Squabbalogic’s Man of La Mancha is set to be an exciting new venture for the company. A remount of a classic musical, the kind they’ve not yet attempted, it’s set to open on 27th February, and it’ll be starring a bona-fide international star: our own Tony Sheldon. Bec Caton caught up with Jay to talk all things Squabbalogic.
After an extremely successful year in 2014 and an exciting start to 2015 with their mystery musical fundraiser (that turned out to be a staged reading of Bye Bye Birdie), Sydney’s quirky independent music theatre company Squabbologic is about to kick off their next big project, Man of La Mancha, and it’s set to be as innovative as we’ve come to expect.
Squabbologic have been “slogging it out for nearly ten years”, according to the company’s artistic director Jay James-Moody, and whilst the quality of their shows has always been phenomenal, it’s only over the past few years they have received their well deserved recognition.
“Most of our shows have been really well received but not well attended, especially in the early days. So it’s nice to have them being both well received and well attended now.”
“Support for smaller scale shows is there and growing. With the number of musicals of this scale that are happening, there’s an awareness of it,” Moody said.
Squabbologic have been on the frontier of independent theatre, forging this change in the Australian musical theatre landscape. Their aim is “to challenge [themselves] and the audiences, and give them an opportunity to see shows they don’t usually get to see.” Man of La Mancha is no exception.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Man of La Mancha’s Broadway opening, and, according to the show’s director and actor James-Moody, this show is due to be dusted off. Although staging classic revivals has always been a goal, and is even in the company’s mission statement, Squabbologic found their niche early on in quirky contemporary musical theatre, making Man of La Mancha the company’s first classic revival.
The show was last seen in Australia on a large scale in 2002, and the company is excited to present the show in a more intimate setting, giving a truer reflection of its original off-broadway debut. However, this revival won’t be entirely ‘classical’ and will feature the same creativity and originality characteristic of any Squabbologic production.
“We are excited to put our own spin on it; it’s not a very traditional production,” explains James-Moody. “We haven’t changed any of the music or script but aesthetically it’s a different take.”
Though, in taking their own spin the company has tried to avoid impinging on the author’s original intentions, “I would never want to do that” exclaims James-Moody. Rather they hope to honour how current the script feels; “if the script still feels this fresh, we should bring a fresh take to the look of it.”
The rehearsal process has been “fun and painless” and the show has put itself together smoothly, a testament to the hard-working cast. The cast are required to play their own instruments and, as with any Squabbologic show, have been required to be very hands-on. Yet they’ve risen to the challenge,
“It’s a very big ask for actors… everyone came so prepared and threw themselves into it.” The only hiccup they’ve experienced was the lack of air-conditioning in their rehearsal room. Though, despite sweltering heat the cast and crew powered through!
And of course, most notably the cast is led by international star Tony Sheldon.
“We knew we needed someone special to play Cervantes and Don Quixote, the show wasn’t going to work with just anyone. We needed someone who lives and breathes storytelling. Tony was at the top of our list, but he lives in New York now so we thought he would never come,” but to the company’s great joy, “we asked and before we knew it he was here.”
Sheldon has a long list of theatre credits to his name and is the embodiment of effective and entertaining storytelling. In the words of James-Moody, “if there’s any person who could talk his way out of being burned by the Spanish Inquisition, it would be Tony Sheldon.” James-Moody remarks how brilliant Sheldon has been; “he’s been completely on board with the show’s hands-on nature and very generous in his time and energy. He’s been an incredible leader to the cast.”
“The opportunity to see Tony Sheldon play this role should not be passed up,” urges James-Moody, “I really can’t describe how incredible it is to see him in this show, and the rest of the cast are equally as talented.” The show is definitely one to see, it’s bound to be funny, incredibly moving and feature extraordinary performances. “I’m certainly proud of what we’ve done. We’re risking a lot with out interpretation but I’m hoping it’ll pay off.”
Man of La Mancha will play at the Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, from February 25 – March 21, 2015. For tickets and more informartion visit squabbalogic.com.au.