It is now just one week until MT Fest UK kicks off at The Other Palace, which will include not just musical showcases, but also talks and concerts. Last week the festival was officially launched in The Other Palace Studio, with exclusive performances from Evelyn Hoskins & Luke Bayer, and an insight into the event from its mastermind, Paul Taylor-Mills.
“I have had this ambition of doing something here in the UK to really promote new musicals,” says Taylor-Mills. “In my job I’m so fortunate that I get sent hundreds of new musicals every year and, to be honest, I feel really, really bad that I can’t do something with all of them – because it’s never through lack of quality. It’s always through lack of resource, lack of audience appetite… So I’ve had this burning desire to do this for a while. I had this mad idea of doing this festival and – as is often the case with me – it started off as this modest, tiny thing, and then I’m thrilled (and terrified) to say it snowballed and became this much, much bigger thing!”
The inaugural two-week event will consist of:
- Taster Menus – 45-minute semi-staged performances of new musical theatre;
- BEAM Brunches – songwriter showcases, featuring creatives discovered at the BEAM2018 showcase;
- Tea for Two – daytime chats with figures involved in, or linked to, the musical theatre industry;
- Night Caps – late-night concerts with top musical theatre performers, including some of their favourite songs and hints at future roles.
There will be one BEAM Brunch in each week of the festival – with the likes of Sheila Atim, Ajay Srivastav, and Chris Ash & Carl Miller appearing on Friday 15 February, and Splitlip, Coco Mbassi and Leoe Mercer & Stephen Hyde there on Friday 22 February. These will take place at 1pm, meaning even those who are at work during the day have a chance of making it for an extended lunch break!
There will be a Night Cap concert every night, and each will begin at 9pm. Confirmed to perform are: Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Evelyn Hoskins, Sophie Isaacs, Luke Bayer, Louise Dearman, Rob Houchen, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Claudia Kariuki, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Emma Kingston, Nathan Amzi and Jordan Luke Gage.
The full Tea for Two line-up was announced during the launch; seven of these events have been programmed over the two weeks, most taking place in the morning.
- Monday 11 February, 10.30am – Good Thing Going: The relationship between Agent and Casting Director, with casting director David Grindrod and agent Alastair Lindsay-Renton.
- Tuesday 12 February, 2pm – Gotta Get a Gimmick: Marketing a New Musical, with James Charrington (DeWynters), Emma De Souza (SOLT), Dawn Farrow (Boom Ents) and Sita McIntosh (WhatsOnStage).
- Saturday 16 February, 11am – We Can Do It: You’ve Made a New Show… Now How to Get it On, with producer Danielle Tarento and Victoria Saxton (Mercury Musical Developments).
- Monday 18 February, 10.30am – Dancing Through Life: Making new musicals move, with choreographer Arlene Phillips and dancer-turned MT star Joanne Clifton.
- Tuesday 19 February, 11am – I Can Do That: The Top Dos and Don’ts in Auditions, with Paul Wooller (Head of Casting at Cameron Mackintosh Ltd).
- Wednesday 20 February, 11am – Everybody’s Got the Right: The Changing Face of Criticism and How New Musicals are Reviewed, with critic Mark Shenton.
- Saturday 23 February, 11am – No One is Alone: The Art of Collaboration, with director & choreographer Drew McOnie.
Forming the centre of MT Fest UK is the Taster Menu – each new musical is afforded 45 minutes to give you an idea of what it will be like, as well as see if there is the potential to run a full production in the future. The eight shows will run at various points during the fortnight, with two per evening (6pm & 7pm) as well as bonus matinée performances (2pm & 3pm) on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
AA – 11, 12 & 13 February
Written by Richard Thomas and starring Connor Byrne, Emma Lindars, Rosemary Ashe, Dan Buckley, Matt White, Scott Garnham, Sooz Kempner, Declan Bennett, Jenny O’Leary, Scott Paige and Matt Henry.
Nerds – 11, 12 & 13 February
Written by Hal Goldberg (music) and Jordan Allen-Dutton & Erik Weiner (book & lyrics), and starring Dan Buckley, Kane Oliver Parry, Scott Garnham, Ben Forster, Oliver Ormson, Jenny O’Leary, Scott Paige and Matt White.
First Date – 14, 15 & 16 February
Written by Austin Winsberg (book) and Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner (music & lyrics), and starring Liam Doyle, Sophie Isaacs, Dean John Wilson, Natalie Douglas and Russell Wilcox.
Porn the Musical – 14, 15 & 16 February
Written by Boris Cezek, Kris Spiteri, Malcolm Galea, Abigail Guan & Brendan Cull, and starring Russell Wilcox, Liam Doyle, Natalie Douglas, Sophie Isaacs and Dean John Wilson.
But I’m a Cheerleader: The Musical – 18, 19 & 20 February
Written by Bill Augustin (book & lyrics) and Andrew Abrams (music), and starring Bronté Barbé, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Jamie Muscato, Matt Henry, Ben Forster, Stephen Hogan and Luke Bayer.
Bloody Bloody Jessica Fletcher – 18, 19 & 20 February
Written by Kevin Zak, Josh Lamon & Phillip Taratula (book) and Keith Varney (music & lyrics – Lamon provides additional music & lyrics), and starring Harriet Thorpe, Verity Rushworth, Connor Byrne, Jemma Alexander, Russell Walker and Steven Serlin.
The Astonishing Return of… The Protagonists – 21, 22 & 23 February
Written by Kevin Del Aguila (book & lyrics) and Michael Shaieb (music), and starring Christina Bennington, Rob Fowler, Leo Ihenacho, Oliver Ormson and the voice of Nathan Amzi.
Killer Queen – 21, 22 & 23 February
Written by Tasha Taylor Johnson & Jack McManus (music & lyrics) and Jonny Wright (book, music & lyrics), and starring Izuka Hoyle, Christina Bennington and Leo Ihenacho.
Tickets for the Taster Menu shows can be purchased for £12.50 each, or two for £20 – if you want to see all eight, you can book them for £76.
“It requires you to have a completely open mind,” explains Taylor-Mills. “No one knows what’s going to make a good new musical – and anyone that does is probably lying!” So head down to The Other Palace and see for yourself – you never know what you might discover…
MT Fest UK runs from 11-23 February 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.