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  • Writer's pictureMya O

Music With Theatre


Music and theatre are my two biggest passions, my main outlet for my creative spirit. So many directors, producers and theatre makers are using music in a more unique and intriguing way. And I love it!


As much as musical theatre has begun to diversify with the use of different genres and more appreciation for the music. Such as; Hamilton - I have not seen Hamilton but I am in love with the soundtrack and the concept of it as a whole. It appeals to a wider audience - not just musical theatre lovers or older middle class people wanting a night out "on the town" - despite only being able to reach a particular group of people as they are the ones that can afford to see it. The jazz, blues and soul influences seen throughout the soundtrack of Tina Turner The Musical and clearly evident in the amazing Dreamgirls The Musical. And the musical Waitress, which is new to the west end, has the musicians on stage so you can be amazed by their talent and fully appreciate them.


I can go on and on about musicals but I want to talk about Theatre with music. The use of sound and Music within plays can have such a huge impact on the emotion and delivery of a performance. I recently went to see an amazing production of Prelude - a fringe performance based on the life of Sergei Rachmaninoff. I fear my love for this production is clouded by music nerd-iness but it was honestly breathtaking.


The staging and props were simplistic yet powerful. The opening set was just a few chairs and a grand piano; we had two keyboard/synth players at the side (one of which was the conductor). This was re-positioned throughout but the items remained the same through the play.


A clever addition on the directors' part were the lilacs scattered across the piano and stage floor; being an important theme within the play. It lead well into the action and gave the scene an underlying pure and serene atmosphere. I was very intrigued by many of the directors' choices and attention to detail and I'd love to see more from Alex Sutton.


The set also included a light installation, the light illusion created from the parallelogram/trapezium shape created a bigger space. The striking light sequence was extravagant and powerful yet blinding, it opened up the space and empowered the movement on stage. In this scene, Sergei was on stage conducting one of his most famous and intense movements of his prelude. Although the actors' movement was on a smaller scale to the music which meant it lacked intensity,the hypnotic lighting and extraordinary music by the amazing Rachmaninoff took the attention away from the actor himself, so huge props to lighting designer Christopher Nairne and musical director Jordan Li-Smith.


Whilst I've segued onto the music, we need to appreciate the amazing soundscapes created by the keyboard/synth players at the side. The sound design and manipulation used was so powerful and it really added to the gravity of the music itself. I am in awe of Andre Johnson's work, it was so transportable, it took me to the setting without me seeing it. The amazing thing about Rachmaninoff s work is that it is so intense and emotional - it was at the epitome of the grandeur era. On its own, it is amazing and wonderful but used within this piece of theatre was something so magical.


One thing that really made the performance was the male actor, Keith Ramsay. Ramsay was so intense and convincing, it was breathtakingly beautiful to see him be so present in the role. When an actor can look and sound amazing, that's great but when you can really see it in his eyes, that is phenomenal. 'The eyes are the window to the soul' and to act with soul is something you can't teach, it's passion from within. And Keith Ramsay did.


Overall the piece lacked physical movement, which I believe was a mistake. From recent work with movement directors I have come to understand the power and authority movement holds within a scene. I felt that so much else could have been said through movement instead of words to express that torment, pain and frustration of Rachmaninoff.


This amazing dreamlike world was so beautiful to be apart of, a theatrical insight into Rachmaninoff's mind during a struggling time in his life. A heart-wrenching piece of musical fantasia that perfectly shows the strength and beauty music can bring to a performance.


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