Merrily We Roll (with the punches) – can Ratatouille, Adam Lenson and an Olympic Marathon save musical theatre?

Welcome to the first blog on this slightly re-focused version of our #LoveLowry platform – The Lowry’s virtual theatre, gallery and studio space presenting a series of performances, artworks, exhibitions, tours, workshops, comment and blogs, curated by our creative team and special guest curators. 

I’m Matthew Eames and I am the Senior Theatre Programmer/Producer and I programme and produce performances and events of all artforms across our theatre (and online) spaces, focusing specifically on all things ‘contemporary’ or ‘new’. 

Today I thought I would throw some light on how the world of musical theatre has responded to what has been happening over the last 10 months and perhaps point you in the direction of some new artists, makers and companies who are making some really exciting work and trying to shift attitudes for how we might make, watch and perceive musical theatre in a post-Covid world. 

Musical theatre is an artform – and it is an artform – that I know well. I have been a performer, director, producer and programmer of musicals for over twenty years now. Yes I am that old. Up to now I might argue that it is an artform that can impose some limitations on its creatives, performers and audiences – as enjoyable and inspiring as they are. But I am delighted to say that I think that is changing. And the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic have served to magnify some fantastic new musicals and new musical makers – all of which are embracing new modes of creative expression.

Adam Lenson/ALP Musicals/Signal  

Adam is the unrivalled King of new musical live streaming and is now highly sought after in supporting other artists and companies to realise their digital ambitions (including The Lowry’s very own Developed With The Lowry artists TOOT).

Adam quickly responded to the first lockdown by moving his SIGNAL series of new musical theatre online with writers and performers singing their songs from their homes across the world. It was an incredible technical achievement and they were an absolute joy to watch. Later in the year he managed a series of new musicals including a new digital musical – SHIFT+ALT+RIGHT by Hilmi Jaidin. 

Check out Adam’s work on his website – you can watch all of the digital concerts for free but please do consider donating to Adam’s AMPLIFY fund so he can keep on doing a great job making new musicals happen.

https://alpmusicals.com/  @AdamLenson @ALPMusicals 

TikTok

I know. I know. I can barely believe I am writing this…

But it is entirely possible now that we will see our first new Broadway musical inspired by a series of contributions made by different people on the Tik Tok video sharing app.

Early on in lockdown you may have seen the Grocery Store Tik Tok musical which went viral. It started with one man singing with each new contributor adding themselves to the song and story. It’s a glorious celebration of musical creativity.

And of course one of our fave shows SIX (which should be playing in our building right now L) has got its own brilliant Tik Tok channel showing that it is an incredible platform and marketing tool for increasing the profile of a new musical (and ultimately selling tickets).

But back to Broadway, and you may have just heard about about how Ratatouille the Musical – based on the 2007 Disney/Pixar film Ratatouille – was made by contributors on Tik Tok and then became a crowdsourced charity benefit concert. 

Beginning when one TikTok user created a short comedic song in tribute to the main character of the film, users then remixed and added to each other’s videos to envision a full musical, including scenic design, choreography, and more songs. A concert presentation of the musical, featuring Tituss Burgess and Adam Lambert was streamed for 72 hours beginning on January 1, 2021 and raised 1m dollars for a US actors charity.  

Read more about that here: Ratatouille musical: TikTok phenomenon raises $1m for actors’ charity – BBC News And here is one of the original videos so you can get the picture. 

www.ratatousical.com  @ratatousical 

So what are you waiting for? Get on Tik Tok and start your own musical sensation!

Rewrites and Stream.Theatre

Back to The Lowry and we have been working really hard over the last few years to celebrate new musicals and new musical makers. Companies like SpitLip, The Letter Room, Fat Rascal, Sheep Soup, Leo and Hyde and more have all been supported in various ways and shared their brilliant new work on our stages, often at our annual Rewrites festival. 

In the last year, with our theatre spaces largely quiet we had the opportunity to take Rewrites to another level – to bring it to our Lyric stage, work with new partners and stream the performances to wider audiences online. Our plans were initially scuppered due to the partial lockdown in Oct/Nov and we rearranged for Feb hoping for better times… well let’s just say that we have gone back to the drawing board. But we are merrily rolling with the punches and keeping on keeping on. Watch this space. 

In the meantime I can throw a spotlight on a couple of the organisations we were working with. First up – Stream.Theatre, a digital platform sharing a series of performances but with a definite focus on musical theatre. They will be working with us on Rewrites but in the meantime they are bringing two new musicals to their online stage over the coming months – Falling Stars written and performed by Peter Polycarpou with Sally Ann Triplett and The Sorceror’s Apprentice by Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost. You can find out more and buy tickets here: 

https://www.stream.theatre/home @stream_theatre 

Finally, make sure to take a look at The Marathon Project which will be one of the new musicals showcased at Rewrites. 

A contemporary musical supergroup made up of the members of SpitLip, Sheep Soup, The Letter Room, Burnt Lemon, Maimuna Memon and artists from BAC’s Beatbox Collective are creating a musical choose-your-own adventure based on the 1904 Olympic Marathon. It’s bonkers and may just be brilliant. You can find out more and take part yourselves here:  

www.themarathonproject.co.uk @spitlip @TheLetterRoom @sheep_soup @BurntLemonTC 

So, despite it all, I believe the future of new musical theatre is bright. And The Lowry will be doing everything it can to ensure new musicals and new artists are celebrated on our stages and given the profile they so richly deserve. And then truly, merrily, we will roll along. 

That’s it from me for now but please do check back in to #LoveLowry and feel free to get in touch with me personally at matthew.eames@thelowry.com or @culturedclub on Twitter.