The show that changed my life: Stuart Piper
To kick off our new feature, WhatsOnStage Awards producer and actors' agent Stuart Piper chooses Leslie Bricusse's Scrooge: The Musical
When I was asked to choose the show that changed my life I was tempted to select some of the early theatrical experiences I watched from front of house that had an effect on me: My first musical (Jason Donovan and Linzi Hateley in Joseph), or seeing Michael Sheen play Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger at the National; the original productions of Closer or Me and My Girl.
But the show where my life truly changed was when I appeared in Bill Kenwright's tour of Scrooge: The Musical with Tommy Steele. Singing about Christmas from September to February was a challenge, but I always got a tingle of excitement when singing "Sing a Christmas Carol" during the opening number. Also working with Tommy was pretty amazing having grown up watching Half a Sixpence every Christmas - he was very generous, the epitome of professional. And there were some people in that show that made me laugh a lot: Carl Patrick, Tania Newton, Robin Armstrong, Lucy Thatcher, Jo Fell to name only a few.
But the other reason that production was life changing was that while touring the UK I was also trying to produce my first show, a revival of Snoopy! The Musical. My producing partner at the time, Stephen Carlile, was in the chorus of The Phantom of the Opera and we would often have our daily catch up on how our money raising efforts had gone during intervals while sat on the loo (not joking).
'I made it onto the stage in the nick of time, panting heavily'
We had next to no money, but wanted to impress potential investors. Our favourite ruse when dining at Le Caprice was to say to our dinner guest that we wouldn't have a starter because we wanted to save room for the puddings - and then by pudding pretend we were suddenly full. Needless to say, we didn't order the Bollinger.
There was even an unfortunate occasion when, due to train trouble en route back to a touring venue, I had to make my first entrance in the pivotal role of "The Sweep" virtually at a running pace. I literally ran from stage door to the wings, ripped my clothes off as the amazing stage management slapped on my fake facial hair and mic, jumped into my costume and made it onto the stage in the nick of time, panting heavily.
So it soon became obvious that juggling acting and producing was an overly ambitious task. We got Snoopy! on, and that led me to my job at Cole Kitchenn, at first to work in production and then to launch our agency for actors and creatives.
Another reason Scrooge was important was because it introduced me to Gemma Page, who played The Ghost of Christmas Past, and her husband Michael Kirk. Some years later, when signed to our agency, they came in to explain they had written a script called Hatched 'n' Dispatched. When I read it I was immediately struck by its resonance - they had expertly drawn a social commentary about family life in a midlands industrial town in the 1950s. I was delighted when the Park Theatre accepted the play as part of its autumn season and I hope you can join us for its premiere run next month.