I spend quite some time here wittering away about things I’ve done on stage, so here is a rundown of what I’ve done over the years. I’m ignoring my various excursions backstage fr now, as well as the various classical concerts I’ve warbled at, to concentrate on what Oscar Hammerstein II would call my ‘Life Upon the Wicked Stage’. The page that follows is in narrative form – alternatively you can avoid any ramblings by looking at a pdf version titled Performances – isn’t that exciting?.
1996 was the year I turned 18, and it’s also the first year that I have (arbitrarily) decided ‘counts’ for such things. It was a busy year which included the sublime and the ridiculous, as I took roles in three school productions. Torvald Helmer in A Doll’s House was a side-effect of my Theatre Studies A-Level, and was a very difficult part to play. Luckily, the girl who played Nora (Torvald’s wife) was absolutely wonderful, and we carried it off. When my character’s temper flared towards the end, I surprised pretty much anyone who knew me with the hidden reserves of volume. Then came Roger in Grease, about as great a contrast as could be imagined. The rehearsal periods overlapped, and I enjoyed Grease more. Sadly, this didn’t tell in my performance. This was my first outing as a soloist and nerves got the better of me. I sang perfectly in tune, but an octave too high. Whoops. And finally the kindly old Herr Schultz in Cabaret, an exercise in pathos and winning the sympathy of the audience. And elderly Jew in Berlin in 1930. A most moving part to play, and probably the only opportunity I’ll ever have to sing a duet about a pineapple.
Then we fast-forward a few years to the Summer Opera project at the University of Kent, a yearly production at the Gulbenkian Theatre which combined the talents of students, staff and theatre professionals. I sang in the chorus of five of these productions from 2000 to 2004, also playing the odd ‘silent’ role. Over these years I was seen (or sometimes not seen, due to rather surprising costumes and changes in body language which made me unrecognisable) as a highwayman, a constable, a churchgoer, a Nazi soldier, a hippie, a footman, a courtier, a journalist, a sailor and a country bumpkin. Somewhat surprising, given that the operas in question were The Beggar’s Opera, Tosca, Die Fledermaus, Dido and Aeneas (in a double bill with The Ephesian Matron) and Figaro’s Wedding (yes, a much more accurate translation of the famous opera’s title). The last one I was involved with was also the last Summer Opera. I don’t think it was my fault…
In the midst of this, I had my first taste of the Marlowe Theatre, as well as the Stag in Sevenoaks (now renamed to something or other), in the swashbuckling Courtenay. I was again in the chorus, rallying round a madman and taking part in the last battle fought on English soil. I also played the small role of Man 2, which meant I had a few lines (spoken and sung) before my spectacular death. Marvellous fun, with guns and swords and pyrotechnics all over the place! And also another chance to work alongside professionals.
And now we reach my membership of Canterbury Operatic Society, which began in 2005 making me very much a newcomer to the group. After one concert, we come to Gerald Bolingbroke in Me and My Girl in March 2006. An upper-class twit who spends much of the show attempting to win back the woman who jilts him in the first five minutes, and who sings ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ along the way. A wonderful rehearsal period, a role that was made for me, and an absolutely terrifying week in the Marlowe, which was a resounding success.
Another few concerts followed, allowing me to dust off an old favourite of mine, ‘Mister Cellophane’, and add ‘The Last Night of the World’ and the Madrigal from The Mikado to my repertoire. In December 2006, I performed the role of the Police Sergeant in a charity concert of The Pirates of Penzance. Great fun, forcing me to stretch the lower limits of my vocal range and allowing me to sing a role that I would normally not be considered for. Then back to the Marlowe in March 2007 for the role of Ralph, the Stage Manager in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate. Much the reverse of Me and My Girl for me, with a rather troubled rehearsal period followed by a week in the theatre that I thoroughly enjoyed. The role (which had a few singing bits added on to it, including becoming part of the trio for ‘Too Darn Hot’, which are normally performed by random chorus members) was rather different to the other things I’ve done recently, allowing me to demonstrate some volume and versatility.
The late spring and summer of 2007 was spent in various locations around Kent, perfoming in a compilation show called The Sound of Gershwin at the Whitstable Playhouse and singing in a series of concerts with various different groups of people. In solo or duet form, I sang ‘Who Cares?’ from Of Thee I Sing, ‘I’ll Know’ from Guys and Dolls, ‘Old Devil Moon’ from Finian’s Rainbow and ‘Suddenly, Seymour’ from Little Shop of Horrors.
