Sunday, 5 June 2011

Practically perfect

I was so happy that Madam Acarti and I managed to get tickets for the last of the series of These are a Few of My Favourite Songs interviews at the Jermyn Street Theatre last night! The evening with Craig Revel Horwood was fab, and last night it was the turn of musical theatre wunderkinds Stiles and Drewe (whose wonderful show Betty Blue Eyes we went to see in March).

The boys, introduced by critic and host Mark Shenton, explained that theirs was to be a musical evening with a difference, for - as possibly one of the unluckiest musical writing duos in the biz - they have written a lot of shows and tunes that the majority of West End theatre-goers may never have seen or heard, and that was what they wanted to showcase.

Unlucky, I say? The duo behind the mega-successful Mary Poppins revival and the darlings of Cameron Mackintosh, unlucky? surely not... However, as they explained the machinations of dealing with capricious theatre impresarios and Hollywood executives, it became clear that it is indeed a rocky road to the top. Their musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Just So stories being a prime example.

Just So is a show that the boys wrote way back in the 1980s when they first met at Exeter College (they have apparently been together for 26 years - awww), and despite support from Mr Mackintosh (and at one stage even an animated movie planned by Stephen Spielberg), there has never been a major theatrical production outside repertory venues such as Newbury's Watermill Theatre in the UK and various small theatres in the US). The cartoon never got made either.

They also (unsuccessfully) submitted songs for several Disney movies, and recently wrote some for the West End production of Ghost - but in a twist of the proverbial knife lost to the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart when the producers told him to go away and re-write his original score "in the style of Stiles and Drewe". Shocking.

Thankfully they have contributed (as individuals as well as a duo) to some far more successful productions, including their classic Honk! (based on the ugly duckling story, it has actually entered the curriculum in several educational establishments for its anti-discrimination message!), Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure, and their work with Dame Edna Everage.

It is of course the aforementioned re-write of Mary Poppins for the musical stage that brought them their biggest accolades so far, and together with singer Caroline Sheen they performed Practically Perfect (the boys played the children's roles):

In their long musical career, George and Anthony have not just produced music for other people. They have also turned their estimable talents to cabaret (rather in the style of Flanders and Swann, about whom Anthony hinted they may be writing a new show). They performed this delightful number for us:

In a brilliant cabaret moment, Mr Stiles shared another of his projects with us - a planned musical adaptation of Dame Julie Andrews' book The Great American Mousical, and sang for us one of the numbers in the role of "Adelaide the Mouse", who sounded suspiciously like Carol Channing - it was hilarious! [No video is available, unfortunately.]

Their newest project is Soho Cinders, which (despite not being about the life of the late David "Sinders" Morley), sounds intriguing. From their website :
Stiles and Drewe are about to embark on that very rare thing, an original musical.

It's called SOHO CINDERS and if you were read that there is a song in it called I'm SO OVER MEN it might give you a slight indication of where this show goes...

Rounding off with some of the background to the newest Cameron Mackintosh collaboration Betty Blue Eyes, and concluding with an explanation of just why in the scheme of things they had to perform their own numbers rather than choose from their pantheon of showbiz idols - Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim et al - as this would have taken far longer than this evening could possibly accommodate, the boys received resounding applause. And that was it for the theatrical memory-lane series. I hope there is another.

All in all, this was another splendid evening with a couple of charming theatrical queens - we loved it!

Stiles and Drewe official website

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