It’s a family affair as BROS Musical Productions bring 42nd Street to Bognor Regis’ Alexandra Theatre.
Kate Bennett is directing; her husband David and daughter Caroline are in the cast, all three of them long-standing members of the company.
For Kate, the show is one that has been a long time coming: “We have looked at it over the years and decided not to do it because the timing wasn’t right or because we didn’t have the cast, but this time we were looking for something spectacular and glitzy, and 42nd Street seemed to tick all the boxes.
“We did Grease last year, and it was a sell-out. We were hoping it would do well, but we really didn’t expect it to sell as fast as it did.”
Now it is time to ring the changes.
As David says: “What we try to do as a company is a range of shows so that we can appeal to different sections of audience. Grease was a young person’s show... or we thought it was. What we had was a middle-aged audience remembering their youth!
“Now 42nd Street is a classic Broadway musical.”
David and Kate saw the CFT version a few years ago, but more appropriately they saw 42nd Street on 42nd Street in New York – not that memories of previous productions necessarily help.
“You can’t take something you have seen on the CFT and try to transfer it because the staging is completely different in Bognor,” David says.
Indeed, