London is a breeding ground for creativity in the world of musical theatre. The stars of the West End stage aside, it is a hotbed for musical talent and there is a multitude of both established and up-and-coming British writers putting their mark on the theatre scene with their compositions. In March of this year, a selection of these writers were brought together by Mercury Musical Developments (MMD) for the composer and lyricist showcase A Song Cycle For Soho. MMD has been dedicated to the support and development of promising composers/lyricists/book writers for the past 20 years, and A Song Cycle For Soho was a project created in collaboration with the more recent supporter of new writing, SimG Productions. Exploring the rich history of Soho, the musical song cycle was an event which ran from 27th February-3rd March 2012 at the Soho Theatre (where else) and featured sixteen works from 24 of this country’s most talented writers, inviting both the emerging names and the well-known ones to be involved; it included the likes of Craig Adams, Richard Thomas, Brunger and Cleary, Christopher Hamilton, Stuart Matthew Price, Dougal Irvine, Susannah Pearse, Tim Sutton, Alexander S. Bermange and Stiles and Drew, among others. Directed by SimG Productions creator and MMD associate Simon Greiff, it featured a book by MMD member Andrew Brinded and musical direction from Sarah Travis, with an impressive line-up of West End names enlisted to perform the songs. The full company comprised of Michael Cantwell (Les Miserables), James Gillan (Wicked), Claire Moore (London Road) and Niamh Perry (Love Never Dies).
A Song Cycle For Soho was branded a beacon of hope for the future of British musical theatre by The Stage, with Anita Butler of British Theatre Guide commenting that, “you don’t have to be a Soho-ite – or even a Londoner – to love it; love it, you will.” More and more platforms for new writing are becoming available as support continues to grow, and a project like this which aims to further the cause is always a positive occurrence. In a move which continues to celebrate British writing, a live recording of all 16 works presented at the event is to be released on Monday 14th May 2012, produced by Simon Greiff (SimG Records) and Neil Marcus (MMD). The CD includes acclaimed songs such as ‘If Nobody Knows Your Name’ (Stuart Matthew Price), ‘The Ballad of the Horseley Brothers’ (Dougal Irvine), ‘Mummy Knows Better’ (Barnaby Race) and ‘Self Respect’ (Christopher Ash and Carl Miller). All proceeds from sales of the CD will go to Musical Mercury Developments to help fund future projects.
In a pre-empt to the official release date, a CD signing will be held at Dress Circle this Saturday (12th May 2012) from 12-1pm.
As much enthusiasm as I have for all area of the theatre industry, the promotion of new writing is something I will always strive to encourage – but never just for the sake of it. The names attached to this project are outstandingly talented individuals who will hopefully inspire the world of musical theatre for years to come. They each have their own special something to offer, and if the industry is to grow in a healthy and positive direction, then their efforts need to be supported; this is just one of the ways in which we can do that.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Friday 11th May 2012