INTERVIEW – Molly Lynch on “Rodgers & Hammerstein (&Me Too)”

INTERVIEW – Molly Lynch on “Rodgers & Hammerstein (&Me Too)”

Hello!

My interviews with creatives have officially returned, and I couldn’t be more pleased to share just a snippet of the wonderful discussion I had with Molly Lynch about her upcoming one-woman show: Rodgers and Hammerstein (&Me Too)

If you’re having a blank moment about who Rodgers and Hammerstein are, (then frankly I have no clue how you stumbled across my very niche corner of the internet) think Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Sound of Music, The King & I… They are the composer/lyricist duo behind these iconic musicals.

As a soprano myself, the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein has played such a huge role in my life, so the minute I saw the announcement for this show, I knew I had to get in touch with Molly to talk to her more about it. The show is described as a “verbatim, musical theatre cabaret” that promises to “smash the patriarchy and challenge R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein in the form of Musical Theatre’s most beloved composers’ music.” Cool, right?

I’m so grateful that Molly took the time to speak to me in amidst rehearsals and indulge me in my musical geekery. Beyond what’s included in this interview, we discussed the wonder that is Kelli O’Hara’s portrayal of Anna in The King & I, the significance of movie musicals, as well as the many (many) reasons we both love Emma Thompson. It was the feminist soprano’s dream.

********************

Before we get cracking with all things Rodgers and Hammerstein, we’ve got to talk about your recent run in The Light in the Piazza, where you went on for Clara several times. Had you done a cover run beforehand?

No, just one hour of music. We were due to start rehearsals the day after press night which is pretty standard, but it was still previews when I first went on. Neil [Robinson], the Resident Director – which is why Residents are sent from heaven – just walked me through it in like forty minutes. But also I just had a really good company that were totally adaptive. It was amazing to see so many people in the theatre be so supportive.

Because I’m a massive soprano nerd, what was it like working with Renée Fleming? 

I’m exactly the same. I’d had her biography since I was about sixteen and I had all my favourite pages folded over. When I got the job my mum was like “Oh my God, your Renée Fleming biography is still in your bedside locker!” and she took it out and was looking at all the marks I’d made in it. So then when I was onstage towards the end of the show, and she comes towards me with the veil, I was like…this cannot be real. This is not real. She is the world’s greatest singer in my eyes, and she’s also just the nicest human being and is so kind.

I love the range of work you’ve been involved with already; singing legit material for roles like Julie Jordan in Carousel (English National Opera), and then singing brand new, punk rock music in Wasted (Southwark Playhouse). Have you consciously resisted the kind of typecasting that is often associated with soprano singers?

I kind of go for everything and then take what I can get! I really think just because you sing high doesn’t mean you can’t sing other notes. Renée in Light in the Piazza sung super low. What I love about Light in the Piazza is that Adam Guettel writes across the ranges, and his grandfather, Richard Rodgers, writes across the ranges. A lot of the time we have entire shows that are just belt and entire shows that are just legit, and I’d love more shows to have integrated vocal styles. It’s hard nowadays to keep the soprano cool.

Another thing that bothers me is that a lot of the time the strong, sassy women belt, and the cute, pretty girls are soprano…that drives me bonkers! Why can’t the strong character woman be a soprano? That’s why I love Wasted because they [Christopher Ash and Carl Miller] wrote my character singing classically and then belting frickin’ death metal. I think that’s really exciting because human beings are complicated and multi-layered, so it’s really cool when a vocal role reflects that as well. I’m such a voice nerd, I could talk about it all day.

What drew you to create a piece specifically about the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein?

I grew up on that music. My Grandad was a pop singer but my Dad did not like showbiz, and so I think I got into that music from the movies like The Sound of Music, The King & I etc…

I think of myself as a feminist, and there were a lot of articles when Carousel was revived on Broadway [in 2018] saying that Rodgers and Hammerstein are quite sexist. I’m not trying to deny that, but I’m also trying to examine and show how strong their women are. I think I’m a feminist because of a lot of the morals that were embedded into me in those stories and in that music. I think there’s more than one way to be a strong woman – that’s why I think the way Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their women was really clever and beautiful. And I think I subconsciously absorbed a lot of that information without even realising it.

What was it about the Me Too movement that made you want to incorporate it into a piece with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music?

I love politics and I love feminism – I watched the Me Too movement unfold and how women found the authority to speak about these things. Especially being in this industry and watching so many actresses come out and say “I’ve been sexually harassed in the workplace.” It’s so common for actresses – actors too – but like, it’s such a common thing that happens, that for so long has been so accepted, and only now are we going “that’s actually not okay.”

That conversation feels so current; it’s still so raw and so new. If I can use Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music to talk about that, I think it will really make you listen to the words in a completely new way.

Did working with their material so closely when you played Julie Jordan contribute towards creating this piece? (Molly was the standby for Katherine Jenkins in the ENO production of Carousel at the London Coliseum)

Yeah, totally. I think Julie Jordan is such an amazing character for someone who considers themselves a feminist to play. I read a lot of books when I did it about women who were abused and about how they feel. I think people look at that show and they go “she should have just left; if she was strong she would have left.” And I think it’s a really awful thing to say about a woman when you look at her circumstances and the society she’s in.

I think we’ve got to start being more nuanced about feminism. We look, now, for such explicit feminist ideology; we want her to go “How dare you slap me! Goodbye forever!” and slam the door. And that would be amazing in some ways, but then we can’t expect all women to do that. We can’t have no sympathy for a woman who chooses not to do that.

Julie Jordan had her reasons and had a very personalised approach to what happened to her. I loved playing her and I really got defensive about her, and about people accusing her of being weak.

