BWW Interview: Ross Hunter On The Concept Recording Of Brand New Musical THE CONFESSION ROOM & More
On May 31, SimG Records will release the concept album of the new original British musical, The Confession Room (music and lyrics by Dan Looney and Book by Patrick Wilde, with additional lyrics by Reece Looney & Sam Champness.) The album features 21 tracks including the Stiles & Drewe Song Prize nominated song 'Excalibur93'.
The musical, which is basically a homily to the concept of how people should not bottle up their emotions, concerns a group of people who come to The Confession Room to spill out their most embarrassing confessions and stories in front of a group of total strangers - an atmosphere more liberating than the likely humiliation they may face in getting things off their chests to their friends. The confessions vary from hysterical stories to unbelievable tales, from sexual fantasies to touching moments of grief.
Dan Looney (a musical theatre graduate of the Arts Educational School, who was seen recently playing Sidney in the UK premiere of Darling Of The Day at the Union Theatre) gave birth to The Confession Room at the age of 17 when he and fellow student at Southend College, Sam Champness, wrote a single comedy song together. Dan later developed the show with his brother, Reece and in 2012 a professional workshop was conducted at Arts Ed, directed by Paul Foster and musically directed by Timothy Evans. In March 2013 the show received a reading at the Landor Theatre as part of the theatre's new musical venture in association with Aria Entertainments and Knockhardy Productions, with a new book by acclaimed stage and television playwright, Patrick Wilde (What's Wrong With Angry, This Life, As If, Casualty, EastEnders, Peak Practice, Monarch Of The Glen).
Now the songs from the musical will get a chance to be heard more universally on CD, thanks to SimG Records' producer Simon Greiff, one of the UK's leading champions of new musical theatre writing.
The album features vocals from a cast led by West End stars Anna-Jane Casey (Billy Elliot, Spamalot, Chicago), Dean Chisnall (Shrek, Love Never Dies, Never Forget), Alex Gaumond (Top Hat, We Will Rock You, Legally Blonde) and Ross Hunter (Rock Of Ages, Legally Blonde, We Will Rock You) as well as Matthew Rowland (Taboo, Darling of the Day), Devon Johnson (Taboo, Spring Awakening), Joshua Lovell (Soho Cinders, Joseph), Rebecca-Jayne Davies (Jersey Boys, West Side Story), Stephanie Clift (Mamma Mia), Natalie Bush (Peter Pan, Fresher), Steven Bush and Ben Fenner. Orchestrations are by Florian Cooper and musical supervision by Timothy Evans.
Rock Of Ages leading man, Ross Hunter, who sings the role of Shane on The Confession Room album, took some time out to answer questions for BWW:
What was it about The Confession Room that attracted you to the project?
RH: I just love new musical writing. So many talented writers around and it's great to hear new material and it seemed like a fun musical to be involved with. It workshopped at Arts Educational Schools and I had heard a lot of good things about it so I was glad to be asked.
Can you tell everyone something about your solo number on the album, Plus 70 Women? It's a pretty hilarious number!
I play the part of Shane in the recording. Shane is a confident and very cocky character who seems to like his girls aged 70 and above. It's a lot different to the stuff I have recorded in the past and very characterized so I thoroughly enjoyed singing it. The plus 70 bit isn't something I'm into, though!
You've done a lot of recording for albums that feature new musical theatre writing - songs by Dougal Irvine, Joe Sterling, Chris Passey, Bobby Cronin, Michael Bruce, Tim Prottey-Jones, etc. Do you think it's important for West End artists such as yourself to keep supporting new writing?
It is. I think it's really important to get involved in these projects. I love new writing and I like to get my voice on as many different recordings as possible.
The Confession Room composer, Dan Looney, is an alumni of Arts Ed - just as you are. And the show was work-shopped there and many of the workshop cast are featured on the album. It must be great for you to see that the place where you learned your craft is so heavily involved not only in this project but with lots of other new musical theatre writing too?
RH: Arts Ed is a fantastic place to train, had a brilliant three years there and it is nice to get asked to be part of something like this. It shows great things for the college as you have a student in Dan Looney who is already writing his own musicals. It is one of the best places to train, if not the best in London. A new theatre is being built and they have good links with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber too.
You're currently playing the lead role of Drew in Rock Of Ages at the Garrick - how is that going?
RH: Ah, I'm having sooo much FUN! Its a big old sing and I don't get much of a social life but its all worth it. To be up on stage doing one of London's funniest, raunchiest musicals. Singing 80's rock classics and rocking out with big hair every night, what more can I ask for!!
It must be a different kind of challenge performing all those iconic rock songs every night, compared to premiering new songs on recordings like The Confession Room?
RH: It is a very challenging sing. Through the week I make sure I keep myself fit and healthy and knowing when to pace yourself and when not to during the week is vital. I have regular voice massages to keep me in top shape. Working on 'The Confession Room' is a lot more character driven so a totally different sing to what I do every night.
You've also played Galileo in We Will Rock You and Warner in Legally Blonde - is there any particular role in musical theatre you would love to get a chance to play?
RH: I would love to get involved with Jersey Boys. I have always loved that show. Also I would like Galileo to be my full-time job instead of covering. I had an amazing few years there and to have the role to myself would be great. I love new musicals so who knows what may come up in the future. It would be great to be involved in an original cast and creating a role for myself is also something I would like to do.
Finally, Ross - as The Confession Room is about people laying their souls bare and confessing their innermost secrets - do you think that's something you would ever consider doing for real?
RH: No way! My lips are sealed!!