Four musicals to get Northampton premières

Published: 19 December 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

From top left: An Improbable Musical (Lee Simpson: director, Yshani Perinpanayagam: music), Gin Craze! (April de Angelis: book and lyrics, Lucy Rivers: music and lyrics), Scot Free (Jonny Wright: book and lyrics, Tim Gilvin: music and lyrics), On Hostile Ground (Juliet Gilkes Romero: book, Michael Henry: music and orchestrations, Darren Clark: lyrics)

Three original musicals will be premièred onstage and one online as part of the Made in Northampton 2021 season at the town’s Royal and Derngate.

The musicals will be the culmination of a three-year project which has involved the theatre leading a national consortium to support 150 artists in nurturing the creation of new musical theatre.

Royal and Derngate has been leading a consortium including China Plate, Improbable, Mercury Musical Developments, Musical Theatre Network, Perfect Pitch and Scottish Opera which has been working to address the “barriers that prevent the creation of new and original musical theatre specifically developed for mid-scale regional touring”.

Improvised theatre company Improbable returns to its roots with An Improbable Musical which will improvise from scratch a new musical each night. Directed by Lee Simpson, Improbable’s co-artistic director, with music devised and directed by Yshani Perinpanayagam, An Improbable Musical will take to the Derngate stage from Friday 19 until Saturday 27 March.

With book and lyrics by April de Angelis and music and lyrics by Lucy Rivers, Gin Craze! is a “booze-soaked love ballad from the women of Gin Lane”. Directed by Michael Oakley, it takes to the Royal stage from Saturday 19 June until Saturday 3 July.

Inspired by a true story, Scot Free will be premièred in concert performances. With book and lyrics by Jonny Wright and music and lyrics by Tim Gilvin, the production will be directed by Tinuke Craig. It features three friends from Aberdeen who come up with a brazen scheme to make it in the music industry, although their elaborate deception begins to wear them down. It will be staged on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 October.

Royal and Derngate is also supporting the development of a new musical called On Hostile Ground which will initially be released as a series of 14 music videos in the spring of 2021. The musical is by Darren Clark (lyrics), Juliet Gilkes Romero (book) and Michael Henry (music and orchestrations) and is co-created and directed by Charlotte Westenra. It will be available online from Tuesday 16 February.

Royal and Derngate artistic director James Dacre explained, “over five years up to 2017, Royal and Derngate welcomed an audience of more than 200,000 to 50 visiting musicals. Only one of them was a new work.

“Almost all of these 50 shows had played in our larger Derngate auditorium, with little mid-scale musical theatre available to play in our Royal auditorium. So we set out to change this. Since then, we’ve collaborated with six consortium partners and over 100 inspiring artists to champion new musical theatre voices. Together, we’ll have premièred at least six musicals by 2021.

“At the end of such a devastating year for our sector, I’m thrilled that as our theatre begins to emerge from the pandemic, we’ll do so alongside this inspiring range of artists who’ve reminded us of the importance of remaining ambitious, relevant and determined to create original work."