• “Below Stairs” helps raise funds for cancer research

    New Musicals Network would like to warmly recommend the musical, Below Stairs (which will undoubtedly appeal to all aficionados of Downton Abbey!)

    After 14 stage productions and one concert version, the musical is gradually winning fans and audiences, helped by a believable storyline and memorable melodies. Premiered in 2002 in Chesham, the show was written by Trevor Pilling with a score by Alan Lewis, who found composing helped take his mind off a series of three life-threatening cancers (colon, liver and lung). Because of this the writers decided to offer the show free of royalties and instead to ask simply that money be raised for Cancer Research UK: as a result, the last 12 productions have generated more than £7000 for the cause.

    This June will see the 15th production. It is being put on in Old Windsor by the Riverside Players whose first production was exactly ten years ago. Since the, according to director Kay Smith, there has been a steady stream of requests from members of the cast and audience alike for a repeat production as it was enjoyed so much in 2004. In fact, this will be the second time that a society has chosen to repeat the show, as Utopian Operatic Society staged it in 2004 and again in 2007.

    Below Stairs is a story of servants’ lives in a large London home in 1914 at the start of the First World War.

    For further information on the show – including the fact that both the lib and the piano score can be downloaded free of charge from the website – go to www.belowstairsshow.com. Auditions for Riverside’s June production will be held at 8pm on Thursday 3 April 2014 at the Memorial Hall, Old Windsor.

    You can also read a full synopsis HERE, and listen to a sample of the show’s finale HERE.


  • Help Mrs P get recorded!

    A new British musical, The A-Z of Mrs P, to be seen at the Southwark Playhouse in February 2014, is looking for people to help fund its cast recording and has turned to crowdfunding site IndieGoGo in its bid to make the recording a reality.

    In 1936, Phyllis Pearsall makes the life-changing decision to leave her husband in Venice and follow a new path to find her way in London.

    She then receives a telegram from her father, map publisher Alexander Gross….

    And here begins the story of how an eccentric Bohemian artist put down her paints and picked up the drawing board to follow in her beloved and impossible father’s footsteps to map an entire city!

    The A-Z of Mrs P is a brand new musical fable, written by author/playwright Diane Samuels and composer/singer Gwyneth Herbert, based on Phyllis Pearsall’s autobiographies. The show opens in the very same borough in which she was made a celebrated resident, at Southwark Playhouse on 21st February 2014.

    A cast album means that the show will have a life beyond the initial production. This is an original British musical with a unique soundscape, written by an all-female creative team – all these things are too rare in British Musical Theatre! Help us capture this landmark show with a world class company.

    In addition, the producers are hoping to get some money to go towards costumes and special lighting effects to enhance the production.

    For further details of how to help, please go to:


  • Another outing for Bermange’s Wit and Whimsy!

     The Wit and Whimsy of Alexander S. Bermange is returning to the St James Theatre following its sell-out success in July, and features Alexander with special guests Julie Atherton and Cassidy Janson

    “A wonderfully witty comic songwriter and performer” – LBC 97.3

    Alexander S. Bermange has received recognition for his many stage musicals (including, in the last year alone, Thirteen Days at the Arcola Theatre, The Route To Happiness at the Landor Theatre, and The 24 Hour Musicals at the Old Vic) and is known to millions as the resident comic songwriter and performer on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House and the BBC World Service’s Weekend. His funny songs – some topical, others timeless – have not only tickled national and international radio audiences, but have also acquired a formidable following through performances and recordings by the likes of Kit & The Widow, 4 Poofs and a Piano, and dozens of West End stars.

    The Wit and Whimsy of Alexander S. Bermange offers you the opportunity to see this master of the comic song perform some of his best-loved – and premiere some brand new – comedic musical creations, from “tributes” to David Beckham, Prince Harry and Great Britain, to portraits of second-rate singers, tube-travelling trainspotters, and perverted pensioners.