That production of Carousel with the ENO was directed by Lonny Price. In addition to his hugely successful career as a director, Lonny originated the role of Charley in Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway, so OBVIOUSLY I asked Molly what it was like working with him.

Amazing. I watched the Candide that he directed on YouTube at home and I was obsessed. Obsessed. He’s just so open and has a crazy passionate love for what he does that is so evident when you’re in a room with him. Also, his voice is so iconic, his speaking voice, and so every time I hear it I’m like oh my god I’m listening to the soundtrack of Merrily We Roll Along aaaah! I’m still a fangirl so yeah, getting to work for him…he’s amazing.

Also watching him grapple with the Rodgers and Hammerstein material – someone like Lonny Price who just knows the history of musicals so well, working on how to make this say something else. It was just so interesting and he was so clever with it.

We then talked about the radical new version of Oklahoma! that’s currently on Broadway, and the new ways they’ve interpreted the piece. I mentioned how they’ve been able to entirely alter the way in which the show is perceived by the audience, despite none of the text itself being changed. A friend of mine saw the production in New York and was left pretty speechless.

It’s one of those things where people think Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are “cute” but they’re not based on cute stories – Oklahoma! is originally based on a really complex play. The era that they came to life in needed that kind of sweet, digestible version, but I think nowadays we need the versions that make us not be able to speak after, you know?

I added the fact that there are often many stereotypes associated with the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and we shared our frustration over the fact that many people only view their work as old-fashioned.

What bothers me is when people say their work is dated, and I’m like…have you seen what’s going on?! The guy who’s President?! His excuse for not raping a woman was that she wasn’t his type…I mean… And we go “oh, Rodgers and Hammerstein, those guys – they’re not talking about our world”…yeah they are.

That’s something that’s been so surprising is that their material is SO relevant, and they never had to write in a world where there was something as sexist going on as Donald Trump. He’s the most openly, disgustingly sexist leader, definitely as long as I’ve been alive, and now like…Boris Johnson?! Boris Johnson is gonna be our next Prime Minister?!

(I’m pretty sure we both simultaneously face-palmed at this moment. We recorded this interview on the day it was announced that Boris would be the next PM. It was a lot.)

When his neighbours called the police because they heard a domestic row happening, and people were saying it was a “private matter’…we’ve got Tories saying that “domestic abuse is a private matter” and people try to tell me that Carousel isn’t relevant?! Domestic abuse, race, feminism, sexual assault…they are such relevant topics now and they all happen in Rodgers and Hammerstein stories.

Is there a song in the show that’s been the most interesting to develop during rehearsals?

There’s a song called ‘That’s The Way It Happens’ from Me and Juliet. I’d never come across it before. We’ve reinterpreted it and it’s also just a really jazzy, cool song that is so different to the other stuff they wrote, and you just realise the scale they wrote for women; they gave women so many different ways to showcase their voices. So I think that’s the one that’s been the most interesting because I didn’t know it before.

Also the easiest, because you don’t have any preconceived interpretations. As a soprano we’ve heard all those songs so many times, so subconsciously have made decisions about them. But to do a song that I’ve never seen anyone do before, and can just do whatever completely fresh has been really cool.

How have you found the experience of writing the show as well as performing it?

I’ve loved the creative control, and having such a say in a piece and being able to really make decisions. I think having creative control can sometimes be scary but it’s been really liberating to have it in this small circumstance.

Ed [Goggin] has been so good. It’s such a collaborative thing because he’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein expert, and then I bring the feminist passion, so we’ve been able to bounce off each other. Our relationship has been about coming to terms with feminism verses the material and seeing where it matches up.

Running your own thing is hard; it’s so much work and the main bottom line is you have to love it with all your heart because otherwise it’s not worth it. Why would we make ourselves do all this extra work for no reward bar the fact we live and breathe it? And I think it’s really showed me that I do love it – I love it with everything. 

********************

As you can probably tell from how lengthy this post is, this is a topic Molly and I are both hugely passionate about. As self-professed musical nerds, it was so wonderful to talk to someone like Molly who truly cares about the art of musical theatre, and about honouring the material of these composers who were so instrumental in the art form, whilst also ensuring that we allow for innovation and for new perspectives to be highlighted.

It’s clear that Molly has put her heart and soul into this piece, and I hope I’ve been able to convey just an ounce of how great it was to talk to her about it.

If you have conflicting feelings about Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work, you should see this show. If you tend to dismiss any composer before the ’80s, you should see this show. If you’re a feminist (or if for some wild reason you’re not), you should see this show.

Rodgers and Hammerstein (& Me Too) is playing at The Bread & Roses Theatre for just five performances from 30th July – 3rd August, so you reeeeeeally need to get on it and book those tickets before it sells out. Here’s the ticket link for you. 

IMG_6912

(Above) Rehearsal photo of Molly Lynch, taken by Nadia Forde.

Rodgers and Hammerstein (& Me Too) POSTER

(Above) Official show poster created by Adam Lenson.

********************

You can find all of my previous interviews right here and keep an eye out for more interviews with lovely people who agree to have a coffee with me. 

Twitter: @OliviaDowden (that’s me!) and @ORose_Supposes (for purely Rose’s Supposes stuff)

Instagram: @oliviardowden (me, myself and I) and @orose_supposes (for significantly less Gilmore Girls content)

INTERVIEW – Michael Mott and “Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy”

INTERVIEW – Michael Mott and “Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy”

 

Hello, hello! 

At the end of January, I was lucky enough to watch the workshop for Michael Mott and Corey Skaggs’ “Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy” at The Cockpit Theatre and had SO much fun.  

As is often the case with developmental workshops, it all happened pretty quickly! I’d fallen in love with Michael’s music after his songs popped up on a Spotify playlist I was listening to (thank you, Spotify!) and so I was thrilled when I heard he was bringing a production here to London. I’m massively grateful that Michael has taken the time to answer some of my questions and I hope you enjoy hearing a bit more about him!

