Due to their earlier sold out season, Flourish productions Let It Be: The Songs of Lennon & McCartney has added extra shows at 3pm and 8pm this Saturday at Chapel off Chapel. We caught up with producer Catherine Langley, cast member Luisa Scrofani and creative director Drew Downing.
What can people expect from Let it Be
Luisa: It’s a very exciting, fresh fusion of classic Beatles songs we all know and love. Our director, Drew Downing, has put together a set that remains true to many of the classic Lennon & McCartney songs, while also allowing room for an exciting new take. He’s really allowed each artist to thrive within their solo moments, and the ensemble work makes songs such as Let It Be, Hey Jude and Imagine such powerful showstoppers. It’s just a joyous evening.
Drew: People can expect to have a good time. I don’t think there is anything better than a group of singers, supported by a live band, cranking out some rock and roll standards.
Is it an existing song cycle or was it put together for this production. If so how was it created?
Catherine: As with most of our previous shows Let it Be has been put together purely for this production. As you can imagine Lennon & McCartney wrote hundreds of songs over their careers so whittling it down to 20 or so songs has been quite challenging! But our director Drew has done an incredible job of creating a mix of the iconic classics and discovering some hidden gems.
Drew: I pitched the idea of Lennon & McCartney to Catherine who was equally excited by the idea. The audience’s experience is the driving factor in the design of a show such as this. We also have a responsibility in selecting repertoire which narrates the careers and development of the writers. We also intentionally cast the show before finalising repertoire which means we can ensure we have the right performers for the right material.
This is the first Flourish production that isn’t strongly based in Music Theatre. How has the process been different?
Drew: MT repertoire is written for characters whereas pop songs are predominantly personal experiences of the composer. In the case of Lennon & McCartney, it’s great to discover the backgrounds of songs such as Let it Be, Blackbird and Imagine and then discuss performance tools to bring them to life.
Luisa: Coming from a musical theatre background, I’ve found this process quite different, as the only material I have to work with are the music and lyrics. Unlike musical theatre, where something (often dramatic) has happened just beforehand that propels the character into song, doing stand-alone pieces allows for a certain simplicity – to purely enjoy the music, to feel and groove to it, and allowing that to be the centrepiece instead.
For the performer the songs can be less story driven. What have you found are the advantages and challenges of this?
Luisa: I think that it has eliminated a certain pressure musical theatre performers often feel to keep a through-line with storytelling, and instead dials it back to the very basics, where the only focus is the music and how it makes you feel. At first, I found the premise of it being a gig-style show a little daunting – there’s much more of a personal connection with the audience, unlike musical theatre where the fourth wall is very intact. However, after I began to allow myself just to enjoy the music and acknowledge that the audience want exactly the same, it became so invigorating and really electric to perform that way.
Drew: Sometimes it’s nice to just stand in front of a band and sing your butt off. Musical theatre repertoire is designed so brilliantly that it nearly directs itself. LET IT BE is a great opportunity for our performers to really engage with the audience and the music.
Was are the favourite moments / points in the show?
Drew: My favourite thing about this show is giving so many standards new flavour by simply having female voices lead them. It’s such a winning approach and asset to the show.
Luisa: I absolutely live for Come Together, performed by the effervescent Jess Fairlie. She embodies “rock chick”, and it’s as if the music is breathing through her when she performs – especially in this song. The band are absolutely killer in this number as well. It’s sexy and raw, and I think does such justice to the song. Another favourite is “With A Little Help From My Friends”. We do an amazing acapella part, in full harmony and arranged beautifully by Drew, where we are all completely in sync and breathing with the music. It’s also such a joy to perform this song, as it really brings home the fact that at the core of so many of the Beatles songs, was quite simply, a beautiful friendship.
Catherine: My favourite part of our first performance last week was actually from the audience. There was a woman sitting in the front row who must have been at least 85 years old. She was all dressed up for a night out, hair exquisitely styled and was wearing a smart red lip. She spent the entire show mouthing along to every single lyric. Watching her I realized that these were the songs she must have grown up with. To be able to watch her experience all that nostalgia and basically relive her childhood was truly touching.
Content wise though you can’t go past an 8 part harmony version of Hey Jude (or Hey Drew as the running joke goes…)
Flourish is going from strength to strength with the first performance sold out. Are you getting a regular following and do you think people are particularly engaged by this production?
Catherine: The thing that I’ve really enjoyed about creating all the “Songs Of” shows is they actually get quite a different audience at each. There is a small subsection of the audience who has seen a Flourish show before but generally speaking the audience tends to be completely different depending on the composer or type of music. I dare say the majority of the people who will see Let It Be have never seen a Flourish show before but hopefully they will again in the future!
This is the 5th Flourish Production? What have you learnt over that time?
Catherine:That’s correct, this is the 5th unique production and 7th season that I’ve produced with Flourish since the beginning of 2015. Which is insane. I think I’ve learnt it’s time for a holiday! Haha no it’s such an incredibly rewarding process.
It takes a LOT of work to put on a show and you don’t realise just how much of your time, effort, sanity and energy it takes until you actually do it. But it is all worth it on Opening Night when you get to sit back amongst a Sold Out audience and watch all the hours you’ve put in turn into something truly magical.
Over those 5 shows I’ve definitely learnt a lot – in hindsight I really had no idea what I was doing for our first few shows. But I think the most important thing I’ve learnt is to trust your instincts, as cliché as it sounds to have full confidence in yourself and most importantly to know when someone else knows better than you do and trust their expertise. I think the other thing I’ve learnt is that there’s only so much you can do by yourself, as much as I try to do everything myself I’m getting much better at delegating. I’m so thankful to be surrounded by a huge group of volunteers I can turn to when one person physically can’t handle everything.
What is next for Flourish?
Catherine:Because there’s no rest for the Wicked the next show will be a return season of The Songs of Alan Menken at MTC’s Southbank Theatre on Saturday the 24th of June. Which will make it 8 Flourish seasons in 2.5 years… insane! We’re also adding a band to this show for the first time which will make it even more special.
But we’re very excited to be Menken a comeback and there’s plenty more Disney puns where that came from!
Let it Be – Details:
Tickets are available to Let it Be at chapeloffchapel.com.au
29 April – Time: 3pm and 8pm
Tickets: $35 Full, $30 Concession, $25 Child, $27 Group 4+, Restricted Viewing $25 (+transaction fee)
Jess Fairlie, Bram Harris, Tyson Legg (Matinee only), Vidya Makan, Ana Mitsikas, Adam Perryman, Luisa Scrofani and Andy Seymour
Duration: Act 1: 45 minutes (20 minute interval) Act 2: 40 minutes