Friday, February 28, 2014

A Magical Musical

English-language version:

Kurt Gänzl has found


I’m Kurt Gänzl. For many years, I worked in London’s West End as an agent and a casting director on shows such as Barnum, 42nd Street, Chess, Singin’ in the Rain.  But one of my other functions was to read musicals. Musicals which were sent in to the office, in the hope that my employer, the great Harold Fielding, would produce them.
For more than ten years I read. More than ten years I went to see tryouts of hopeful shows, all round England and as far afield as San Diego, USA, and in those ten years how many good, unproduced shows and sketchily staged shows did I find?  None. When I retired, in 1989, the last submitted show the office had accepted was a little piece called Jesus Christ Superstar.

I retired to write books, in the South of France, and my theatre-going shrank. People still sent me shows, libretto and scores (they still do!) but it was the same thing. Nothing.

In recent years, I have made my main summer home in Berlin. There, of course, my concert- and theatre-going took on a new lease of life. Once again, I was mixing with theatrical people, once again I was reviewing performances and, too late, discovering that there was and is real talent in today’s world of writing musicals.

I met Paul Graham Brown (remember that name) by chance. He was attending a meeting about the possibility of composing a score for a musical based on Deep Throat, at singing distance from my flat. I chanced by, joined the party and … four hours later we two drew breath. A fascinating fellow! The next day, he descended on the Nollendorfstrasse bearing scripts and CDs of produced and unproduced shows, and I put on my reading hat …

I knew within half an hour that I’d found it. That thing I’d looked for in England all those years. A musical with everything … Sitting alone in my flat, opposite the house where Christopher Isherwood wrote I Am A Camera (Cabaret), I was in tears, as the show, Fairystories, reached its beautiful denouement.  Why was this show not being produced? Yes, it had won prizes, yes it had been work-shopped in America … but they did Hello, Dolly instead. Oh, why wasn’t I still in the business.

Things have moved on since then. Paul Graham Brown (who is actually an exported Englishman) has become recognised as one of the outstanding writers of musicals in Germany and Europe. This year, he will have five different works in production, including the musical of Superheroes, the Anthony McCarten hit book and film, and the umpteenth restaging of his hilarious King Kong … with a cast of three.
But Fairystories is coming to New Zealand.

I talked about it, played it to folks, invited “PGB” to Christchurch, to speak to the students at NASDA … and his music started to go the rounds, to get heard and known. And one day my facebook tinkled: Messrs Marshall and McRae, of NASDA and the Court Theatre, would like to know if they could get the rights to do Fairystories. Yessssss!

And so, on 23rd March, Christchurch will get the chance to hear PGB’s magical musical, in a concert performance, and with a stunning cast headed by New Zealand’s show diva, Ali Harper, and former San Francisco Jean Valjean, Ravil Atlas.

A week later I head back to Berlin, leaving New Zealand with my magical musical … while I go, of course, looking for more. Once a talent scout, always a talent scout!

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