For more information on Michael Mott and his work, make sure to check out his website here He’s got some exciting projects coming up, with several announcements coming soon, so make sure you keep an eye out! 

 

You’ve had a wonderfully varied career so far already, with credits as a performer, composer, lyricist, and music producer. Have you always enjoyed working in a range of artistic areas?

I am a Gemini, so I like to be all over the place.  No, but seriously, all of these roles are different branches of the same tree.  I love being creative, whether that’s writing, performing, recording or producing in the studio.  I have been doing this ever since I can remember, so that I am able to do it and make a living from it now is a dream come true.

 

You attended the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writer’s Workshop in 2012. How do you feel this experience shaped your work as a writer?


The BMI Lehman Engle Musical Theatre Writer’s Workshop was essential in shaping me as a writer.  I am actually still enrolled as an Advanced Member and try to attend every week to surround myself with writers better than me.  It can be an incredibly inspirational space and I feel honored to be among such a prestigious list of musical theatre writers.

 

Who inspires you as a songwriter?

So many people, but my biggest songwriting inspirations are Billy Joel, Mariah Carey and Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty.  I love melodic storytelling pieces.

 

Your debut album, “Where The Sky Ends”, features some major Broadway performers such as Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. Is there an artist you’d really like to collaborate with one day?

I still can’t believe I got so lucky to have such phenomenal artists bringing my material to life.  I have worked with some of my favorite Broadway vocalists, but a few that I have been itching to work with include Ben Platt, Shoshana Bean, Alex Newell, Darren Criss and Laura Benanti.

 

Where did the idea for Mob Wife – A Mafia Comedy come from? Why did you want to tell this story in particular?


As an Italian child of the 90s I grew up watching The Sopranos.  I wanted to write a piece that was The Sopranos meets Noises Off with a Billy Joel-esque soundscape.  I don’t think anything like that has ever been done before.

 

Could you give a teaser as to what the musical is about?


This piece has quite a few surprises and twists and turns that need to be experienced live, so I don’t want to give too much away.  However, I will say that while Mob Wife is set in 1975 Staten Island, it’s themes and motifs transcend time and place.  Debra Delbono (our mob wife) is longing for a family and her husband Tony has been neglecting her, his job and more importantly himself.  Tony is keeping a dark secret and Debra and her best friend, Joanne, go on a mission to discover what that is. In turn, they realize everything they needed was right in front of them all along, but was lost along the way through miscommunication.

 

What do you hope audiences take away from seeing the show?


The importance of communication.  Being open and honest with each other and more importantly, ourselves.  Also, society’s “norms” for gender acceptance. I don’t want to say any more because it may give away too much, but that is really what this piece is about.

 

You’ve presented Mob Wife in various forms before; with its world premiere in 2003, a presentation at The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in 2012, as well as an Equity reading in 2013. How do you feel the piece has developed over the years?

The biggest thing I’ve learned in my short time in this business is that you have to allow a piece to become what it wants to be.  Whether that’s a show, a song or any piece of art; it doesn’t matter. You can have an initial concept or vision for something, but once you step back and allow it to grow, it reveals itself to you.  Sometimes that’s exactly what you had envisioned and sometimes it surprises you. I think our job as creators is to watch and listen to what the piece tells us it wants to be and then do our best to nurture that.  It’s almost like raising a child. Mob Wife started off as a bedroom farce musical, then evolved into a dark comedy with a massive heart and is now living in a space in-between the two.  Corey (my book writer) and I are doing our best to nurture it and allow the piece to continue to tell us what it wants to be.

 

What has it been like workshopping the show in the UK?

This workshop was essential to the show’s growth.  We learned so much from seeing the piece in front of an audience and through their eyes.  Thankfully, we were able to make changes every single day. In fact, on closing night, I wrote a new short song for the character of Marino that we put in the show around 2 pm that day.  I brought it to Dan Tomkinson, our musical director, who wrote a quick orchestration for the band, then our director, Harry, staged it with the cast and our phenomenal Marino, Alex Wadham learned it and knocked it out of the park that evening.  It’s little things like that that really made the experience invaluable.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters?

Write your truth.  Be authentic. Find the passion.  If it moves you, it will move someone else.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t get caught up in the business side of things asking yourself if it will sell, if it will have an audience, if it’s good enough, just do it.  Not everything has to be produced, seen or heard. Sometimes you just have to write for you. Everything you write has a purpose and a reason, whether you know it or not. Sometimes you just have to write to write.  The reason will reveal itself to you. Whatever is meant to be, will be.

 

Finally, if you could do one thing to make the world a rosier place, what would you do?

Allow us all to eat anything we want without gaining a pound. 🙂

 

A huge thanks again to Michael and to be the first to hear about his upcoming projects, you can follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Mott or on Instagram at @michael_mott.

And thank YOU so much for reading! If you’d like to read more of my interviews with creatives who inspire me in industry, here are the links for ya. Go nuts!

Interview – Laurence O’Keefe (Composer of Legally Blonde and Heathers, no biggie)

Interview – Scott Alan (US Songwriter and all round beautiful human)

Interview – Nicole Raquel Dennis (Gorgeous West End actress, slaying The Voice UK)

Interview – Rebecca LaChance (Transatlantic gem, played Carole King on BROADWAY) 

Interview – Annabelle Hollingdale (Emerging British director, she knows what’s up)

Aaaaaand if you can cope with any more of my musical ramblings, you’ll find me tweeting about Stephen Sondheim at @OliviaDowden and posting Instagram stories about Stephen Sondheim at @oliviardowden. Then for all things Rose’s Supposes and for my weekly #weekendplaylists it’s @ORose_Supposes on Twitter and @orose_supposes on Instagram. 

