We caught up with Laurie Asher, Award Leader of FdA Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) at South Staffordshire College. He chats to us about his next directing project, Hot Mikado, and the importance of supporting young, up-and-coming talent.
So tell us a bit more about the story of the Hot Mikado...
Hot Mikado is a retelling of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic operetta but with a jazz/swing/gospel twist. Rather than being sung through as per the original, this is very much a musical, but retains a lot of the silliness and satire of the original, so if you don’t like your musicals funny or camp, you wont like this one!
For those that don’t know the story of The Mikado (and therefore Hot Mikado), Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s son masquerading as a Second Trumpet player, arrives in the town of Titipu looking for the beautiful Yum-Yum. After bribing various officials he learns that she is still going to be marrying a former tailor turned Lord High executioner, Ko-Ko. Meanwhile, the Mikado demands that Ko-Ko execute one person within the next month. Nanki-Poo agrees to be executed as long as he can spend a month as Yum-Yum’s husband. However, the plan goes awry when the Mikado makes a surprise visit to Titipu and brings with him Katisha, an older woman who is pursuing Nanki-Poo. Luckily, Nanki-Poo is not executed because he is the Mikado’s long lost son.
Hot Mikado enjoyed a West End run in the mid 1990’s and a recent revival tour directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood.
The cast is made up of students from Staffordshire University Foundation Degree Musical Theatre programme, how important is it for people to come and support their work?
I would say more so now than ever, at a time when arts funding is being cut both academically and non-academically, support for anything theatre orientated should be promoted and pushed. Funding cuts to Colleges and Universities are very much in the press at the moment and a lot of the Performing Arts income is supplied by the shows we do, with any profit put back into the resources and shows needed by our students…that's my academic head on!
Aside from that, it's fantastic to watch any Musical Theatre Degree cohort, simply to see up-and-coming talented students prior to them entering the profession, which at degree level, is exactly where they are at. I would also encourage amateur dramatic companies to come along and, to a certain extent, 'talent scout' for any young, trained Musical Theatre students that they may need for their next production; particularly the male contingent given the well-known shortage of young men in amdram! So at the same time, we are a local, untapped resource for that!
How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals are going really well. As always, my students surprise me each day with what they bring to the table. We have also brought in a couple of graduating BTEC Musical Theatre students from the South Staffordshire College to add to the dancers within the ensemble and they have slotted into the degree cohort/cast seamlessly.
Whenever we rehearse a show like this, we have a 'timetable collapse,' which means that students purely work on rehearsals for the production, much like Drama School, so the process has been very intensive but a lot of fun!
Have you faced any challenges during rehearsals?
I would say so far *touch wood*, it's been fairly fluid. The cast have risen to the occasion, including those few who have come from the BTEC course. Rehearsing a full show over 4 weeks is always a challenge, but they have worked so hard to deliver the goods regardless, with huge amounts of energy.
Describe the show in just 3 words...
Jazzy, colourful…AND CAMP!
What would you say to someone who hasn't booked a ticket yet?
I would say get booking. This is a unique opportunity to see the talented students of one of only two Musical Theatre Degree courses in the West Midlands do their thing – and do it with swing and style! BOOK NOW (Or we will set Katisha on you!)
Hot Mikado plays at Lichfield Garrick from 27 to 30 May. For more information and to book tickets for this show click here or call Lichfield Garrick’s box office on 01543 412 121.
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