March 2008 saw me in a typical Singing Librarian role, Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady with Canterbury Operatic Society. Upper class, but somewhat less of a twit than Gerald, the director threw in added drunkenness for the character. ‘On the Street Where You Live’ from this show is one of those songs every tenor knows, so it was a joy to get to sing it. Then two months later, I performed in a Richard Rodgers compilation evening with Herne Bay Operatic Society, playing the role of the composer himself, Richard Rodgers. In addition to the acting, I sung a number of Rodgers songs, most notably the ‘Soliloquy’ from Carousel :
That was to be it for a few months, but during July I was contacted by a local performing arts school, who asked me whether I’d be interested in joining their production of West Side Story. I said yes, and after a hectic month of rehearsals, being a very late addition to the cast, I enjoyed a fantastic week of performances doubling as Officer Krupke and Doc. This allowed me to act without the benefit of a song to hide behind, and allowed me to play two very different characters – one serious, one silly; one old, one young. The whole show was a delight to be involved with, and Phoenix Performing Arts now have a new fan in the form of the Singing Librarian!
The end of 2008 saw me in the musical Titanic, playing Harold Bride, one of the ship’s wireless operators. This was a wonderful, sweet character to play with a fantastic duet. The show as a whole was very moving, and while we didn’t get the audience numbers we had hoped for, it was certainly a special experience.
2009 involved a variety of shows. It began with Aladdin at the Winter Gardens in Margate. This was my first professional engagement and also my first pantomime, playing the most unlikely role of the Genie of the Lamp, opposite musician Ben Mills as Aladdin and comic/actor Mark Arden as Abanazar. This was followed by two very different Gilbert and Sullivan shows at the Gulbenkian Theatre. First, The Pirates of Penzance, in the role of Major General Stanley, which allowed me to age up, act very silly and rattle off the most famous patter song in the world. The local reviewer said I stole the show, but I definitely gave it back. Then, a very different production – Hot Mikado, which is a jazz/gospel spin on the G&S classic. A lot of dancing (a LOT!) and a very sarcastic take on the coolest Gentleman of Japan, Pish-Tush. Finally, Phoenix Performing Arts once again called on my services as an ‘adult’. In September, I played the role of Mr Myers, drama teacher, in Fame.
2010 was a busy year! March saw me in two roles which couldn’t have been more different. First, Christopher West in When Midnight Strikes with Lights Up Productions, and then Prez in The Pajama Game with Canterbury Operatic Society. The first was a very dramatic, intense role, the second more my usual sort of thing – a silly, young fool with a bit of dancing to do. From January to July, I was involved with my first film project, playing a supporting character in Kanga Reel’s short film, Marty’s Project. During August, I had another outing with Lights Up Productions, thrusting my pelvis and singing rock ‘n’ roll as Jim Haller in All Shook Up. And September was time for another very challenging role, as Phoenix Performing Arts drafted me in again, this time as Reverend Moore in Footloose.
The first show of 2011 was Into the Woods with Canterbury Operatic where I played Rapunzel’s Prince and, rather unexpectedly, the Wolf. I enjoyed the Prince a lot more, but suspect the Wolf may have been my stronger role. It was a joy to finally get to do some Sondheim – an ambition achieved! Then. after a break of a week of two, I spent two mad and wonderful weeks with Lights Up Productions, putting on I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, in which I was credited as Man. Over the rest of the year, I took place in a strange variety of concerts, singing diverse songs including ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’, ‘Mister Cellophane’ (again), ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ and ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ (as a solo!). Here’s my rendition of ‘Mister Cellophane’ :
During the lead-up to Christmas, I attended the part-time course at London School of Musical Theatre, an immense privilege which taught me a lot.
During 2012, Canterbury Operatic Society returned to the Marlowe Theatre with Guys and Dolls, where I played Nicely Nicely Johnson – one of those wonderful roles where you get to sing the best song in the show, in this case ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’. I also plated the role of Utterson in a new version of the Jekyll and Hyde story called Behind Closed Doors. On the concert front, the year included a gospel choir concert where I sang ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and a fundraiser for 2 people going to drama school, where I sang ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’ and ‘Anything You Can Do’ as well as reprising some numbers I’ve performed before.
2013’s biggest theatrical activity so far was playing Moonface Martin in Anything Goes at the Marlowe Theatre. Plans are afoot for later in the summer…