Olivia Rose 🌹

 

 

 

 

My Top 10 Musical Surprises in Film and TV

My Top 10 Musical Surprises in Film and TV

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a musical theatre nerd. The majority of my favourite films are either movie musicals, or somehow centrered around music.

But I realised recently, that a huge amount of the “normal” films and TV shows I loved growing up have some sort of musical surprise, in that there’s a musical number or a scene that’s heavily focused on a specific song, despite the film or TV show itself not being a musical.

I love films that have a really strong soundtrack, and there are so many I could have written about. But for this post I wanted to focus on those musical gems that aren’t necessarily expected in that particular film or TV show. As someone who would always choose to watch something vaguely musical, you can imagine how much I love the moments where I thought I was just in for a regular movie/TV episode to then realise THEY’RE SINGING. PEOPLE ARE SINGING. OH WOW.

Maybe it’s the knowledge that a whole bunch of “normal” viewers are unwittingly entering the wonderful world of musical theatre for a few minutes and realising the writers were actually Broadway nerds all along. It’s a real thrill.

So before you despair about the absence of Meryl Streep running up a mountain with her flowy pashmina on the list – don’t worry, musical fans. I might just have to make another post of my favourite moments in films/TV shows that are musicals. But for now, here’s some of my favourite musical numbers that we didn’t even know we needed in film and TV.

*Disclaimer* I originally included the links to watch each of the scenes on YouTube, but I’ll be honest in that I’m not exactly sure of the copyright technicalities here. Let’s just say I very quickly found all of the scenes I’ve mentioned online so if you’ve got no clue which part I’m on about, then give me a shout.

I also think this is a pretty hilarious insight into my film and TV tastes, so I hope you enjoy this mish-mash of “culture” as much as I do. 2004 was apparently a peak year for musical surprises. Who knew..?

1) The Makeover Scene in Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

I truly love this film. I have to prepare myself for getting extremely emotional whenever I watch a Robin Williams movie, but the amazing scene where we see the creation of Mrs Doubtfire never fails to make me smile. In this classic makeover montage, we get a glorious homage to not only Fiddler On The Roof, where Williams (along with Harvey Fierstein and Scott Capurro) sings a snippet of ‘Matchmaker‘, but we ALSO get an iconic Babs moment where Williams whacks out a bit of ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade‘…truly spoiling the thespians among us. Had to be my number 1 choice.

 

2) The Wedding scene in Love Actually (2003)

You know the bit. We’re as distracted as the smitten cameraman watching the actual angel, Kiera Knightly, get married and then BOOM: gospel choir, trumpets, flutes, TROMBONES – genius. It sets impossibly high standards for hopeless romantics everywhere, but genius all the same.

 

3) “Your Crowning Glory” in The Princess Diaries 2 (2004)

You guys. My love for The Princess Diaries is inexplicable. The fact that we live in a world where we get to witness Julie Andrews as the Queen of Genovia is a blessing in itself, but giving us a funky remix musical number with Raven Symoné?? It’s surely a dream. If you’ve not seen this movie, I DARE you to try and watch this scene and not melt just a little bit.

 

4) “Alone In The Hallways” in That’s So Raven (2004)

If you’re going to check out any of the scenes from this list then please let it be this one. Following on from my last choice, a TV show I absolutely loved growing up that also starred Raven Symoné is That’s So Raven. In an episode called ‘The Road To Audition’ we see her best friend, Chelsea (played by the incredible Anneliese van der Pol) sing a Liza Minnelli style number complete with a top hat, a cane, Fosse choreo…it’s the theatre nerds fantasy. As much as it’s a comedic moment, her performance is classy AF and makes this number a firm favourite of mine.

*Side note* I’m a bit in love with Anneliese, I won’t lie. She played Eva Perón in Evita in LA when she was f i f t e e n and is the youngest person to have played the role in a professional production. Like what? An actual legend. Since her Disney Channel days, she’s starred on Broadway, including playing Belle in Beauty and The Beast and also does a cracking Barbra Streisand impression. Anneliese, please can we be friends???

Okay back to the list…

5) “I’ve Got The Power” in Bruce Almighty (2003)

Jim. Carrey. I watched this film a lot growing up, and always loved the moment Bruce first discovers his new powers, strutting down the street to this banger of a song. Classic moment. A solid number 5 on the list.

 

6) Sideshow Bob’s performance of HMS Pinafore in The Simpsons (1993)

Whoever had the idea to feature a murderous serial killer that’s obsessed with traditional musicals and is voiced by Kelsey Grammar – I salute you. There are so many great musical moments to choose from with this character, but my favourite has to be from the episode when Sideshow Bob performs the entirety of HMS Pinafore to Bart, who’s literally sat there holding a Playbill with Sideshow Bob’s face on it. I can’t. If a murderer gave me one last request before killing me, I’d probably ask for a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan too, so fair game to Bart.

 

7) The Yule Ball scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

While the film is albeit about wizards and magic, the characters still aren’t exactly prone to bursting into song, so a particularly musical scene definitely counts as a pleasant surprise in my book. I’m a sucker for a waltz and this one is absolutely gorgeous. I could write a whole post about my favourite waltzes which would probably be my nerdiest feat to date. But, you know…I totally could.

 

8) The Handshake in The Parent Trap (1998)

Keeping it short and sweet with this one. The Parent Trap is one of my all time favourite films and I still love this moment so much. If anyone knows who to call to get a personal big brass section to play a theme song at emotional high points in day to day life – let me know.

