing along and get up and dance. The encore went on for slightly longer than it should have, and there were a few times that I could feel the script tried hard to cram in as many songs as possible.

Despite this, the show had amazing energy levels, an amazing band and amazing vocals, especially coming from Natasha, who played Nyah. The company were full of talent and deserve a better sound crew! The sound crew, I can tell, were working hard but the venue was, obviously suited for a rock venue.

The show was extremely funny, and often crude. The cast also used the tech and costume mishaps as an advantage and worked them into the script. There were times when the SFX were delayed and we lost part of the story, and some lines, which were meant to be funny, didn’t get through to the audience due to the cast having problems saying them, but the audience found the mishap funnier than the actual line.

Alongside the SFX mishaps, the microphones sometimes cut out during songs and dialogue – most noticeably Niall, who played Leon, suffered with this problem.

Julia, who played Sally, also struggled with this problem but both actors worked through it like true performers.

At some points in the show, it’s easy to spot that the show was conceived in six months but then it really pulls through for a great night out. If you’re a fan of britpop, crude comedy and b-movies, this show is one not to be missed.

3 stars.jpg

 

The Girl From Mars is playing in Birmingham on the 22nd of April. For tickets and more info click here.

REVIEW: Rent The Musical at Festival Theatre, Malvern

 

Rent The Musical is currently doing a special 20th anniversary UK tour and I was able to catch it at my local theatre in Malvern.

For anybody who doesn’t know what Rent is about, it is a fabulous show with music and lyrics by the amazing Jonathan Larson. When I say ‘show’, I do not mean jazz hands and cheesy tap numbers. In a nutshell, Rent covers the story of a group of struggling people who to put it frankly can’t afford to pay rent. But alongside this they suffer the harsh streets of New York being affected by things like AIDS and drugs. So it’s not all ‘song and dance’ (well, you know what I mean), but in the end it’s quite uplifting as you see how the story unfolds and how they all stick together and rely on each other to get by.

The show had an absolutely star studded cast with the likes of Lucie Jones (X Factor, Les Miserables, Legally Blonde), Layton Williams (Bad Education, Billy Elliot, Hairspray) and Philippa Stefani (Most known for playing Daniela in In The Heights) and they all did an unbelievable job!

Lucie Jones was brilliant as Maureen! Her attitude as the character was perfect for the role and she has a power voice! The duet she sings with her on stage partner Joanne ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ wowed the audience and really show cased her talent! She rocked it!

The character of Angel Schunard was portrayed amazingly by Layton Williams. He absolutely slayed the role as Angel. I had only really seen him dance prior to this so I was unsure what to expect from his performance of numbers like ‘Today 4 U’ and ‘Contact’ but I was very impressed! I feel like he embraced the role and gave it his all.

Layton was paired with Ryan O’Gorman playing Angels lover Tom Collins and I was actually pleasantly surprised by this duo. Ryans voice was so smooth and soulful, it really suited the character well.

After only seeing Philippa Stefani play Daniela (‘In The Heights’), watching her as Mimi was a completely different experience I suppose for Philippa and the audience. Her acting was incredible, it appeared she really threw herself in to the role and the emotion was spot on. Sassy and sexy at times, right through to being upset and crying which made my heart go out to her.

After seeing this show you can only be left in awe of what you have just witnessed. I was so happy I finally got to see it live and if you get the chance, I would highly recommend it. For future tour dates and venues please visit the website http://www.rentonstage.co.uk.

 

Charlie xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Million Dollar Quartet at the Festival Theatre, Malvern

Last night I saw Million Dollar Quartet at Malvern Festival Theatre and had a fab night!

The show portrays the famous jam session that was had between four amazing musicians who were none other than… Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Brought together by the father of Rock and Roll Sam Phillips played by Jason Donovan.

It’s filled with classic rock and roll hits with an amazingly talented cast. Martin Kaye who played the role of Jerry Lee Lewis had what I can only describe as mad piano skills – he really knew how to work the audience. Elvis (played by Ross Wild) was so like Elvis I thought it was actually him on stage, his voice and persona were incredible. He managed to capture the essence of the character whilst putting his own spin on it. What can I say about the fantastic Robbie Durham (Johnny Cash) – I was so impressed with his performance and he absolutely owned the stage.

The production transports you back in time and reminds us of the magic of rock and roll. It got the audience off their feet and dancing and overall it was such a great night!

Charlie xoxo