Katie Stockton interviewed Hal Bennet, Musical Director and Molly Farley, Director of UEA’S upcoming production: Sweet Charity.
Firstly: Why Sweet Charity?
H: I wanted to do something like Chicago but with the grandeur of Les Mis. And then I asked Molly to get involved.
M: -I’d never directed a musical before, but I had sung the songs before and loved them. I thought it was a very funny musical, which is my cup of tea. And I trusted Hal.
So, you guys enjoy working together?
M: Yeah, I’d say Hal is bad cop and I am good cop.
H: Really, is it that way around?
M: Definitely is.
H: Oh dear.
How does a musical come together?
M: What I find with a lot of actors if that if you do it out of chronological order, they can get very confused. So, we started at the beginning, and I went through and blocked all the scenes, so you can then add all the layers of the dances. So, it went acting work, music work, dance work, in that order. It’s important to have that base layer before you go any further. Text comes first.
H: I went through the songs more slowly than Molly went through the scenes. It was about getting the structure down before I added in the songs.
Molly, what kind of character work did you do?
M: I did lots of individual sessions. Obviously, with a musical, the characterisations are larger than life, but I am a firm believer that no character is every just one thing. Oscar is a nervous character, and he’s boring. But then you have to interrogate that. Does anyone actually think they are boring? Also, background for characters are important. Especially for Charity. I allow my actors freedom to invent their own backstory.
Hal, which song is your favourite?
H: My favourite number is “Baby Dream Your Dream,” which is the song Charity’s best friends Nickie and Helen sing. Because it is hilarious, but also sad. You must really listen the lyrics. At first, they are joking about all the intimacies of relationships. But at the end, even though they are mocking relationship, the characters realise it sounds really nice, and it’s a very tender moment.
What is something new you bring to the show?
H: I’m more of a traditionalist than Molly. It’s hard to deviate from the music. It is tiny little things, but it has made the show our one. Keanna, who plays Nickie, has a low range, so she put a line that was maybe too high for her down the octave, and it was hilarious, so we’ve kept it.
M: It’s a very tight piece. But I think what makes our production different is how we have encouraged our cast to play with what happens internally. In terms of comedic lines and improv, it has been allowing ourselves to be inspired by our actors.
What do you want the audience to get out of the show?
M: Aching cheeks.
H: Yes! A jolly good time. I mean, it is such a ‘show’! Like a show-person’s show. It just doesn’t stop.
M: The main character inspires a such a deluded sense of optimism too. I’d like our audiences to walk out thinking: “well, things could be worse!”
Why is it important to perform Sweet Charity today?
M: I always get shivers when I watch “Big Spender.” It is so many powerful women coming together. They are all there together, and they are all very strong feminists, and they fight back at the men that try and overpower them. Very strong female characters are what drew me.
Describe Sweet Charity in three words?
H: Funny, bizarre, spectacular.
M: Energetic, hilarious, strong.
Sweet Charity will be on at the UEA Drama Studio on the 14, 15, and 16 of March at 7.30pm.