 

9) “Holding Out For A Hero” in Shrek 2 (2004)

Okay I know that Shrek has now evolved into a musical as well, but in its humble beginnings as a Dreamworks animation this moment was a definite surprise. In the epic final battle of the movie, we get the one and only Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy Godmother singing some Bonnie Tyler. Iconic.

 

10) “Thriller” in 13 Going On 30 (2004)

So I originally chose a song from Family Guy to end this list, and as much as I love Seth McFarlane’s odes to musicals in various episodes, I thought I’d keep this list a bit more wholesome and go with the classic ‘Thriller‘ dance scene from 13 Going On 30. Check it out to watch Jennifer Garner giving it her best zombie.

 

If you’ve reached the end of this post and you’re thinking “huh, I really wish I could read more of Olivia’s musical wonderings…” then firstly FOR REAL?! And secondly you’re in luck! Check out the links below if you want to find out…

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the Ultimate TV Show for Theatre Kids (where I share my favourite songs from the show and why it’s both an ode to and a parody of musical theatre)

My Favourite Movie Musicals (I enter total musical nostalgia mode…buckle up)

Thanks for reading and if you’ve got any favourite musical moments from unsuspecting films/TV shows then let me know! I’d love to check them out!

Olivia Rose 🌹

Twitter: @orose_supposes

Instagram: @orose_supposes

Email: rosessupposesblog@gmail.com

INTERVIEW – Annabelle Hollingdale

INTERVIEW – Annabelle Hollingdale

Here on Rose’s Supposes, I love using this blog as a platform to share the stories of creatives working in all different areas of the arts. Whilst interviews with performers aren’t too tricky to find, I’ve always found it harder to gain a proper insight into the careers of those working behind the scenes. The writers, composers, directors, choreographers and all other creative brains are so integral to the theatre industry and often don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Now, I’m WELL aware that my humble blog is just a tiny smidge in the beast that is the internet, but just humour me for a second. The thought of someone reading an interview with a creative and thinking “Huh, I never knew you could do that as a job…I want to give that a try!” is ABSOLUTELY what I’m all about.

So, while I will shamelessly admit that interviewing industry professional is hugely fulfilling and inspiring for me personally, if there’s a certain role in the Arts that you’d really love to hear more about, let me know! I’m going to be asking questions for as long as anyone will let me, so if you want to join in on this messy journey of artistic discovery with me, give me a shout!

Today’s interview is with the lovely Annabelle Hollingdale, who is a Director.

*Side note* Funnily enough, we recently realised we actually already knew each other, and for probably the most stagey reason there is (she was in a production of High School Musical directed by my Mum around ten years ago, so naturally – I was at every rehearsal.) I can’t begin to tell you how nice it was to see her again and hear about all the incredible things she’s been doing.

In addition to what is written below, we also discussed the importance of reaching out to those who inspire you, knowing what your strengths are and embracing the multitude of interests we have as creatives, without feeling the need to pigeon-hole ourselves. We also chatted until our coffee got cold. It was wonderful.

You studied Acting at University – when did you realise you wanted to be a director?

I originally did a three year degree in Acting, going in with the intention of graduating as an actor, but always with the secondary intention of being a director in my late forties/early fifties. At the time I thought a director needed to be older to have that level of experience and knowledge, and it didn’t occur to me that young females could be directors and people would listen to them.

I got half way through my actor training and wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would be. There was a particular guest director that we had come in to the school and his way of working just completely clicked with me, and my interest shifted to what he was doing, how he was working with actors and how they were responding to him. It sparked an interest that that was potentially what I wanted to do. So in my third year, I pulled out of some of the acting projects and said “please can I shadow this director when he comes back to work with the year below.” And then for my dissertation I chose to direct and that consolidated it for me.

The school had its strengths but for me, I regarded the teaching and material we were given as somewhat dated and slightly sexist…and I initially graduated feeling rather bitter and astray.

It took me a little while to work out how to use that positively, and then after a few months I realised that it had actually taught me the biggest lesson I could ever have hoped for: it showed me the kind of work I want to make and how I wouldn’t do it, and actually how I would go about doing it. So I don’t regret the training at all and I think to know how actors work is an invaluable part of a directors work.

What was it that drew you towards directing during your time on your Acting degree?

I realised so much about myself during that time and the kind of work that initially I wanted to be doing as an actor, but then I wasn’t seeing enough of that in the industry. I felt more empowered as a director and I thought I would have more of a voice and a vision as to the kind of work that is out there for people. For me, I just got bored and frustrated with not being in control of the kind of work I was making, of sitting waiting for the phone to ring for auditions, and disagreeing with creative decisions and not having the power to say or change anything. It had always been in the back of my head for some time, and it got to the point where I thought there are so many female directors leading the way and paving the way for others, that now seems like a better time than ever, and why not?

You were the Assistant and Resident Director on Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre. How did that opportunity arise?

Spring Awakening has been one of my favourite plays and musicals for a long time, and there was a real buzz around the Hope Mill in general which I was excited by. Then I saw that Luke Sheppard was directing Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill and so, for me, the three hand-in-hand was just a dream and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I emailed Luke’s agents and we ended up Skyping. We seemed to be on the same page with what the show was, as it was a revival but with a new setting and feminist overtones, empowering the character of Wendla a lot more. It was a very special production and a pivotal point in my directing career. Luke Sheppard was an amazing mentor and I’m very grateful that he gave me that opportunity when he didn’t have to.

What does being an Assistant and Resident Director actually involve?

It does vary depending on the project and the director you’re working with as to how hands-on you can be as an assistant, and what they require from you and are willing to let you do. I was particularly lucky with Luke [Sheppard]. Luke and I also work in very different ways; I’m annoyingly organised and he has the amazing ability to go in with an open mind and let things work organically. We had a kind of Ying and Yang relationship which worked really well.

