Friday, 20 April 2007

The Inspirations Project – An Introduction

Clockwise from left – Maureen McGovern, AJ O’Neill, Anne Kerry Ford, Matt Harrop, Caroline Sheen and DC Anderson

The Inspirations Project – An Introduction

Last year I conducted a number of interviews with colleagues under the heading of “The Show That Changed My Life”, the idea behind these features was to look at the show that first got the interviewee interested in musical theatre along with a general look at their influences and inspirations.

So as 2007 came around I decided to bring back the concept – but I wanted to do this with a twist! After some consideration I decided that it would be interesting to take a group of musical theatre performers from around the world – with different levels of success and experience – and build a feature around their own influences and inspirations. Via the miracle of the internet (and myspace) I contacted several performers and was lucky enough to get a positive reply from quite a few of them. I so far have performers both from the UK and the USA, and they vary from a young man appearing in his first West End show to a Broadway leading lady who has received Grammy nominations and starred in hit Hollywood movies. The responses I have received from my contributors have been great and as a result the feature will initially be spread over a couple of weeks, to give me an opportunity to fully contrast and compare what has shaped them as performers. Also I will be happy to pass on any feed back I get from any readers of this project to it’s participants.

But first thing’s first! My reason for this introduction is to introduce you to the first six performers who have kindly agreed to take part!

From the UK

Alan Joey (AJ) .O’Neill
AJ Is relatively new to professional theatre having only recently graduated from performing arts college. His first professional engagement was in his native Ireland in Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World and he recently made his West End debut as swing in Chicago, where he since gone on as Amos Hart.

Matt Harrop

Matt has been performing professionally for around ten years after studying at Guildford. He has performed in Les Miserables in London, and toured in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of My Fair Lady. More recently he was acclaimed for his performance as Prince John in the recent revival of Tim Rice and Steven Oliver’s Blondel. Matt is currently appearing as Riff Raff in the national tour of The Rocky Horror Show.

Caroline Sheen
Caroline is well known in the West End for playing many leading roles over the last few years. As well as originating the role of Jennifer Gabriel in The Witches Of Eastwick at Drury Lane, Caroline had a stint at the Palladium in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as Truly Scrumptious and appeared as the lovely Philia in the National Theatre’s hit production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Caroline will be appearing at the Finborough Theatre on 22, 29 April and 6 May in Adam Guettel’s Myths And Hymns.

From the USA

Regular readers of my column may remember his name from a piece I wrote on him and American cabaret performers earlier in the year. D.C. is a successful musical theatre performer as well as an accomplished cabaret and recording artist. He has released eight solo albums, most recently I Am Still, and currently he is appearing as Andre in the US tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera.

Anne Kerry Ford
A graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School, Anne made her Broadway debut as Grace Farrell in Annie, and also appeared in The Threepenny Opera alongside Raul Julia, Sting and Maureen McGovern. These days Anne’s career is more focussed on her concert and cabaret work and she has recently released her third album, an acclaimed collection of the songs of Kurt Weill – simply titled Weill. As well as her webpage you can also check out two of her Weill performances on youtube at (It Never Was You) and (Pirate Jenny)

Maureen McGovern
Maureen first burst into the public consciousness in the early seventies when she recorded the Oscar Winning (and US number one hit) The Morning After (from The Poseidon Adventure) and for a while was known as The Disaster Queen when she followed this up with the Oscar winning theme to The Towering Inferno. To her fans she is known as The Stradivarius Voice for her range and versatility which sees her equally at home with everything from pop to operetta, with a good helping of jazz too. Maureen has released many recordings over the years, and has twice been nominated for a Grammy. Last year she was one of a number of performers on the Grammy (Best Musical Recording For Children) winning Songs From The Neighborhood – The Music Of Mr. Rodgers. As a cabaret and concert performer she has performed at most of the top venues in the States including Carnegie Hall, and has performanced with the Boston Pops. In the movies Maureen is possibly best known for playing the singing nun in the popular Airplane comedies. Her first Broadway appearance was in The Pirates Of Penzance as Mabel, and since then she has played many leading roles, most recently Marmee in Little Women both on the great white way and the subsequent national tour.

So these are our initial contributors to The Inspirations Project and believe me they have all contributed some great stuff! But for that we will have to wait until our first real instalment where we look at the shows that first inspired our thespians to tread the boards! Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements on some more participants!

So for this week only one thing remains. A musical theatre handy household hint – well almost – from Caroline Sheen

A cure for hiccups – have someone pull gently on your earlobes as you drink a whole glass of water in one breath. Works every time!

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