Mercury Musical Developments (MMD) is an organisation dedicated to the development and presentation of new musical theatre writing, and on Sunday 14 October, the Novello Theatre will play host to MMD's 20th Anniversary Gala. We caught up with Madalena Alberto, Dougal Irvine and Grant Olding to find out a bit more about this star-studded evening.
Hi! Welcome to BroadwayWorld:UK! So, I hear that you're all involved with the Mercury Musical Developments charity gala this Sunday. Can you tell us a bit more about the charity itself?
GO: Mercury Musical Developments supports musical theatre writers and helps them develop their craft. They get involved with offering advice, giving feedback on work, delivering workshops, master classes, songwriting awards, development prizes and showcases of new work, even commissioning new musicals, and this year producing them, too! One of the really exciting things MMD has set up this year is a writers in residence programme, supported by Cameron Mackintosh. The first two of the six programmes are currently underway, with Dougal Irvine and Craig Adams writing musicals and scoring plays at the Royal and Derngate and the Finborough respectively.
Sounds great! What was it about this particular charity that encouraged you to get involved?
MA: Well, being someone who enjoys performing and lives from it, it is important to support those who are creating the material and these opportunities for us.
DI: I think MMD is one of the only Arts Council-funded organisations we have that provides such a service. It's in my interests as both a writer and advocate of new musical writing to support it.
GO: It is a one-of-a-kind charity in the UK. With historically no funding from the Arts Council for the development of new musical theatre and with no formal courses in the writing of musical theatre we really need MMD in the UK.
So it seems there are a lot of challenges faced by writers of new musical theatre material?
GO: Yes, including encouraging writers to create shows that are genuinely produceable and have a real audience, and also getting producers to programme new musical theatre writing alongside standard new play repertoire. Musicals are for life, not just for Christmas!
MA: Luckily the difficulty isn't so much in writing new music, just finding the funds and interest to showcase them and develop them. I think there are very talented writers we haven't even heard of, but due to the focus on big, predictable, financially safe shows, it isn't easy to be noticed.
DI: Yes, there's a lack of funding for the writers, and a lack of public awareness that there are writers out there wanting to write more than a film adaptation. There's a perception that musicals are somehow 'less worthy' pieces of theatre than straight plays. The elevated cost of a musical vs. a straight play causes producers to be fearful of taking the risk in putting them on.
Well, it's great that MMD is helping out with all of this. The gala is set to be a pretty fantastic evening…what can those attending the event expect?
MA: I would say a lot of talent!
GO: Yes, a whole heap of amazing songs that they won't have heard before as well as some all-time favourites that they will know well. All sung by an incredible cast of West End stars.
DI: Some of the best performers around in the UK will be performing some of the best of British musicals from the past, present and future.
What are you most looking forward to about the evening? Who are you most excited to be performing alongside?
GO: I'm just looking forward to getting to know some new writers that I haven't heard from before, it's going to be great. There are so many exciting performers in the line-up I genuinely can't single anyone out.
MA: I am thrilled to be performing a duet with Michael Xavier and also to witness everyone else's performances.
DI: I'm not actually performing, but I'm excited because the evening is a great celebration of the diversity of musical theatre.