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“Working: A Musical” – a Sedos Production at the Bridewell Theatre, London

How are shows put together? Interviews with directors, musical directors and members of the creative team explain just how it's done.

Working: A Musical – Dress Rehearsal Image

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Sedos, one of London’s best-loved community theatre companies, has given us numerous highly successful award-winning productions including "Pippin", "Urinetown" and "Earthquakes in London". This latest venture must surely be a powerful contender for further awards.

"Working: A Musical" – the Extraordinary Dreams of Ordinary People

"Working: A Musical" is a lively musical based on a book by Pulitzer prize-winner Studs Terkel – "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do".

Terkel’s publication consisted of a series of interviews in which a broad cross section of Americans discussed their jobs. He described the compilation as “the extraordinary dreams of ordinary people”.

Terkel’s book has been adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso with additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg.

The show features music by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers and James Taylor with lyrics by Schwartz, Carnelia, Grant, Taylor, Susan Birkenhead and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“Working” is directed by Jacob Hajjar, with musical direction by Will Gaines and choreography, costume and artwork by Tess Robinson.

Working: A Musical – Dress Rehearsal Image

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Working: A Musical

Will Gaines Spoke About the Challenges in this Show.

HubPages: Please tell us a bit about your background in musical theatre.

Will: I was very much a latecomer to the world of musical theatre. Having been primarily an instrumentalist as a kid, and not being very comfortable on a stage, theatre was always something I had enjoyed seeing when it was on, either at school or in the theatres in Sheffield where I grew up, but I never really saw a role for me.

At university I played in a few pit bands until a friend of mine suggested I apply to MD our final year production of “Pippin”. I've barely looked back since, and first came to Sedos as an Assistant MD for “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” in 2019.

HubPages: When you held the auditions were you looking for any particular vocal qualities?

Will: The emphasis of “Working” is on ordinary people, from all walks of life, telling very personal stories. So, the show is less suited to a more traditional or legit musical theatre style. We therefore wanted to see people that could really understand and convey the story of a number, as well as singing the notes well, and who could shift their performance style to fit the song as well. Having so many composers on the show means the cast have to show a wide range of techniques.

HubPages: Were there any especially tricky musical challenges in this show?

Will: Absolutely! The show was re-arranged by Alex Lacamoire in 2012 for a small four-piece band, and to maximise the sound he has written some wonderful, but challenging band music. Similarly, any show with a cast this small is very vocally exposed. The performers are often one or two to a line, and singing some very intricate harmonies, so there really is no place to hide. Luckily the cast have worked very hard to learn these parts (even when I've made it harder by adding notes).

HubPages: Rehearsals for any production are hard work but a lot of fun and you create a store of great memories. What is your favourite thing about music rehearsals at Sedos?

Will: We've been lucky to have a consistent and reliable rehearsal space for all our rehearsals on “Working”. I think this goes a long way to making people feel relaxed and comfortable when coming in to a rehearsal, which makes it so easy to get the best out of a cast.

With bigger societies like Sedos, you also get to see a great mix of familiar faces doing their 10th or 20th Sedos show, alongside newcomers making their debut. Half of our cast are doing their first show with Sedos, and it's so great to see people getting excited about such talented people joining our ranks.

Working: A Musical – Dress Rehearsal Image

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Tess Robinson Spoke About the Choreography

HubPages: Please tell us a bit about your background in musical theatre.

Tess: I've been performing from a young age. I took part in national touring productions if they needed a local kid in certain cities they went to. Dance was always my favourite and is what got me into musical theatre.

I performed all through my school years inside and outside of school and even auditioned for West End productions of "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". I studied combined music and drama in university too.

HubPages: What was it like to step up from performing into a creative role?

Tess: I started choreographing as a kid. One of my first dance teachers (Danielle Stephens) was a great choreographer and I always aspired to be like her. I took a break from theatre after university when I played roller derby nationally and became London Roller Derby's youngest coach.

So, having really enjoyed coaching sports and then getting back into theatre I was really keen to get back to choreographing. I think the hardest part has been having to be creative on demand, especially when the show isn't meant to look dancey. The movement needs to look pedestrian. So trying to be creative whilst keeping the show's intentions has challenged me. That and I've really missed being on stage.

Working: A Musical – Dress Rehearsal Image

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Tess Continues...

HubPages: I know rehearsals started before the pandemic so was it difficult to get the momentum going again? What were the main problems?

Tess: Not at all! Everyone was really raring to go. And as a choreographer you have loads of freedom, you don't have lines or sheet music that you have to stick to.

The pandemic really granted me the gift of hindsight. I could look back at the original choreography I'd done and build on it or change it up. I took out things I didn't like any more and developed ideas I wish I'd done before. We recorded everything pre-pandemic, so I used the videos to go back and re-teach the choreo to the cast. We had new cast members who hadn't done the original choreo but they picked it up so quickly.

HubPages: It always fascinates me how movement is plotted. Can you tell us a bit about that process?

Tess: I spend a lot of time listening to the music. Eventually I start to get a vision of how a number should look in my head. I tend to get the bus to rehearsals, it takes more time than the tube, but it's been important creative time for me to listen to the music and think of how to shape the movement.

This show is particularly challenging because there's no story. Every character has a separate narrative that never reappears. I spent time looking at the everyday movements of truckers, waiters. I looked at what choreography I could find from the Southwark Playhouse production and I keep a huge archive of choreography and dance videos on Instagram that I go to if I get stuck. But the choreography in this show is mainly driven by the lyrics and the individual characters you see throughout the show.

Another Night to Remember for All the Very Best Reasons!

I absolutely loved this show! It has everything you could wish for in a musical. Good stage direction combined with excellent vocals and great choreography make for an excellent production.

A great evening out – another night to remember for all the very best reasons!

Working: A Musical – Dress Rehearsal Image

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Supporting Community Theatre

If you’re keen to support community theatre then Sedos could be just the place for you.

New members are always welcome. Whatever your interests, Sedos offers an exciting programme of workshops where you can develop existing skills or acquire new skills.

The company is fully committed to diversity and inclusion and further details can be found on the Sedos website.

What Comes Next?

Sedos has a varied and exciting programme planned for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022 including:

  • “All Together Now!” – 12th-13th November
  • “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” – 24th November-4th December 2021
  • “When the Rain Stops Falling” – 22nd-26th February 2022
  • “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” – 22nd-26th March 2022
  • “American Idiot” – 4th-14th May 2022
  • “Love! Valour! Compassion!” – 5th-9th July 2022
  • “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – 14th-24th September 2022
  • “Carrie: The Musical” – 25th-29th October 2022
  • Amadeus – 23rd November-3rd December 2022

Further information about Sedos workshops and performances can be obtained from their website. Further information about Sedos workshops and performances can be obtained from their website.

“Working: A Musical” is on at the Bridewell Theatre until 30th October 2021 and if you’re quick there may still be tickets available.

Working: A Musical – Dress Rehearsal Image

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Working: A Musical – Image by Stephen Russell, Sedos 2021 All rights reserved.

Finding the Bridewell Theatre

© 2021 Frances Spiegel

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