BWW Interview: The Cast Talk I WISH MY LIFE WERE LIKE A MUSICAL
Alexander Bermange's musical revue I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical returns to Live at Zedel in August. BroadwayWorld spoke to the composer and some of the cast members, Madalena Alberto and Lucas Rush, about the show which reveals the performer life isn't as grand as it might appear...
How did you come up with the idea for I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical?
Alexander: I had written several standalone songs about working in musical theatre, which had already proved popular among performers and audiences.
The point when I decided to build on these foundations and expand them into a full-length piece came when a show of mine was presented on a cruise, and I was struck by the frequency with which passengers would accost our performers and ply them with questions about life in the profession - and were surprised by how different the reality was to the glorified, idealised versions of the industry presented in songs such as "There's No Business Like Show Business".
It occurred to me that a show that comedically, brutally, yet affectionately lifted the lid on these unspoken truths might prove popular among theatre folk and "lay people" alike.
Which characters can we expect to see in this show, and which do you play?
Alexander: The hopeful auditionee, the chorus boys and girls desperate for a star role, the frustrated understudy, the feuding co-stars, the insufferable diva - to name but a few!
Madalena: We don't have character names per se - we are mostly representing actors and telling stories of what they go through during the course of the early stages of their careers. Namely, auditioning, being cast in the ensemble - even when they "make it" to a diva status.
Are there any real-life stories or people you've come across that have particularly inspired certain numbers/your portrayal of that number?
Alexander: Virtually every line of every song is inspired by real-life experiences, which I asked my many performer friends to confide in me about while I was researching the show. I promised them total anonymity in return, so I can't say much more than that!
Madalena: Alexander based a lot of the lyrics on real-life stories he collected along the way. There are quite a few I identify with very closely. Also, in the course of working on the material I can say I inspired some of lyrics - like when I mentioned how difficult it was to kiss someone on stage who was drenching in sweat!
Lucas: I think there are bits of lots of people I know in lots of the numbers.... It's not hard to put yourself in the shoes of any of the characters either. I think we've all experienced most of the things we sing about, but even if we haven't, we definitely know someone who has!
Any favourite lines or numbers from the revue?
Madalena: I have quite a few, but don't want to spoil the gags! There is one line that mentions a very famous Hollywood actor I am hoping people will find it as funny as I do.
Lucas: I love "Only Then Can I Truly Perform". I've gotten better at not sticking to a particular routine, because real life doesn't always allow that! However, I so relate to the idea that if your routine is disturbed then you don't feel 100% ready for the show.
I also tend to develop little OCD type routines during a show (I try not to), and if they don't happen for whatever reason I am convinced that I'm going to have an awful scene or number or show. Which is of course ridiculous.
Alexander: I interweave musical and lyrical quotations from well-known musical theatre songs into many of the numbers where it's appropriate and is likely to contribute to the comedic effect (especially for the aficionados in the audience).
In the title song, there's a verse in which the character reflects on all the bad things that could happen to her if her life were like a musical, and in each line she gives an example from a famous show; melodically, each of these lines is lifted from the most well-known song from the show in question. Many of them are not immediately obvious, but the perceptive fan will certainly be rewarded!
What makes a good comedy song?
Alexander: One that makes you laugh - preferably a lot - and ideally even on repeated listening.
Lucas: Truth. It's funny 'coz it's true.
You're returning to Zedel after a successful run in April. What is it about a cabaret setting that lends itself particularly well to this kind of show?
Madalena: I love performing in intimate spaces, where the audience is very much included in the storytelling. I've performed at Zedel a few times and it's such a perfect and comfortable place to do so.
Alexander: It provides an intimate environment appropriate for a show that's "confessional" in style. The show is very much a "musical revue", so a space like Zedel is optimal: it makes the experience interactive and the audience feel involved.
What has the rehearsal process been like?
Alexander: We are blessed with four of London's leading musical theatre stars, and one of this country's most gifted directors, so rehearsals have proved to be a particularly exciting experience.
Lucas: Great! I always love learning new material. It's like a blank canvas and the options are endless. Exciting.
Madalena: It's been very chilled so far. There's a lot to learn, the songs are deceivingly difficult to learn, but the result will be amazing. The team is so lovely, and it's great to share this time and play with such a great cast!
Alexander, what advice would you give to aspiring musical writers, particularly those wanting to try their hand at comedy?
Alexander: Write as much as possible and seize every opportunity to have your work seen by an audience. It's only then that you can really tell where its strengths lie - even I have little concept of how funny or unfunny something of mine is until it is performed, and I hear if it generates a laugh.
Describe the show in three words or less
Alexander: Fun, funny, and revealing.
Madalena: Musical theatre.
Lucas: True, charming, giggle.
Finally, if your life were a musical, which one would it be?
Alexander: Merrily We Roll Along - not so much because of its content, but because of its structure: the story is told in reverse, so the characters at the beginning are older than they are at the end. It sure would be nice in real life to get the challenges of old age over and done with as early as possible, and to have one's youth, dreams and looks still to look forward to...
Madalena: For me, the best musicals are the ones where people die or there's lots of kids and an evil headmaster involved, so I think I'd prefer to leave the drama on stage.
Lucas: It changes constantly! But at the moment, I think Cabaret. The western world is getting very tense...but I'm still painting my face and giving it jazz hands.
Photo credit: Fane Productions