Thursday, 12 July 2012

Musical Pitch Event WYPH 10/07/12

Attended this event at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Tuesday and it was very informative.  The event was run by Henrietta Duckworth, Producer at WYPH along with Andy Barnes, Pitch Perfect, James Bourne and Elliot Davis who co-wrote Loserville (currently showing at WYPH) and Richard Taylor (The Go Between).

Henrietta started by emphasising the WYPH's commitment to new musicals and their investment in writers, composers, musical directors etc. and asked how do they create more opportunities?  The answer is in getting more audience - consistent supply to regularly feed it, so audiences start demanding new work.  She then introduced Andy, the representative from Perfect Pitch.

Andy explained that Perfect Pitch had been going for 6/7 years and that it is a development network with resources around the UK that can help move the canon forward, be it for the West End or small demographic - something new and interesting to put on.  Musical Pitch started as a format of festival work, which sometimes leads to full script reads or workshops.  The Arts Council supported the idea as a pilot and then they gained a national portfolio of funding for 2 years.  He wanted the attendees to be aware that there are opportunities that exist here and abroad and it is not just happening in London.

Then Elliot and James explained their journey to getting Loserville on the stage.  Elliot explained that Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story - WSS, Oliver) advised him to get a lyric and a musical phrase, i.e. somewhere for WSS or love for Oliver and work the musical around this. 

They explained that it took preview shows, a change of production, cast being frozen while most people say no, but then you get a yes and work with them before getting anywhere.  It then changed with the creative team and technical rehearsals and started getting positive feedback.  They then explained their process when they write together.  For Loserville, 'Slacker' is the blueprint of what the show is all about and from this they wrote new songs for the show and a detailed story map.  James works on guitar, which is unusual as most work on piano, and they would take it from a lyric.  Writing to fit a story is easier in some ways as the concept is already there.

Richard Taylor then gave the background to how The Go Between came into being.  It started as an adaptation from the L. P. Hartley book and then workshopped at Perfect Pitch, but it took 12 years for it to arrive on the stage.  Hartley gave permission, but it was felt that although everyone loved the songs, the POV was wrong as the audience should only see what the little boy sees (if he doesn't see it neither should we, nor should the characters emote).

The Perfect Pitch webiste was recommended as being very informative.  Andy said that they look at everything for free, but don't offer feedback due to staff shortage, but they are trying to promote new musical developments.

Mercury Theatre network helps people connect and find out what's out there sometimes in a 'speed-dating-type format' i.e. writers can meet up with composers etc.  One pays to be a member and then you are informed about events and opportunities e.g. open process writer residencies.

YMT commissioning/developing new music theatre has a writers residential course in August.

The floor was then opened up to questions and when asked why musicals were popular again, it was felt that musical theatre has always been popular but it has been rejuvenated thanks to TV shows like Glee and shows like Wicked, as musicals lean to the popular music of the day without the loss of revenue in the music industry.  As James Bourne put it 'You can't download a performance' and this is a good revenue stream.

Andy informed a questionner that most musicals are composer-driven as it is easier to get the music out there than a book.  It was agreed that one should never worry about asking for help with a project as people can be really generous because they need product, but the pressure is in finding something that is broadly appealing and Henrietta believed that partnership was the answer.  WYPH alone did not produce these two shows as it is much less segregated.  They must find an audience, so a better way of achieving this is by joining up their organisations and she hopes the need for fresh and new may hopefully kick-in in October.

When asks if it important that musicals be commercial, it was pointed out that only 4/5 of West End theatres produce new musicals, so it was felt that it was more important that the work is good than 'commercial.'

The event ended with a call out for feedback on the evening which can be accessed via twitter on #musicalpitch

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