Wild Wild Fringe: Musicals and Success
Matt Leventhall of Paulden Hall Productions Ltd has a lot to thank the Edinburgh Fringe for. After last year’s Fresher: The Musical was such a success, winning the MTM Best New Musical award, his company's new show Wild West End, which he produces and co-wrote the book for, is gearing up to achieve similar must-see status at this year’s festival. “It’s not so much the success of Fresher that directly inspired this show,” says Leventhall, “but simply living and doing nothing but musical theatre. After Fresher we were doing some musical theatre cabaret in London’s West End and began to write about our experiences with the industry there.”
A satirical look at the musical theatre world and the process of creating a musical, Wild West End takes a struggling writer through a parodied land of musical theatre greats - Andrew Lloyd Webber is a character, I’m told - as he discovers that musical theatre is not all it appears to be. Audiences should expect “to laugh - to belly laugh hopefully, to hear great musical theatre songs they know and love, re-written and re-arranged. Each individual number parodies the show it hails from, as well as the industry itself and common attitudes towards musical theatre.” The first step was a rewrite of Phantom of the Opera’s much loved The Music of the Night. From the perspective of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the newly-titled The Music That I Write laments the fact he hasn’t had a real hit since the 1990s.
As far as the decision to go down the parody route, the company wanted to move away from the specific student target audience of a show like Fresher and create something that could appeal to anyone, regardless of their previous musical theatre involvement. However, the show is still very much involves students, with the four cast members coming from Musicality, The University of Nottingham’s musical theatre society. Offering students the chance at a four week run in a new production is one of the things Leventhall says is great about the fringe. It can kickstart a career, as it once did for him. Now on his 8th fringe, he says: “It’s an amazing environment for new material because audiences come wanting to see new things. People will walk into your show with an open mind.” It is also a fantastic testing ground because, with so much going on, “reviewers and audience members are willing to rip you to shreds” if they’re unhappy with the show, making it a much more honest environment than he believes London’s West End sometimes can be.
One thing that’s particularly special about this show is that everything about it is designed especially for the Fringe. The music is arranged for a small band and the cast of 4 take on 13 roles between themselves. Set to be performed in the Pleasance Dome, the same location as least year, the entire set is designed specifically for that space. Everything about the show is geared towards pleasing fringe audiences and optimising everything loved about the festival to add to the show’s success and the audience enjoyment.