And then once we were through with rehearsals, and Luke had another job lined up, as a Resident Director I went in three to five times a week to watch the show. I kept an eye on it, fed back to actors and gave notes, just making sure it was maintaining its standards.

* I then boldly interrupted here as I just couldn’t help telling her how incredible I thought it was that she’d already been a Resident Director so young. But of course, Annabelle’s modest response was this… *

That all comes from Luke – he was the one that opted for me to have that title and felt comfortable that someone would be there for the course of the run. He was only the other end of the phone and I was the go-between between him and the show, which was an amazing experience and one I’m very grateful for, especially to have had so soon in my career as well.

What was it like working at the Hope Mill Theatre?

The Hope Mill is an absolute powerhouse! The work they create and the collaborations they endorse are to London standards and above. Joseph [Houston], William [Whelton] and Katy [Lipson] are a creative dream-team and they have founded a hidden gem which I am ever grateful to have on my doorstep.

What do you think can be done to support female creatives?

What a few theatres have done amazingly recently is employ female Associate and Artistic directors, and companies in residence led by a female Director. Emma Rice at the Old Vic and Tamara Harvey at Theatre Clywd in Wales to name but a few. There are now an increasing number of theatres that have strong female directors at the forefront, whose creative vision is the pivotal force behind its running. So I think it’s to keep supporting theatres like that and to keep making contacts with female directors…and to not give a f*ck what anyone thinks because there’s always going to be hurdles, but now’s a better time than ever to try your hand. There are a few amazing males out there who are excited about collaborating with and giving voices to females. Times are changing and I think as long as people are being open minded to that and saluting that, it’s the only thing we can do really.

Who or what inspires you in the industry?

It’s probably an obvious answer really but I think Vicky Featherstone (Artistic Director of the Royal Court theatre) is incredible. She would be an absolute dream to work with. Just the Royal Court in general, their work always excites me. I love the collaborations with the new writers and I think their work is so innovative and topical. One of the best pieces of theatre that I think I have ever seen was at the Royal Court, and it was a play called Violence and Son, directed by Hamish Pirie. I was absolutely blown away and I thought about it for days afterwards, and no production had had an impact on me quite like that. That was maybe five years ago and it still stays in the forefront of my mind as the kind of theatre I think people should be making – that’s the kind of theatre I’d love to direct.

What’s something you’ve seen recently that you would recommend?

I’m a big fan of anything Jonathan O’Boyle – I think he is incredible. Recently he did Aspects of Love at the Hope Mill, which is transferring, so go see it! I also went to see Rain Man, which has Mathew Horne in it, which again, he [Jonathan O’Boyle] had done. I think he has an incredible ability to breathe new life into theatre, and take stories that are widely known and bring them into today’s world and give them a fresh life. That’s exactly what I think theatre should be – I’m all for classics being revived as long as it’s saying and offering something new, and he does that amazingly.

Are there any projects you’re working towards that you’re able to talk about, or something you are particularly drawn to?

I want to put something of my own on in the new year, whereby it’s completely my own vision. I’ve had the best time assisting but I think it’s time I take that leap of faith and put something on which is entirely my own. Musical theatre I absolutely adore, that goes without saying, but my passion and strength has always been working with naturalistic text. I love plays that are set in real time, in one location and the audience are rendered as a fly on the wall. I love playing the truth and dynamics of a relationship and how much can change in the space of an hour/an hour and a half. Even working on musical theatre, my priority is always the truth of the acting – for me, that’s the heart of any performance. I have to believe what the characters are saying. I would much rather hear a singers voice break through emotion than hit a note perfectly and me not believe a word they say.

What advice would you give to aspiring directors?

I think as long as you know the kind of work you like and why, that’s the best starting point you could have because you can develop from that. It’s fine for your tastes to change after every show that you see as long as you ask yourself why you like it or why you didn’t like it, or what you would do differently. Your brain is constantly engaging with the world of theatre and of directing. I think just see as much as you can, speak to as many people as you can. Formulate your own initial way of working and then you can be flexible to take essences of that from different things you see and different people you speak to. What I like and what I think I know now will probably be so different in a years time and that’s, for me, what keeps it exciting.

You were also recently involved with Heathers during its run at The Other Palace, ahead of its West End transfer to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. What was it like working alongside the (no less than iconic trio of Andy Fickman, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe) creative team?

They made it look so easy, because it’s their baby – they know that show inside out and they lived and breathed it. They loved it so much that everything fell into place. It was so perfectly cast and the relationship between the three primary creatives is just…you can’t manufacture that. That’s something incredible that I think translates. It’s an absolutely incredible team that was treated like a family. For me, the biggest thing I took away from working on that production was the importance of the environment that’s created. I think that stems primarily from the director and Andy has an incredible gift of making an environment feel so safe and so fun, but equally encouraging utter professionalism and hard work. We ate lunch together every day, and that sounds like a small thing, but actually it all feeds into it and it is so important. You can see that resonate onstage as the relationships they’ve created are incredible. They’re an amazing group of people and the show deserves every success. It has its following for a reason and the show itself is more apparent than ever. Andy’s just a wonderful human being and an amazing director.

Finally, I like to celebrate the rosy things in life here on this blog, so I ask everyone I interview this question – if you could do one thing to make the world a rosier place, what would you do?

Listen to each other, just don’t be an arsehole! Because there is no excuse and there is no need…and everyone is capable of not being an arsehole!

It was so inspiring to speak with Annabelle, and I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

Until next time,

Olivia Rose 🌹

INTERVIEW – Scott Alan and The Distance You Have Come

INTERVIEW – Scott Alan and The Distance You Have Come

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek into the rehearsals of Scott Alan’s upcoming song cycle, The Distance You Have Come, that opens at The Cockpit Theatre on 16th October.

