Harold Sanditen On ... Producing to PerformingDate: 17 January 2011
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma Harold Sanditen has lived in London since 1987. Having founded the independent theatre production company Sandpiper Productions Limited in 1989, Sanditen gained producer credits on musicals including Unsuspecting Susan (King’s Head, London and New York), The Slow Drag (the Whitehall and Freedom Theatres), The Fabulous Lypsinka Show (UK tour), Being At Home With Claude (King's Head and Vaudeville Theatres).
Sanditen also worked as a general manager, overseeing productions of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof starring Brendan Fraser, Long Day’s Journey Into Night featuring Jessica Lange and Fallen Angels with Felicity Kendal and Frances de la Tour whilst working for Bill Kenwright Limited.
In 2007, after 20 years as a producer, Sanditen decided do something he’d always wanted to do – give cabaret performance a try and pursue his life-long love of singing. Following his first solo show The Secret of Life at The Duplex in New York in September 2008, he brought his act home to London, performing at Pizza on the Park that November.
Here Harold tells us a bit more about changing career paths after 20 years and bringing his new show, Thoughts 'Round Midnight to London's Pheasantry on 24 and 25 January.
It’s 4am on Wednesday morning and I can’t sleep. I’m not an insomniac, but I’m also not the soundest of sleepers either. Does anyone else have this problem?! Rather than complain, I try to make effective use of my time during these late hours, and interestingly, some of my best and most creative work is done late at night.
Several years ago I realised that after 20 years of producing theatre, it had begun to lose its lustre. I think that all began when I was producing one particularly difficult diva. Then some more difficult divas came along, and I decided that life really is too short to put up with that kinda shit. It was time for a change, but to what?
I always knew that one of the reasons I produced theatre was that I was a frustrated performer. I didn’t have the confidence to get on stage. In fact, I had stage fright, so the next best thing was being next to or behind the stage. It wasn’t really acting I wanted to do, it was singing. I’d always loved to sing. I always had a melody going through my head. I sang in the shower, around the house, to our dog! It’s amazing how you can fit a dog’s name into the lyrics of almost any song!
Stepping further back, I’d already made one big career change. In the mid 1980s I did an MBA and then went to work in New York City as an investment banker. That was a pretty short-lived career and from there I moved to London, set up shop as a theatre producer, and I’ve lived here ever since. It was in 2006 when I was producing Celia Imrie (and she is NOT a diva!) in New York, that one of my fellow MBA students told me she had decided to become a cabaret performer and was doing a show. I went to see her. Seed planted.
The seed began to germinate in 2007 when I attended my first “cabaret boot camp” in Tuscany. Wow! So, one can sing, as well as tell a story?! It’s acting to music. Each song an individual monologue, with some personal relevance.
Last spring, during another late night I came up with the idea of a new show, exploring those late night thoughts that can keep us up. It had the potential to be a wrist-slitting experience, but I mapped out all the emotions I thought were important to cover, and then found comedy songs for the most serious thoughts – even suicide! It’s difficult for me to keep from laughing when I’m performing some of the comedic songs.
I have to admit I was perhaps a bit naïve when I made the switch, thinking it would be all artistic, but it’s not called show business for nothing! Basically, becoming a singer and cabaret performer has meant that I still have to do all the things I did as a producer, and on top of that, be artistic, keep a figure, etc... Plus, you have to become a ruthless self-promoter, which is very different than promoting a show. My background as a producer has been a major benefit, so in the end, it’s all fallen into place quite nicely.
Whether or not anyone realises this, it really is hard work being a diva or divo, an "artist", and that’s without the diva behavior. In the end, it’s the diva you know, whether that diva wears Prada or nada!
Thoughts 'Round Midnight plays London's The Pheasantry on 24 and 25 January. Tickets can be booked online here. Sanditen then tours to Chicago, New York and... Hornchurch!