How to make a musical: what to do after your workshop
The latest installment in WhatsOnStage critic Michael Davies' series on how to stage your musical at what happens once the workshop is over
As they say on recurring television shows, Previously on How to Make a Musical…
Devoted regular readers (oh, all right, members of my immediate family and the composer) will recall that last time around I was musing on the importance of persistence and looking forward to the imminent first staging of a workshop production of Tess – The Musical at the RSC's studio theatre The Other Place.
One of these has now happened. The other continues relentlessly.
If you'll indulge me for a paragraph, composer Michael Blore and I would like to record officially our gratitude for a workshop that proved a resounding success. Night Project Theatre delivered a fine production on extremely limited resources, and were duly greeted with sell-out audiences and standing ovations. It's hard to think what else a writing team could wish for.
The workshop provided us with the opportunity to see Tess on its feet and fully formed
As we surmised beforehand, one of the great things it provided us as the writers was the opportunity to see Tess on its feet and fully formed, from beginning to end, in the hands of some stunning performers – not least our first stage Tess, musical theatre newcomer Jessie-Mae Thomas.
It's worth pointing out that we have been incredibly lucky with the first incarnations of the title role. Joanna Strand (Phantom, Master Class, New York and West End cabaret, etc) gave us some superb demo recordings in the earliest studio days that inspired us to move to a full concept album recording. Siobhan Dillon (Sunset, Cabaret, Grease, etc) performed sublimely on that album, providing us with an extraordinary promotional and marketing tool. No surprise, then, that we wanted to capture something of the first stage Tess for posterity as well.
So forgive the blatant plug, but Jessie-Mae's recording of "The Wrong Side of the Door" is now available for the princely sum of 99p. Do have a listen – you'll be supporting a new musical, new writers and a new star in the making.
One of our chief concerns is how do you maintain interest and momentum with potential audiences?
The release of the single has also started to address what has become one of our chief concerns over recent months: in that prolonged period between attracting a producer and actually putting the show on, how do you maintain interest and momentum with potential audiences?
We've worked hard at our social media presence, with the website merely a launchpad for ongoing engagement on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook et al. On the back of the recent performances, we're heading back to the score and book to sharpen up a few edges and tighten a few loose ends – not a major rewrite, by any means, but a useful product of being able to witness the show live. And we've been doing our homework, attending events such as the Musical Theatre Conference at Northampton's Royal & Derngate, where industry experts hosted by Mercury Musical Developments and Musical Theatre Network offered fascinating insights and sage advice on where to go next.
Where to go next is in the hands of our producer
For us, the answer to that lies with livewire producer David Kettle, who saw the workshop and, we are thrilled to reveal, is throwing his considerable talents and experience behind the show. He is – even as I hammer away at this keyboard – lining up venues and talking to potential co-producers for a tour of the show in 2020. And while next year seems an awfully long way off, the self-belief I talked about last time will doubtless be called on once again as we continue on the journey.
Knowing that the show works is a big help. Knowing it can enthuse and entertain an audience is a welcome reassurance. Knowing we're moving in the right direction is, frankly, a blessed relief. The future, as Tess herself discovers, is in our hands.