Madness Launch £2.5 Million Our House MusicalDate: 14 June 2002
At the press conference - held at The Scala cinema near the band's old north London stamping ground, Camden Town, where the musical is set - the team revealed more details about the casting, design and inspiration for the £2.5 million show, which opens at the West End's Cambridge Theatre on 15 October 2002, following previews from the end of September.
A Sliding Doors Approach
Billed as "A London Love Story", the musical comedy has a fictional Sliding Doors-like plotline. It's a modern-day morality tale about young Joe, his mates, his girlfriend Sarah and the night Joe commits a petty crime to impress her. After the crime, Our House follows the two courses Joe's life would have taken had he a) stayed to face the music when the police arrived, or b) bunked the law and made a run for it.
Speaking at today's event, Firth said that the parallel plot idea was inspired by the duality he discovered in Madness' songs, although he admitted that it was "phenomenally complicated to stage". Magician and illusionist Paul Kieve has been recruited to assist in realising such tricky stage directions as "Joe splits in two" which, jokes director Warchus, is the point where "you long for a flying car or a helicopter".
The 26-strong Our House cast will be led by newcomer Michael Jibson as Joe, while his best mates Emmo and Lewis will be played, respectively, by Richard Frame and Oliver Jackson (just seen in the West End in The Glee Club). Details for the rest of the cast, including Sarah, are due to be finalised within the next fortnight. The show will be choreographed by Peter Darling.
"The Crown Jewels"
Our House will feature more than 20 of Madness' songs including One Step Beyond", "House of Fun", "My Girl" and the title song. The only one of the band's most popular songs that may not figure is "Michael Caine". Firth confessed that he hasn't figured out how to incorporate it successfully into the story. "I haven't given up on it yet," he said today, "but I'm not willing to contort the plot."
Firth promised that the show would be "a real workout for the Madness catalogue rather than a fly-past of greatest hits". Alterations to increase the theatricality will include new lyrics and musical arrangements. Madness has also written two new songs for Our House, including one tentatively titled "Sarah's Song" which will be released as a single.
In addition to the songs - which Peter Bennett-Jones of backers Tiger Aspect Productions refers to as "the crown jewels" - Warchus said that the stage show would incorporate much of "the style and energy that you find in Madness' videos...an almost cartoonish quality".
Madness on Stage
Speaking of the band's distinctive style, Suggs said: "We were always kind of theatrical without ever really understanding theatre. Now we've got some experts to lead us gently by the hand."
The comment prompted one reporter to ask whether any of the band members had considered performing in the show, to which Chas Smash replied "we know our limitations". Some kind of curtain call walk-on for select performances has not been ruled out, however. In December 2002, the band will be launching a major new concert tour, including songs from Our House.
Madness are also acting as assistant producers on Our House, working alongside Tiger Aspect (the independent film and television company behind hits such as Billy Elliott) and former music industry executive Rupert Lord (pictured with Suggs of Madness at today's launch).
- by Terri Paddock