In the first of a new series of interviews looking at various aspects of dance, I chat to Nick Winston, an international choreographer, director and movement director working in theatre, opera and film who, as Mark Shenton of the Sunday Express remarked, “is fast turning into one of the best stage choreographers we have."
At present he is working on Loserville, a new musical commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse but, as soon as that is underway, he will turn his attention to the summer season of Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre. During a break in rehearsals I asked him to tell me about his current projects.
Have you started work on Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance yet?
No, at the moment I have one more week to go with Loserville and then I’ll get my head properly into GS, GD. It’s the fourth year that we have presented this show and so we will use some of the elements that have been in the show before but, to make sure that we keep the show fresh, at least 30% will be brand-new material combined with the best parts of the previous three shows. That way we make sure it gets better every year.
What is the format of the show?
Well, we showcase the best numbers from the best musicals, but we don’t just do material from new shows. We do everything from the 20’s onwards including Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly tributes, Bob Fosse, Rogers and Hammerstein – we take material from all sources. It’s a compilation show but with the emphasis much more on the choreography that you might find in some tribute shows or reviews.
Are you able to find enough variety of dance to fill a whole two-hour show?
That is the greatest thing about this show, because we do everything from Cyd Charisse to We Will Rock You and Billy Elliott, we are able to use a huge variety of styles. In previous shows we have featured Barnum - and shown off some circus skills, Starlight Express – and had the cast on roller skates and we always have some tap routines in the show as well. Sometimes we do some musical mash-ups too and maybe take an old fashioned number and turn it on its head with a modern piece.
Is it a big show?
Well, yes and no. There are just six people in the cast but I really put them through it and I think that is what the audience appreciate the most. They are kind of in awe of these six people who have just delivered two hours of non-stop song and dance. We perform routine after routine, with amazingly quick costume changes for each number and so, while the cast is not big, the show is a big event for the theatre and it’s great for us to come back to Eastbourne each summer.
So, if you have six dancers to get up to speed, when do you get together with them?
I think, this time, we have the “luxury” of a full two and half weeks of solid rehearsal time which is really a big challenge, but it’s always that way. Chris Jordan, the producer, has to financially back the show each year and so it’s important that we do it quite quickly.
We’re lucky to have two returning cast members, Rebecca Lisewski and Adam Scown this year, together with Lowri Walton, who has just graduated from Arts and two very talented guys called Simon Adkins and David McCauley, with one more dancer still to be confirmed.
But before all that starts, what is it you’re doing now?
I’m doing a brand new musical from James Bourne, from the band Busted, and Elliott Davis called Loserville, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. I did a production of it, for Youth Music Theatre UK, three years ago and, as soon as he saw it Kevin Wallace bought the rights and we’ve been trying to put the production together since then but now the West Yorkshire Playhouse have kindly offered to co-produce it with Kevin and it’s great that we are doing a brand new musical.
With so many of the “jukebox” shows around at the moment, is it difficult to open a new musical?
It's a real challenge in the current climate to finance a new musical with an unknown title so collaboration between the commercial and subsidised sector is vital to bring new work to the stage. But we’re having a really exciting time with it now. We did our second run-through last weekend and I think we are on to something very special and I am very proud of it. It’s another show where I have really used the ensemble and they are working so hard, it’s really satisfying to watch and I think it’s rewarding for them to do.
Loserville runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds from 20 June to 14 July with previews from June 18 and Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance can be seen at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne from 2 August to 25 August.