    Alexander will be joined on stage by special guest West End leading ladies Julie Atherton (whose credits include Kate Monster/Lucy in Avenue Q, Sister Mary Robert in Sister Act and Sophie in Mamma Mia!) and Cassidy Janson (whose credits include Kate Monster/Lucy in Avenue Q, Elphaba in Wicked and, currently, Paquette in Candide). The show is directed by Michael Strassen (whose credits include Ruthie Henshall’s one-woman show at the Hippodrome, and Assassins and The Fix at the Union Theatre).

    The Wit and Whimsy of Alexander S. Bermange is being performed on Sunday 2nd February at 7.30pm at the St James Theatre, 12 Palace Street, London SW1E 5JA. The St James Theatre is the first newly built theatre complex in central London for 30 years, boasting two auditoria and a brasserie and lobby bar offering food, wines and cocktails.

    Tickets are available by calling 0844 264 2140 or via the link at the top of www.bermange.co.uk

    NMN would like to wish Alexander every success with this venture.

  • Change to website homepage

    Regular visitors to the NMN website will notice a change to the homepage.

    Previously the site opened up with the “About Us” page showing, but we have decided to change it so that the first thing you see are the most recent news postings. It seemed to us a more logical starting point for visitors to the site.

  • MTWM Conference

    NMN’s Peter Auker reports from the first Musical Theatre West Midlands conference, held at the University of Wolverhampton on 23rd November 2013.

    Although the organisers of this excellent conference are based in the West Midlands (at the University itself), they cast their net wide and the event had more of a national feel to it, which was very welcome, and led to a pleasing diversity of views and inputs from all over the country.

    The conference, efficiently and expertly run by the University’s senior lecturer in musical theatre Sarah Browne, was entitled Making Connections (which, by coincidence, is of course what NMN is all about!), and its real focus was dealing with the questions of a) what do we mean by “new work” in musical theatre, b) how can we facilitate its creation, and c) how can we get it seen by audiences in a cultural/economic environment which is not always as receptive as we’d like it to be to new and unfamiliar work.

    A great attraction of these kind of events is the opportunity not only to hear the experts speaking from the platform (and, in one instance, from New York via Skype), but – almost more crucially – the chance to meet new and interesting people and chat with them over coffee. During the breaks I was fortunate enough to have some great conversations with various poets, playwrights, composers, PhD students and producers, though, curiously, no actors! (I’m sure they will have been there, it’s just that none of them seemed to cross my path during the day.) In my case, it was also very pleasant to speak with several delegates that I have previously corresponded with by email – putting faces to names was a lovely experience, and their kind comments about New Musicals Network encouraged me that we at NMN are doing something worthwhile!

    There were stimulating, entertaining and sometimes controversial sessions featuring Jenifer Toksvig, Andy Barnes, Mel Atkey, Millie Taylor, Caroline Routh and Michael Lovelock.

    The keynote speaker was composer and musical director Georgia Stitt, who appeared direct from New York via Skype, projected onto a large cinema-style screen – an arrangement which worked surprisingly well. Georgia gave an illuminating and fascinating talk about the state of new musicals in America, and it was especially interesting to note that there are more similarities than differences between our two countries in this regard. Despite the USA being the spiritual “home” of the musical as an art form, new work struggles just as much over there to get exposure as it does here, and the challenges are just as great, with a similar division between the “commercial” (i.e. Cameron Mackintosh) theatre and the more ground-breaking, experimental landscape that is the typical territory of the “new musical”.

    Questions were taken from the floor, and there was a satisfying amount of interaction between delegates and Miss Stitt, who patiently engaged with us and led the discussion with great expertise.

    Not surprisingly, definitive answers to the three main questions remained elusive, but at least the occasion allowed much airing of views and experience which was a healthy product of the day. Drawing together these views, the consensus was clearly (and, again, not surprisingly) that the key to ensuring new musical theatre work thrives within what is undoubtedly a difficult and sometimes even hostile environment is to use every available opportunity to get it heard and out there – almost by “hook or by crook”. Being imaginative in terms of venue, drawing on human resources such as the enthusiastic and underused (in this sphere anyway) amateur dramatic movement, presenting work for use in educational establishments (from primary schools up to universities and conservatoires), creating work for non-traditional audiences, thinking outside the box in terms of structuring your musical (e.g. exploring immersive theatre) and simply getting together with a “tribe of friends” (Toksvig’s term) to put on a show anywhere, anyplace, any time – were all ideas that could readily be taken away and first steps taken to put them into practice.

