BWW Interviews: Ashe, Crowe & Malpass On New Musical CRUSH

Belgrade Theatre and Big Broad Productions present Crush, the brand new musical comedy, which will premiere at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry later this year. Crush is a coming-of-age romp that celebrates schoolgirl friendships and fighting for what you believe in. BWW:UK caught up with Rosemary Ashe, Sara Crowe and Kirsty Malpass prior to rehearsals to chat about the forthcoming production.

What is Crush about?

KM: It's a struggle against tyranny, a "daring do, save our school and preserve our way of life" crusade. On the surface it's a caper, but on a deeper level it's about fighting for what you believe in, being true to yourself, and surrounding yourself with others who believe in you too.

CS: It's about growing up, being true to yourself, never giving up hope, doing what you do well, being who you are well, the complexity of individuality, the pain of love...

Describe your character in the show.

SC: Miss Austin is an innocent, a free spirit, but in a rather reserved way. She is the Deputy Headmistress, she loves the girls and is a bit of an eternal girl herself. Her life has been devoted to all things to do with the school. She still gets excited about hockey and she has never fallen out of love with love or become cynical. She thrives on school, or she did, until Miss Bleacher came along. She's a good egg and has never given up on her dreams.

RA: I play Miss Bleacher, the new, tyrannical headmistress of the school, who believes strongly in Victorian disciplines, but is hiding a secret.

KM: I play Miss Givings, the glamorous games mistress with a secret up her sleeve. She's so different to the character in the last production I was in. I played Mrs Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a warm but downtrodden mother with nothing to give but huge amounts of love. It was controlled and tender. Miss Givings is fun and strong and brash, with drive and nerve and her song is about as far away from the lullaby Mrs Bucket sings as you can get! It's always nice to get variety in the roles you choose.

What drew you to the project?

SC: I loved Maureen Chadwick's script, Kath Gotts' music is beautiful and I've always been an admirer of Anna Linstrum. They make a supersonic team.

RA: I think it was the opportunity to create a role in a brand new musical: particularly as it's a great part for an older woman, and the script is very funny and the music well-crafted and tuneful with witty lyrics.

KM: The character was definitely a great draw but also the team that are behind the project are fantastic, and that plays into the decision making. I've worked with the director, Anna Linstrum, before, and I love the way she runs a rehearsal room and knowing the quality of the work they have put out previously is key to assuring you that the production will be approached in the same way. It's an all-female team too, which is so rare in theatre, and to be a part of that is something very special.

All being proficient theatre performers, do you relish originating a role rather than taking over from one?

SC: I think, even when you take over a role and inherit certain things that need to remain the same, there is always room to interpret it in your own way. Sometimes it can be helpful to take over, if some of the nitty gritty has already been worked out! But probably on balance I'd say I prefer to originate a role.

RA: It's great to originate a new role, as one can be part of the creative process and allowed to give one's own input.

KM: I think if a performer has a choice they would always choose to create a role. It's a great challenge, and with the creative team Crush has, I'm really excited to see what we can come up with together. It's a great responsibility too though, to the piece and to the actors who may follow you into a role. Taking over a role has its own challenges but once that character has been laid out it does tend to become the framework for future productions and casts.

Maureen Chadwick is an incredibly talented writer having created Waterloo Road, Footballers' Wives and Bad Girls. Is Crush reminiscent of this style of genre?

SC: I think they all deal with serious issues in a more light hearted, tongue in cheek way, clever smart and very funny.

KM: I think the three shows you've mentioned all have very different feels, which is a credit to Maureen and her ability to create fresh pieces every time. I think Crush is another example of this, though being set in a school the easiest comparison to draw would no doubt be to Waterloo Road, which I think is a wonderful piece of writing. There are certain things you can do in live theatre which you can't in television, so for me though there are similarities to Waterloo Road, it's unfair to both pieces to compare them. You'll just have to come and see it for yourself!

Kath Gotts, composer of the show, did brilliant work on Bad Girls - The Musical, seemingly drawing from numerous musical styles to create the score. How would you describe the music for this show?

RA: As we have not started rehearsing yet and I have only seen the music for my two solo numbers, I can only talk about them. The first 'The Future Mothers of the Future Sons of England' is a sort of school anthem, very British and imperious, whilst the other, to me, is reminiscent of an early sixties pop song, with its tongue firmly in its cheek.

KM: The songs I've heard so far are all very different, which I love. It takes a real talent to create songs that stylistically gel together, but which all bring a different voice and feel to each scene. That's what Kath is particularly good at. My character's song - Navy Knicks - is so much fun to sing, which on a selfish level is incredibly gratifying, but I think the audience will love it too!

Crush has currently got three touring dates. Based on what you know of the production now, do you see it having a successful future?

KM: We haven't started rehearsals yet, so it may be a bit early to start giving predictions! I think when you have strong source material, as Crush does, and strong and proven creative team and performers anything is possible. When you start with the right tools you just hope for that little bit of the magic that the show and the audience create together and hope that it takes off.

RA: I would hope so, but it's too early to say, until we are in front of an audience. Putting on a new musical is a huge undertaking, so there is quite a journey ahead; though I know the show has been carefully workshopped over some years, so I am confident it will be well received. There is a fantastic team of creatives on board.

How would you entice an audience to come and see the show in three words?

KM: Laughs, fun and frolics!

SC; Beautiful, memorable, joyful.

RA: Fun, fun, fun!!

Crush runs at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry from Friday 4 to Saturday 19 September 2015.

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