From just the short glimpse of rehearsals I saw, I have no doubt that this production is something special. There was such a great atmosphere of collaboration in the room, and with a lineup of six stellar performers, audiences are in for a real treat.

I can’t thank Scott enough for agreeing to speak with me, despite his crammed schedule of rehearsals alongside his private voice lessons while he’s here in London.

This song cycle provides an opportunity to hear Scott Alan’s uniquely heartfelt and honest music in a whole new light, so you really don’t want to miss it.

The Distance You Have Come stars Andy Coxon, Adrian Hansel, Emma Hatton, Jodie Jacobs, Dean John-Wilson and Alexia Khadime.

How did this new song cycle come about?

I’d been approached various times to do a song cycle of my work. They’ve been done in Brazil, Portugal, Germany…but I’d never actually been involved and so they’d never told the exact story I thought my music would be telling.

I don’t think this story could have even evolved until now as there’s a whole new approach to my music through my last album; finding love, settling down with my fiancé…

So when I was surveying the outline of the show, the first thing I started building was the relationship with Brian and Samuel. I wanted to tell a relationship like mine which is that we don’t do drugs, we don’t go out at night, we stay at home with the dogs, we don’t have an open relationship, we want kids… I wanted to tell that story through them.

Building from there, I started thinking how they would know the other characters. So I had Samuel have a sister, Laura, and started to think what was Laura’s story. I then gave her the component of Anna. I didn’t want to just tell this secret story of homosexuality, but I wanted to show the complications and what it’s like to be in your early thirties and really wanting love. Anna goes in and out of discovering herself through different partners, whether that be a female or a male. She falls in love with her best friend and that unfortunately doesn’t work out.

And then from there I wanted to build the next story of Anna and one of their best friends – Maisey, who was in a relationship for ten years with an alcoholic, who’s Joe.

What’s it been like working with this group of actors?

It’s like being with friends – they’re an incredible group of giving people.

Despite the many songs you’ve released out into the world, do you still get nervous when you’re about to share new work?

What’s interesting about this one, is that I am nervous for the fans because so much of the music is different. I know that they’ll hear Anything Worth Holding On To, but it’s now Anything Worth Holding On To with another song called Stay, plus Once Upon A Time and it all comes together at one time. So for fans who are so dedicated to that particular song might be like “why didn’t I get the song I want?” but it’s been recorded like 700 times and been performed 9000 times, so it’s time to find a story to build and I’m excited about that.

You’ve performed in London several times before. Do you enjoy it here?

Oh, it’s my favourite city in the world. Whenever I come here though, I come for work and so I’ve never really seen the city. But I always do an Afternoon Tea at the Covent Garden Hotel.

By putting your songs together for this song cycle, has it given you a new perspective of your music?

Totally, but it also allows me to release them into the world and they now have their own identity as they’re really looking at the lyrics through other organic characters. There are so many new colours and vibrancies that are coming across with every new step. Having Scott Morgan come along and arrange and orchestrate the entire piece, and I gave him free liberty to do so, it’s a whole new experience for me and it’s nice to give it away.

When you’re writing or working on a project, do you have specific musical influences you like to surround yourself with or do you enjoy listening to new work?

It’s funny, I started listening to Tori Amos again – she’s one of my favourites. It’s one of those things where I gravitate towards things, so when I’m here I have an hour commute and so I listen to music that makes me calm.

You’ve performed your music all over the world, but are there any venues that are on your bucket list?

That’s a good question – I mean, anyone would want to perform in Central Park. But I like the intimate venues. I would also like to see my show, Home, take the stage one day.

What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters?

Trust your heart. Reach out for those people you are passionate about. When I have performers perform with me it’s not always the biggest names in the world, but people I love hearing sing my work. I think for any writer, it’s trust yourself, trust your heart, trust your passion, trust your gut. Don’t just try to rhyme or be predictable – try write something that’s honest and poignant. Because every song, even Good Morning Baltimore, there’s fun it it but it still has a dramatic arc.

As my blog is called Rose’s Supposes, I like to ask everyone I interview this question – if you could do one thing to make the world a bit rosier, what would you do?

I would give ice cream to everyone. I love ice cream and I think ice cream makes people smile. And I think I would remind people what they were when they were a child and without bigotry in their lives because they weren’t emotionally connected to that yet. I would give hugs, because people don’t hug enough. Ice cream, hugs, all the good stuff.

Olivia Rose 🌹

For more information on The Distance You Have Come or to buy tickets, click the link here: http://www.thecockpit.org.uk/show/the_distance_you_have_come

To follow Scott Alan on social media and for all the news regarding his music and upcoming projects, here are the links you need:

Website: http://www.scottalan.net

Twitter: @ScottAlan

Instagram: @scottalanmusic

What’s on my Rosy Radar?

What’s on my Rosy Radar?

So it’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here! The last few weeks have been a bit mad, with stagey announcements and openings left, right and centre.

So, I thought I’d share what’s currently on my “Rosy Radar” at the moment…

First up are some things I’ve already had the pleasure of watching and think you should check out too:

Unexpected Joy at the Southwark Playhouse

I ended up seeing this fairly last minute and am so pleased that I did. It’s a brand new musical and I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. If you looked at the synopsis written down, you’d probably be pretty alarmed that it’s a musical and not a heavy family drama, as the piece touches on so many different and very “real” issues. I’m being purposefully vague as I think I loved this show largely because I went in with no preconceptions, and had no idea what the next scene would hold. You’re just going to have to take my word for it and believe the title of the show.

