Friday, 24 June 2016

I’m Getting My Dramaturgy Together and Taking It On The Road: Matthew Gould

Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST Wednesday 6th – Saturday 23rd July 2016
This first UK revival of this ground-breaking, long running, off-Broadway and West End musical - I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it On the Road - marks the show’s triumphant return to London 35 years after it was first seen at the Apollo Theatre.

Described as a ‘controversial sensation’, I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it On the Road marked a watershed moment in the history of musical theatre when it first premiered, challenging gender roles through the exploration of friendships, relationships and the pursuit of personal goals. 

Now, London audiences will experience a new production of this touching, poignant and hilarious show.

I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it On the Road tells the story of singer songwriter Heather Jones who is finally breaking out of her celebrity mould, reaching for a new life as a new woman - no longer ‘daughter’, ‘wife’ and ‘celebrity product’. Music and lyrics are from the Broadway and Off-Broadway musical duo of Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford. The musical is directed by Matthew Gould.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
 I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On The Road has held a special place in my heart for a long time. I remember listening to the CD of the original London cast with Dianne Langton and being fascinated and inspired by these songs (written by Gretchen Cryer) which pack an astounding emotional punch. 

Of course the lyrics (from Nancy Ford) are to date some of the most poignant, honest and heartfelt lyrics I’ve ever heard in a musical theatre score. So yes, the show touches an emotional chord with me and brings back so many memories of the strong women I have known throughout my life!

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
It was a collaborative approach with SDWC Productions. I was working with Nick Barstow (our Musical Director and arranger) on another production and through various other recommendations we were lucky enough to get our lighting designer Mitchel Reeves, Stage Manager James Stevenson, Dep Stage Manager Sophie Arnkil and sound designer Phil Matejtschuk on board! 

Everyone is bringing their own take on things to the show and so far it’s been a pleasure to work with such a gifted and inspiring group of creatives!

How did you become interested in making performance?
When I was at college I worked on one of the front of house bars at The Cambridge Theatre when Kander and Ebb’s ‘The Rink’ was playing. Diane Langton was one of the leads. I looked into her other recent shows and I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On The Road was one of them. I bought the CD and listened to it endlessly and became rather attached to the show. 

Whizz forward 27 years and when I heard that SDWC was producing the show I contacted them, raced up to Manchester for a meeting and here we are.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
As any director will tell you, the primary focus is the text/script. The role of the director is to realise the intentions of the writers and to facilitate this through guiding the actors.

Of course table work and discussion plays a huge part in this. From the get go I like to encourage actors to study the text in meticulous depth, something that I feel is often neglected in musical theatre. 

This is a critical and crucial time for the actors as it allows them to understand their character’s narrative and to develop a back story which in turn allows them, in a musical, to meld the script and songs together in a more cohesive way and of course to capture the required depth, nail the comedy and serve the script in a sincerer way.

I also feel that it’s important to let the cast try different things, new ways of saying a particular line or even an entirely different take on a certain scene. Through this process of experimentation and just seeing what ‘sticks to the wall’ I believe the entire process from character to cast bonding enhanced the show significantly. This freedom induces a playful excitement into the rehearsal room and gives actors the luxury of exploration.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
SDWC Productions and I have assembled the most incredible musical theatre cast seen at Jermyn Street for some time, and that’s saying something! We have West End powerhouse Landi Oshinowo (Shrek, Sister Act, Barnum) as our Heather Jones and she’s proving to be a delight! Landi’s combination of fantastic vocal chops and extraordinary acting ability/sincerity is truly remarkable. 

Our supporting cast features the likes of Rosanna Hyland (Urinetown, Shrek, Sister Act) and Nic Colicos (The Bodyguard, Sister Act, Sunset Boulevard) and too many others to mention here who are putting their immense abilities and dedication into this special show!

Aside from all of that our audiences are guaranteed lots of laughter, stunning ballads and some beautiful moments of honesty and depth. The audience will experience a beautifully crafted production and a couple of hours of pure entertainment!  

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The Jermyn Street Theatre is a well-loved haven of entertainment. There is a long flight of stairs from the street level to the box office the walls of which are lined with theatrical posters down into the theatre. When they audience reach the space they will feel like they have stumbled across a work in progress, a rehearsal for the show! 70’s music will fill the air and our audience will become immersed in our theatrical world. 

The setting will feel intimate as if you’re welcomed into a bar you’ve been frequenting for years. The costumes are playful and colourful. We have brought out the humour and laughter and the deeply poignant moments of a woman's life in transition.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
No I don’t. I don’t even have a favourite style/genre of theatre. I find if the piece is interesting and I truly believe an audience and I will engage with it fully then I know that something interesting will come out at the end!

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