    All-in-all, the conference was an extremely inspiring event that I am glad I made effort to go to. It is to be hoped that, not only will it become a regular event, but that some of the excellent discussions will lead to the bearing of fruit.

  • Merchant and Bloom win Sondheim Society competition

    The Stephen Sondheim Society have announced that Under the Fake Mistletoe by Tarek Merchant and Christmas and You by Charles Bloom are the joint winners in their competition to find a new song for Christmas.

    After carefully considering the 45 entries, the judging panel decided it was impossible to separate the two strongest submissions and so it was felt a joint award would be fairest.

    The songs will receive a performance at A Christmas Evening With The Sondheim Society in the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge on 16th December. The concert, which starts at 7.00pm, will feature West End artists Alice Fearn and Rachael Louise Miller, plus two past winners of the Society’s prestigious Student Performer of the Year Competition, Kris Olsen (winner 2012) and Turlough Convery (winner 2013). Other cast members are still to be announced, and all appear subject to availability.

    All proceeds from the show will be divided between the Society (a registered charity) and another charity (TBA), and tickets cost £15 (£12.50 for Society members). Tickets can be bought from the theatre box office (telephone 08448 733433) or from their website at www.leicestersquaretheatre.com

  • The New Musicals Project at the Leicester Square Theatre

    The New Musical Project is searching for up and coming musical theatre writers who want to develop their work alongside industry professionals and a West End theatre.

    The Project is looking for submissions of new one act musicals, of which The Project will select six to be developed for rehearsed readings, to be staged in early 2014. We will provide professional actors, a director and a musical director for the rehearsed readings. They will then be presented to an audience and industry panel with a Q&A after the performance in order to provide feedback to the writers and creative team. After the six rehearsed readings, The Project will then select a show to take on to production in the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge in Summer 2014.

    For more details of this opportunity, please go to http://www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/new-musical-project

    New Musicals Network is not connected with this project, so please direct any questions to the organisers by clicking on the link above.

  • Media samples pages – mp3 player not supported in Firefox

    It appears that if you use Firefox for your browser you will encounter a problem with playing mp3 demos on the media samples pages. Firefox does not currently support the playing of mp3 files.

    We understand there are some solutions to this difficulty, and we will investigate the best way to re-code the samples to make them accessible to those of you who use Firefox. In the meantime, you are advised to swap to a different browser in order to hear the samples.

  • Media samples

    Users of this site who have mp3 demos, videos, photos, script samples, in fact anything they think might be of interest to other enthusiasts/practitioners can now have their own dedicated “Media Samples” page.

    Because of the recent problem we had with hackers, uploading files to this facility will be tightly controlled (at least for now). This simply means that we would ask you to contact us first (via the Contact Us form) to tell us about your requirements, after which we will provide a dedicated mechanism for you to upload your files. We’re sorry of this sounds a bit clunky, but having been bitten (twice) by the loathsome hacking fraternity we are taking no chances!

    One brave composer, Judit Catan, has set the ball rolling by uploading some mp3 demos of some songs from two of her musicals, Girl With a Torch and Of Angels and Demons. So go ahead and click on “Media Samples” in the menu bar, then click through to Judit’s page to take a listen. Enjoy!

    We look forward to including other composers’ work in the near future.

  • New musical about the Dorset village of Tyneham

    Many people will know about the Dorset village of Tyneham, which was commandeered by the Armed Forces during the second world war with the promise that it would one day be returned to the villagers who gave up their homes. It was never returned, and access to the village is still restricted, although it is possible to visit it at set times.

    Jordan Clarke has written a musical, Tyneham – No Small Sacrifice, which will be performed in Weymouth (a coastal town close to Tyneham itself) at the end of October.

    Please see the show’s website for more details: www.tynehamthemusical.com