Sam Hiller | Interview
An A-Z of Musical Theatre is the creation of Sam Hiller (resident director Phantom of the Opera), his wife Naomi Cobby (Phantom of the Opera) and West End Musical Director, Stevie Higgins. I caught up with Sam to ask him all about the show.
Tell me about ‘An A-Z of Musical Theatre’.
It is made up of eleven performers who are currently performing or have performed in West End shows such as Les Miserablés, Phantom, Cats and Miss Saigon together with a West End musical director Stevie Higgins.
It is a look through the crazy side of Musical Theatre. We take a light hearted look at the more eccentric side to our business.
The show starts in a rehearsal room where we are all rehearsing for a show. However the rehearsal isn’t going too well and therefore the director feels that he needs to start at the beginning and so the cast, together with the audience, go on a journey and learn about musical theatre.
It is a journey through the alphabet (not necessarily every letter or we’d be there all night), for example ‘D’ is for when an actor ‘Dries’, ‘F’ is for the worst ‘First’ night in history. Over the evening we cover a wide spectrum of composers from Bernstein to Cole Porter and a variety of shows, old favourites but also current shows like Wicked, Les Miserablés and Miss Saigon.
So there is something for everybody?
Yes there is, this is our first venture into a professional set up. It’s exciting we are performing soon at the Hawth, Crawley and also at the Chequer Mead, East Grinstead.
How did ‘An A-Z of Musical Theatre’ start?
About 15 years ago I was asked to do a concert for a charity near where I was living in the new Forest and I devised the concert ‘An A-Z of Musical Theatre’ since then we have performed it about four times a year for the past 15 years for various charitable organisations.
A producer recently came to see it and asked me whether I was interested in developing it further and that’s where we are at the moment.
I saw one of your Charity concerts at St. John’s Church in Dormansland. That was a concert rather than a play.
Yes it has changed, I went away and thought how do we do this? We could have kept it the same and I just narrated it but it was better to try and incorporate the group as an ensemble. Some of the longer passages of dialogue have been given to others in the group so hopefully by the end of the evening the audience will have a relationship with each performer and get to know their character a little. It’s like watching a fun rehearsal, but then at the end there is a twist where we perform a certain very well known musical theatre number full out and hopefully raise the roof.
It is now much more of an ensemble piece than a concert and we also now have radio mikes so we have a blank canvas with what we want to do.
I know that you are local, are all the other performers too?
I devised the piece together with my wife, Naomi Cobby and the musical director Stevie Higgins who both have local connections. Stevie, I think, was born in East Grinstead and his parents live in Felcourt. Grace Gardner another West End performer is local as well, the rest are coming over from different parts of the country London, Northamptonshire etc.
Well hopefully they are more ‘inspired’, when they are in long running shows they are performing the same thing eight times a week for a year or two depending on how long you are in the show. So in fact most of our performers are delighted and invigorated to sing different material. So yes, exhausted but worth it. Plus artistically it is good for them to be doing something different.
Do you still aim to do four shows a year or are you hoping that this will take off?
We would love ‘An A-Z of Musical Theatre’ to take off! The producer would like us to do a tour of the show late spring / early summer of next year. If we can, that’ll be great. Performing on a Sunday is good for us because we can have people who are currently in the West End, which the audience like. We have a big pool of people that we have used over the years but if we tour we may have to audition to get consistency.
But that is the plan to take it on tour, the bigger plan would be lovely if it took off and we had a regular season each year. But that is running before we can walk. Hopefully the first two shows will go well and everyone will like it.
An A-Z of Musical Theatre will be at the Hawth, Crawley on Sunday 5th October 2014
Box Office 01293 553636
and at Chequer Mead, East Grinstead on the Sunday 30th November 2014
Box Office 01342 320000
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