The cast of 4 astounding women, each vocal powerhouses in their own unique way, consists of Janet Fullerlove, Jodie Jacobs, Melanie Marshall and Kelly Sweeney. For the vocals and music alone you’d have a great evening out, but the story was honestly so clever and had me belly laughing then welling up just minutes later.

It’s running at the Southwark Playhouse until 29th September 2018 so it’s one that’s really worth trying to catch before it’s too late. For some reason people are so apprehensive about new musicals, as though despite reaching a stage where we’re embracing more diverse styles of music and finally portraying a wider spectrum of human experiences than ever before, that writers might have somehow lost the knack? It’s time we had more faith in new work and took a risk, and if you’re wondering how to take the plunge – this show is a pretty good place to start.

Club A cappella at The Other Palace

Guyyyyyyyyyys. I had so much fun at this. It was part of a series hosted by WeAreTrackless, and showcases the best a cappella groups in the UK.

If you don’t know (but I’m sure it will come to no surprise), I’m a HUGE a cappella nerd. Like, think Ben Platt’s character in Pitch Perfect level nerd. It’s wonderful. From my days being a Pitch Perfect wannabe and running an a cappella group at school (we were iconic), I can appreciate the huge amount of work that goes into writing the arrangements and creating a tight sound. I will also never not be crazily impressed by anyone that can beatbox. My mind was b l o w n.

If you want to watch some seriously skilled performers and be slightly baffled for a few hours that what your hearing is all 100% live right in front of you, you’re in luck! The next Club A Cappella is on Sunday 21st October, at The Other Palace again in their studio space, and will sell out really soon so make sure you book your tickets!

Heathers at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

I’ve shared how much I love Heathers a fair few times on this blog, but if anything has been on my ‘Rosy Radar’, it’s this show.

With a new song, additional dialogue, even more killer choreography, the production team have done such an incredible job to adapt the show to suit the Theatre Royal Haymarket for its West End transfer, following a sell-out run at The Other Palace. I’m so excited for even more people to discover the beauty of Heathers.

All I can say without repeating myself again is go see it go see it go see it go see it go see it. You’ve only got until 24th November and there are some cracking deals around for tickets so honey, watcha waitin’ for???

*** If any hardcore Corn Nuts are here and want even MORE Heathers content, check out my interview with Laurence O’Keefe, one of the composers of the show and my ‘Rosy Roundup’ of the show after I somehow found myself watching the dress rehearsal ahead of their run at The Other Palace) ***

And now, a few shows that haven’t opened yet but are most DEFINITELY on my ‘Rosy Radar’:

Company at the Gielgud Theatre

Struggled to start writing this one. I only realised quite how excited I was to see this when I saw a poster for the show on the tube and squealed a little bit. I will proudly admit to being well and truly obsessed with Stephen Sondheim and his work, so when I saw Marianne Elliot was involved and oh yeah QUEEN PATTI LUPONE, it’s safe to say I was on board pretty quickly.

I cannot wait to experience this show in a completely new way as they’ve changed the lead from a male “Bobby”, to a female “Bobbie” starring the incredible Rosalie Craig. There’s so much buzz around this production already and it really feels like something special is about to happen in the West End.

Company opens at the Gielgud Theatre on 26th September and will run until 22nd December 2018.

Movie musicals galore

Okay this isn’t actually the title of a musical (I just like the word galore). But recently there’s been a huge wave of movies being adapted into musicals and some that I am SO excited to see develop. There have been talks of a Mrs Doubtfire musical, a Nanny McPhee musical and even adaptations of 13 Going On 30 and 17 Again in the works. I’m really intrigued to see where all these projects will go and no doubt we’ll be hearing more from them soon.

I would LOVE to hear if there are any particular shows that you just can’t stop talking/tweeting/singing about. I’m considering posting a “What’s on my Rosy Radar?” every month or so, so if you liked this post and would be interested in another one then let me know!

I’ve got some *really* exciting interviews that I can’t wait to share, with some creatives who I have huge respect for, so check back soon!

Olivia Rose 🌹

Rosy Roundup – In The Heights (Stockwell Playhouse)

Rosy Roundup – In The Heights (Stockwell Playhouse)

When I heard that In The Heights was coming to the Stockwell Playhouse, I was so excited.

I was introduced to this musical a few years ago by my wonderful friend Olli, and it was the first Lin Manuel Miranda piece I’d seen. For those who might not know, In The Heights was Lin Manuel Miranda’s great success before Hamilton was unleashed into the world.

This vibrant musical, set in Washington Heights, New York, is presented here by RicNic London – a charity which gives young people the opportunity to present full-scale productions. What’s unique about this company is that it’s free to get involved and the productions are created and performed entirely by 16-21 year olds. Pretty cool, right?

The cast delivered the piece with so much energy and I love watching performers who are genuinely enjoying themselves onstage. To avoid missing anyone, I don’t want to single out specific performers but trust me when I say there are some CRAZY good vocals in this cast. They sing with real spark in their eyes and there are many moments throughout that are really moving.

In The Heights is full of so many great numbers, including “Breathe” which is actually one of my favourite musical theatre songs. It’s also such a fast-paced piece, with a huge amount of material and plot to portray, (if you’re familiar with Hamilton, you’ll know what I mean!) and so to see it so well-executed by such a young company was hugely impressive.

With an enigmatic young cast and a really slick band, showcasing Lin Manuel Miranda’s genius in all its glory, you really don’t want to miss this one.

You’ve only got until Saturday 25th August to catch it, so get down to the Stockwell Playhouse before you miss this absolute gem of a show!

You can book tickets for RicNic’s In The Heights at the Stockwell Playhouse here.

(Their opening night, Wednesday 22nd August, SOLD OUT, so get booking!)

For more information on RicNic and the great work they do, you can visit their website here.

Olivia Rose 🌹