Royal & Derngate Northampton has announced that it will premiere a season of original musical theatre as part of its upcoming Made in Northampton 2021 season.
As the culmination of a three-year project which has seen Royal & Derngate, Northampton lead a national consortium of partners to support 150 artists in nurturing the creation of new musical theatre, the venue will premiere three original musicals onstage and one online.
Improvised theatre company Improbable return to their roots with An Improbable Musical which takes to the Derngate stage in March. April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers’ Gin Craze! then follows in the Royal auditorium in June and Jonny Wright and Tim Gilvin’s Scot Free will be presented in concert performances in the autumn. Meanwhile, the venue is supporting the release of digital musical On Hostile Ground by Juliet Gilkes Romero, Michael Henry, Darren Clark and Charlotte Westenra.
With the support of Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence fund, Royal & Derngate has been leading a consortium including China Plate, Improbable, Mercury Musical Development, Musical Theatre Network, Perfect Pitch and Scottish Opera, which has been working to address the barriers that prevent the creation of new, and original, musical theatre specifically developed for mid-scale regional touring.
Royal & Derngate artistic director James Dacre explains: “Over five years up to 2017 Royal & Derngate welcomed an audience of more than 200,000 to 50 visiting musicals. Only one of them was a new work. Almost all of these 50 shows had played in our larger Derngate auditorium with little midscale musical theatre available to play in our Royal auditorium. So we set out to change this. Since then, we have collaborated with six consortium partners and over a hundred inspiring artists to champion new musical theatre voices. Together we will have premiered at least six entirely original musicals by 2021.
“Having already staged Fox-Tot! and The Season, and streamed our digital musical #ZoologicalSociety to over 130,000, today we can announce that in 2021 we will premiere four completely original musicals, showcasing some of the best new talent in British musical theatre.
“At the end of such a devastating year for our sector, I’m thrilled that as our theatre begins to emerge from the pandemic, we’ll do so alongside this inspiring range of artists who have reminded us of the importance of remaining ambitious, relevant and determined to create original work.”
An Improbable Musical listens and responds to the people gathered for each performance, improvising, from scratch, a new musical created each night. Improbable are maestros of improvised theatre, who for three decades have created make-it-up-as-you-go-along shows that have captivated audiences across the world from Broadway to the National Theatre.
Directed by co-artistic director of Improbable Lee Simpson (The Paper Man, Lifegame) with music devised and directed by Yshani Perinpanayagam (Emilia, Showstopper!), An Improbable Musical is a Royal & Derngate Northampton and Improbable co-production, which premieres in Northampton from 19 March to 27 March.
With book and lyrics by April de Angelis (My Brilliant Friend, The Village) and music and lyrics by Lucy Rivers (The Bloody Ballad, Father Christmas) Gin Craze! is a booze-soaked love ballad from the women of Gin Lane.
Two lovers, each with hidden secrets, struggle to prosper as gin hawkers. At a time in the 18th century when the average Briton drank 1.5 litres of gin every day, women were being locked up in cells to sober up and disorder was breaking out on every street corner, panic spreads among the upper classes who look to the magistrates, the Church and even their tipsy Queen to restore sobriety. This raucous satire takes audiences on a journey through the joyous excesses of Hogarth’s Britain.
Gin Craze! is directed by Michael Oakley (Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe, The Life and Times of Fanny Hill). This Royal & Derngate, Northampton and China Plate co-production, in partnership with English Touring Theatre, the show takes to the Royal stage in Northampton from 19 June to 3 July.
Inspired by an extraordinary true story, Scot Free will be premiered in concert performances next autumn. With book and lyrics by Jonny Wright (Up North) and music and lyrics by Tim Gilvin (Unfortunate, Stay Awake Jake), the production is directed by Tinuke Craig (The Color Purple, Vassa) and has been developed by Royal & Derngate, Northampton and Perfect Pitch.
Unable to catch a break in the exclusive world of Hip Hop, three friends from Aberdeen come up with a brazen scheme to make it in the music industry. Astonishingly it pays off, scoring them a lucrative record deal and carving them a path to the high life. But when their elaborate deception begins to wear them down, they discover the perils of living a lie…
Royal & Derngate is also supporting the development of a new musical called On Hostile Ground, which will initially be released as a series of 14 music videos in the spring of 2021. Inspired by the stories of the people affected by the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, the musical is by Darren Clark (lyrics), Juliet Gilkes Romero (book) and Michael Henry (music and orchestrations) and is co-created and directed by Charlotte Westenra. On Hostile Ground emerged from the Musical Theatre Dark Room development residency held at Royal & Derngate in 2019 in partnership with China Plate, Mercury Musical Developments and Musical Theatre Network.