People go to university for many reasons. Some to get an education, some to escape from their town and/or family, and some to just expand their horizons. Whatever the reason, going to university is a life changing experience for everyone. There is so much that happens in a university that it is really time for a new musical about life for a new student. Luckily, writer Adam Wollerton, has taken up the challenge and his new show LoveStuck opens at the Cockpit Theatre in July. Recently I managed to catch up with Adam and find out more about the show
Terry: So, Adam, tell me a little bit about LoveStuck
Adam: LoveStuck is a new musical written by myself, with lyrics by PJ Neilsen and music by PJ Nielsen and Jake Few. It’s a musical truly about finding your LoveStuck – that one thing you can’t live without, however big or small this might be. Everyone has a LoveStuck, something you are fixed on achieving, becoming, or owning in life that would make you ultimately happy. For our characters that ranges from simply finding themselves and being true to who that is; being in love with online gaming; or turning to darker topics such as addiction or forbidden love.
Terry: How did it come about?
Adam: PJ and I are close friends in everyday life, and we’d come together to work on another production at Charing Cross Theatre as the Director (myself) and Stage Manager (PJ). It was in the green room one day whilst pre-show preparations were being done that PJ and I got chatting about a script I’d written called ‘LoveStuck’. At that point, I had ‘had-a-good-go’ at writing some lyrics into the script at points I felt a song would really tell the story better than dialogue. It was some of these lyrics PJ had read (and he would later read the whole script) along with asking a little about the characters and then turned up the next day with his acoustic guitar and said ‘Listen…’. And he played a song which would come to be ‘How To Say’ in LoveStuck. And from then, we knew we had to make the show a reality.
Terry: The first few times we spoke I had real trouble with the name of the show, how did you hit on the title LoveStuck?
Adam: LoveStuck had always been the title for the show, even when I started it as a novel. The most common misspelling is ‘Lovestruck’ which is an entirely different show, but to me, that always said something that happens suddenly and is over – like you’re hit by an urge to do something or fall in love with someone/something, and then it moves beyond that. I wanted a word that captured that desire in people to achieve that ultimate goal you have, however big or small. Something that wouldn’t change; a fixed point/thing/goal. And so, it started as Love Stuck and quickly developed into being a ‘thing’, a noun, a LoveStuck.
Terry: How did the writing process begin?
Adam: LoveStuck started as a personal writing project. Until LoveStuck, I had written mostly fantasy novels/short stories and focused on directing other productions. A writer friend turned to me and said, write about what you know – as I had been saying I missed writing about real people and wasn’t sure where to start a story about ‘real life’. So, I did what most writers do and bought a new notepad to try and inspire me to write, and I wrote. Initially, I wrote a few chapters of the novel and then started to realise that these characters needed a voice, and dialogue just wasn’t achieving alone what certain points of the story needed. And so, I started again and wrote it as a musical. Initially, it took a lot of me making myself make time for writing. I dedicated time every week to writing a little bit more of the show. Some days I could write for ages, and others I would sit and stare, waiting for inspiration to hit. I was always conscious that I had to know what I was writing, and what for. But at the same time, I wanted to write as it was fun, for me. As I created these characters, they became real and had their own personalities and way about the world. It became very fun to write their stories. After the whole business of editing, creating melodies and indeed the whole sound for LoveStuck, and ensuring this blended seamlessly with the book, it became even more difficult. It took about 2 years to write, and then another year or so of editing and music up until the stage we are at now.
Terry: So the show went from novel to musical. That’s quite a metamorphosis
Adam: It was as I tried to write the LoveStuck story as a novel when I felt that lyrics and music would really help these characters say what they wanted to. As I wrote the show, as a musical, so many staging ideas, images, visuals, and concepts for the show on stage also started to develop and so that’s when it was confirmed this should be a stage musical. As this happened early on, I initially would write dialogue until I hit a point where I felt a song would benefit the story advancement and character.
Terry: Tell me a bit more about the writing process once PJ and Jake were involved with you
Adam: To be honest, I wasn’t ever sure if this would become anything at all when I first wrote it. It wasn’t until PJ played his guitar and sang words back at me that I’d written that we realised we had something that could become a production on stage. The script was already written when PJ and I teamed up on the project, but it has definitely been amended since then and we removed all the lyrics and assessed whether it could be said in dialogue or if we agreed that’s where a song would come and what felt right for the story and character. PJ then discussed with me at length about what each song was achieving, anything I as a writer wanted to ensure was covered for character/story purposes, and then wrote new lyrics and demo tracks on the guitar. Jake joined the process about a year on from this point after PJ had created guitar demos for LoveStuck and assisted with arranging the songs ready to introduce keys, drums, bass, etc to form the fuller LoveStuck sound.
Terry: For any aspiring writer/producer reading this, how easy was it to get LoveStuck from page to stage?
Adam: I’m afraid to say, not so easy! Ha! It takes a lot of dedication, focus and being able to battle away the temptation of procrastination – and the ability to carry on when you’re hit with ‘no’s and push backs. When we met the team at The Cockpit Theatre, we were further inspired, and this had always been a venue I had wanted to put a show on at – and as it’s become the first home for LoveStuck, it will always be a special place for us and the production.
Terry: I suppose the most obvious question to ask is if the lead character ‘Charlie’ is autobiographical or based on anyone?
