Creatives devise unique musical

2 July 2019

Two industry professionals work with UCLan’s music theatre students to create new full-length show

Two music theatre creatives and a group of University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) students are working together to devise a unique full-length musical.

Composer and lyricist Richard Taylor and playwright Douglas Maxwell are developing a new 90 to 120-minute musical with 20 second year BA (Hons) Music Theatre students.

The undergraduates will continue to work with the creative team throughout their final year of study and they will perform the musical live for the first time in spring 2020.

The duo has spent time gleaning ideas from the students in an array of workshops and they have developed a concept which they believe will lend itself to the group’s talents and the watching audience.

Richard, who has written scores for several musicals, including the original Whistle Down the Wind, said: “These students enjoy student life, they enjoy being together as a group and they know what it takes to be a student nowadays. We thought it was a good idea to build on that for our new musical.”

Douglas, who is one of the most popular and produced playwrights in Scotland, said: “After graduation students can go off in all different directions, some can keep in touch while others disappear and you don’t hear from them again so our idea is that rather than going their separate ways at graduation, one of the students inherits a remote Scottish island and all the students head off en masse to escape normal life and that’s where you’ll start to see people differently.”

He added: “It’s very liberating to have the time and opportunity to come up with ideas from scratch, to talk them through with the students and Richard, get feedback and go away to develop more of the script.”

"It’s a really amazing opportunity to have people like Richard and Douglas come in and write a musical for us to perform."

Over the summer months Douglas will develop the script while Richard will compose more music and song lyrics. They will reconvene at UCLan’s Preston Campus in autumn to share the next scenes with the undergraduates.

Erika Ignataviciute, 20, is one of the students who volunteered to take part in this project. She said: “It’s a really amazing opportunity to have people like Richard and Douglas come in and write a musical for us to perform. It’s also incredible to think we’ll be the first group of people to have performed these roles. It’s so much fun.”

Sophie Harsley, 20, explained: “What’s really nice is Douglas has captured our personalities and accents and we can see those coming through in the script. We can’t wait to see how the project develops and the absolute dream is that our musical will be picked up by a professional production company.”

It is not the first time Richard, who has recently had major shows on at The Sheffield Crucible, London’s Apollo Theatre and the Chichester Festival, has worked with Douglas, whose recent work has been performed at The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh and the National Theatre of Scotland. Ten years ago, they worked with postgraduate students at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow. They then created a show called ‘Watertight’.

Music Theatre Course Leader Mark Goggins added: “It is a huge asset to the University to attract such high calibre industry professionals to this project. Everybody I speak to about this is so excited to see the final show. The impact on the students is immense; they are working on the inside, and from the beginning, in the creation of a full-scale musical, which adds so much more to their production process for their final show. It could be that this inspires some of our graduates to become writers and composers as well as performers.”