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  • Dress Circle Reviews


Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Here at Dress Circle Reviews we have a particular love for musicals and love seeing new musicals being developed. Unfortunately we are seeing too few new musicals developed in the UK with almost all musicals in the west end being Broadway transfers, revivals or jukebox musicals, making it difficult for new UK composers to get work produced. So when we heard about a bold new musical we were excited to find out more.

The musical is Mascherato and follows Luca and Elena in 19th century Venice as they fall in love and are torn apart as Venice sinks into war against the Ottoman empire. When the conflict finally ends, and the empire proves victorious, the two lovers must fight against fate to be reunited. It promises to be a sweeping epic taking the audience on a journey through the mystery and magic that reside within the twisted labyrinth of Venice.

Given that lockdown has halted all theatre productions it’s being released as a concept album so more people can get to hear the music and lyrics and fall in the love with the characters. And it’s an ambitious undertaking, recorded in Abbey Road Studios with a 22-piece orchestra and an exciting cast led by West End starts Rob Houchen (Les Miserablés, Light in the Piazza), Katy Treharne (The Phantom of the Opera), Jeremy Secomb (Lend me a Tenor, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) and Nathaniel Parker (The Audience).

With a score described as lush and colourful, in Mascherato you have a bold new musical which they hope people will spend the summer falling in love with.

We were able to catch-up with Michael Elderkin (score and lyrics) and James Willet (Book) to discuss the musical.

What was the inspiration for the story?

Michael: Mascherato came about as an idea in a very unlikely way. I happened to be at a house party and, at a certain point, someone put on a Disney playlist. I happen to be a big Alan Menken fan (as well as a fan of Danny Troob, his orchestrator who gives such life to Alan’s songs). I thought to myself – ‘why not write a musical?’ I should mention that this thought occurred after about four glasses of wine, so I was very committed already. I wrote down the idea on a napkin (basic plot points, style, setting) and the next day when I woke up, I got to work!

Following the development and workshops have there been significant changes?

Michael: There have been many changes from the staged workshop we did, mostly on the script. The most notable change was the script writer! I initially started working with someone else. The problem was that the detailed synopsis, character descriptions, etc. that I had come up with – he only turned that into dialogue. It lacked something that made the whole show a little weaker.

Thankfully, I was introduced to James and we hit it off right away. I took him through the story scene by scene, with him scribbling away in his notebook. What he brought back to me is what we have today. He breathed such life into the characters and added so much depth. (I will mention that, to this day, I refuse to let James see the original script. I wanted to see what he could do, unbiased.)

James: From a personal perspective, I found it quite a challenge to do justice to Michael’s story. As I came onto the project at such a late stage, it was quite daunting having to bring these characters to life, characters Michael had spent so long creating.

How have you found audience reactions so far?

James: So far, they have been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we decided to go ahead with this recording. I’m especially looking forward to hearing the response from the general public, those who, as yet, have no idea of what they’re about to experience

Michael: One unifying point people seem to bring up is how memorable it is, which is a great honor to me as that was one of the goals in writing this. It’s a very special feeling if someone can hear a tune once, three years ago, and still be able to sing it back.

What have been the main obstacles you’ve faced in developing this musical?

Michael: The main obstacles have primarily been finding interest and funding to take the show further. I can’t tell you how many producers I’ve called, emailed, or posted over the past couple of years.

James: Obviously, the biggest challenge we’ve faced is gaining support from professional quarters. It’s very difficult to get producers to take risks on new work, especially that which is created by new creatives, such as Michael and I.

What plans to do you have for Mascherato post lockdown?

James: The plans, so far, are not very concrete. Obviously, once the recording is out there, we’re hoping that it will take on a life of its own. We hope that, once people hear it for themselves, and not just us tooting our own horns, we can gain enough support to take the project further. My dreams, of course, are for the show to get a fully staged production, where we can finally see Mascherato in all its glory.

Michael: I hope someone sees the value in what we have created and our desire to share it with the world, leading to an opportunity where that could happen.

James: My personal hopes are for Mascherato to be the success it deserves to be, and that then allows me to continue writing (and of course it will stop my family asking me what I plan on doing with my life).

Do you have any other ideas in the works you can tell us about?

James: Haha, how long do you have? I write a lot of short stories, which I then share online, so I usually have a handful of those I work on. Then, of course, I have about three word-documents just filled with ideas for musicals I haven’t started. Then a further half-a-dozen projects I have started, but yet to finish. There’s also a couple of plays I’m currently developing. So, overall, I’ve got a few plates spinning in the air.

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Mascherato will be available on most streaming services (including Spotify, iTunes and Amazon) from July 10th 2020.

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