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BWW Interview: Greg Barnett Talks MONDAY NIGHT AT THE APOLLO at the Apollo Theatre

Greg Barnett is producing and hosting the upcoming Monday Night at The Apollo series

BWW Interview: Greg Barnett Talks MONDAY NIGHT AT THE APOLLO at the Apollo Theatre
Greg Barnett

Greg Barnett is going from performing on the stage to producing (and hosting) his own show at the Apollo Theatre next year.

His brand-new concert series will take place in front of a socially distanced audience as well as on a livestream for audiences at home. Monday Night at The Apollo will see West End performers take to the stage and help raise money for Acting for Others.

The first show will place on 11 January 2021, and will feature Rosalie Craig, Arthur Darvill, Hadley Fraser, Lucie Jones and Cedric Neal.

Barnett chats to us about producing in a pandemic, the rise of online theatre and why "From Now On" is such an anthem for modern times.

What can audiences expect from Monday Night at The Apollo?

It's going to be a really intimate night of music with big West End stars. The artists are going to pick their favourite music that they love to sing from across all genres; so not necessarily just musicals, it can be any music that they absolutely love.

We're going to have an intimate four-piece band. After the artist has performed, we'll have a little chat about why they picked that song, their theatrical experiences and why theatre is so important to them.

Fundamentally, it's going to be a really nice, intimate and classy night of music.

You're both hosting and producing the show - what led you to be involved in this project?

We set up Wild Mountain Productions earlier this year to put on socio-economic and politically driven theatre. Obviously with the lockdown and the pandemic, we realised a few months back that theatre was now at the epicentre of socio-economic things; it's right in the middle with a lot of freelancers struggling across our industry and beyond. So, we came to the idea of putting on a gig with incredible artists that we could use to help raise money for freelancers and for the charity Acting For Others.

Because I'm a performer myself and I've been working in theatre for 20 years, it felt natural for me to host it. Plus, I'll be able to have a really nice chat with each of the artists as I know quite a lot about them and also how 2020 has been for them. We want to celebrate the good stuff of theatre, not just how this year has been though.

What's been the challenges of producing in a pandemic?

It's the craziest time to start a new theatre company, but it felt like absolutely the right thing to do. This year has fuelled a lot of creative thinking and how we are going to proceed once the waters have settled.

It has been challenging, especially when it comes to lockdown. We're never quite sure when we're going back in, but luckily, everyone in the industry is really clubbing together.

Nimax have just been absolute leaders, leading the way really and being pretty inspirational. Nica Burns and Lawrence Miller have been really empowering with how passionate they are about getting theatre back up and running. I think in our own little way, that's what we're hoping to do as well.

We want to get people comfortable with coming back to the theatre and really celebrate - as much for the audience as for us - the fact that we're all in it together. We all love the theatre and want to be back in our venues with fans and really move forward into 2021 in a positive way.

As you've previously mentioned, the artists will be singing songs that are personal to them - which songs would you select for your setlist?

I've had a few anthems that have got me through lockdown for sure.

The song that has been sticking with me so much recently is "From Now On" from The Greatest Showman. It finishes with "And we will come back home, home, again!", and it just feels like theatre, as that's where we're heading. I would absolutely bash that out if I sang it.

Whenever I listen to it, it just makes me think of a group of incredible performers on stage who are connecting with the audience. We will come back, and I think it's important to remember that; I know we've not always felt like that this year, but it absolutely will.

10% of all ticket sales will be donated to Acting for Others, and the show itself has been conceived to support the theatre industry. What support would you love the industry to have and how can audiences help?

The industry has had a really generous grant from the government that has absolutely kept so many of the institutions able to continue. It's certainly a sticking plaster, but not necessarily an end game for everybody; it's kept a lot of places open though.

It's the freelancers that need support right now, not just in our industry but across the board. It's a lonely place out there when your industry is not up and running, and I think that's where the focus lies. We need to make sure we are all there for each other.

So audiences can support us by just getting back to the theatre as soon as they can and helping us in any way. So many theatre fans are missing out on what keeps them going at the moment.

The show will offer both in-house and live-streamed tickets. As a result of COVID-19, there's been a resurgence in online streaming - do you think this will continue post-pandemic?

I'm not sure. I think online streaming is a really wonderful way to get theatre out to more people. I think especially for those people who can't get to the theatre when it reopens, or who may struggle over the next year due to potential restrictions.

Some people won't get back to the theatre as quickly as they'd like, so I think live streaming is a brilliant way to get into people's homes and keep it alive. I don't know whether it will last forever, but I have no qualms with it doing so.

Our show is going to be online for only 24 hours afterwards, so we'll still have a live element, and I'd like that to stay. It'll be interesting to see when houses reopen completely whether live streaming will continue, but I don't see why not. I think it's a really wonderful way forward.

Keeping it live seems to be a thought for a lot of theatre-makers. Alex James Ellison, who's currently doing an online revival of Fiver, recently told us that they're streaming Fiver live because they want to keep their live element too.

It's good to hear other people are saying it as well, because that certainly feels the right way to do it. I think there's something special about knowing that it was a one-off and that you're lucky to have witnessed it and you're in a special group.

You're very heavily involved in the theatre. What have you missed the most about it?

I think the list is too long! There is something so special about every stage of putting on a show; from the moment you get the job, to the first day of rehearsals and those first day nerves, and then the read through where you create this new family.

I've really missed sitzprobes! They're the most incredible experience ever, and then you have that anticipation of getting it in front of an audience.

As an audience member, there's nothing better than being in the theatre and witnessing it and becoming one with the artists. As a performer, it's just so special; there are so many different types of audience every night, so every night is different.

Why should people book tickets to Monday Night at The Apollo?

Because it's going to be a real celebration of everything theatre, from our stars to our audience. It's also a nice intimate way to find out more about your favourite stars, and the calibre of the performers we've got as well, it's going to be a really exciting night of music.

Monday Night at The Apollo will take place on the 11 January, 25 January and 8 February 2021, with a different line-up each time. Tickets for both in-house (which will be socially distanced) and for the online stream are on sale now

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