Adam: Leading from the ‘write about what you know’ comment my friend had made when I was looking to start the writing endeavour, I initially took my new notepad and started listing things I had experience in. In fact, another writing project I hope to return to one day was one of the first things I outlined that I thought would feature Charlie but that soon adopted a new lead character. I never intended to write about personal experiences I had had, but after speaking with my friends, I knew that there were things that had happened that could create interesting characters. I created a profile for each of these characters then decided where these characters could/would meet. Soon, Charlie, Jake and Lily were students at a University in London, at that point in their life where they’re gaining their independence and really finding their own feet in the world. So, personal experiences of myself and people I know blended with fiction to create the LoveStuck character line up and storyline.
Terry: Which brings us nicely onto the cast, tell me a little about them.
Adam: We decided to post on twitter and online about casting the new musical, not really aware how many people might be interested in our little story. However, we were soon inundated with emails, headshots and CVs – almost 300 overall – which we had to narrow down to around 60 applicants across two days of auditions. Now we have an amazing cast who are really lovely to work with and dedicated to creating these characters on stage for the first time.
We are currently in the midst of vocal and script rehearsals and it’s been so very, very exciting hearing these people putting real voices to the characters for the first time. The cast are amazing and talk about their characters as if they are their alter-ego’s in real life, often messaging us to ask about their character, or tell us they’ve seen something which suits them, or how they would react to certain things in everyday life. Very funny, and exciting as a writer (I know PJ feels the same) to see them caring about these characters as much as we do. They have such a vast array of experience between them, all I would say is keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter, and our Instagram account for sneak peaks at these amazing people in action.
Terry: How did you find managing the three roles as Writer/Director and Co-producer?
Adam: It wasn’t always intended to be that way actually. I am lucky that I’m surrounded by some incredible people who have made all of this happen. The writing role never really ends but a good chunk of that work was completed before we started putting the show on as a production. Producing was a role that PJ and I both undertook and still do to date, each taking the brunt of the work as the other requires. So I’m lucky that I can rely on PJ, along with our great company manager, Stevi Magikk, to allow me to focus more on directing when it comes to those times. Of course, there are times when they overlap, but between PJ, Stevi, and I, we are all very organised and plan our time out well – and usually quite far out in future! So this allows us all to dedicate time to focusing on each individual role we all have. As we’ve moved into rehearsals, my focus has been more on directing and allowing myself to work with actors to discover moments within the script to create great theatre – and if it comes down to a question about the writing, then I’m already there to discuss with them and see how we might need to tweak to get it perfect for stage. The writing role will never really end, there will always be thoughts, questions, and ideas that challenge the writing and circumstances where perhaps additions or edits need to be made – as with any creative genre, and I know PJ and Jake are same with the music. We wrote the script, music and lyrics with ideas in mind, but now we have an actual cast and real people that will no doubt make an impact on those things and influence our writing and stylistic choices.
Terry: Were there any times when for example, your three roles conflicted with each other?
Adam: The show has been in development for almost 3-4 years in total now. PJ and I were adamant that we wouldn’t rush to get LoveStuck on stage. It would happen at the pace we wanted to ensure we were telling the story I’d originally imagined with characters that sounded and acted as intended. The whole creative process takes a lot longer than people probably imagine and when we are all working day jobs too, it leaves us our evenings and days off to dedicate to LoveStuck. With that in mind, we were keen that LoveStuck had all the attention it needed to become something we were confident and believed in before we moved forward as this is what ultimately keeps us going when things get tricky during the production stages of making the show a reality.
Terry: Would an old fogey like me who didn’t manage to get to university, have any problems ‘getting’ LoveStuck?
Adam: Definitely! Once the actors had read the script, I was keen to ask them what they had thought and one of the replies that stuck out for me was that they felt the situations and characters were adaptable to any situation or sexuality. The latter is more clear once you understand the storyline of the show, but the principal is simple – everyone has something that would make them ultimately happy and sit there with a smile on their face. This doesn’t have to be winning the lottery or living in an exotic country, remember for Jake in LoveStuck, it is simply being in the online world of DragonWatch, his beloved MMORPG. Everyone has a safe, happy place which makes them relax. Or a favourite hobby. A LoveStuck that makes them happy. We are presenting this in the form of three main characters who meet at University, but the story, relationships, and struggle in LoveStuck are relatable for anyone.
Terry: And what’s the future for the show? And for you?
Adam: We have been asked this a few times! At the moment, myself, PJ and the whole team are dedicated to launching LoveStuck successfully and just enjoying the process. We care a lot about our production, the story, and our lovely cast. We hope LoveStuck will have a great future, but for now, our whole focus is on 25th-30th July at The Cockpit Theatre. We want to create the show we’ve always imagined for LoveStuck and its characters and hope we will have some brilliant audiences to enjoy what we have managed to create in the space.
Terry: So to finish, if I was to ask you to give me an elevator pitch for LoveStuck (no longer than 20 seconds) what would you say to get me to go?
Adam: LoveStuck is a new, exciting British musical that really captures what it’s like to strive for your ultimate desire. With an original story and musical score, meet Charlie as he enters life at University. Stuck in love with finding comfort in himself, he meets the rebellious Lily and nerdy Jake and forms a wonderful friendship. Follow the trio as they experience the ups and downs of university life involving sexuality, drugs and video games.
For that one thing you love so much that you can’t live without is a LoveStuck… What’s yours?
Adam, thank you for the interview. As Adam said, you can see LoveStuck at the Cockpit Theatre between the 25th and 30th July.
You can get more details about the show by following their Twitter (@LoveStuckLDN), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LoveStuckMusical/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/lovestuckldn/) and tickets can be booked via the Cockpit website – http://thecockpit.org.uk/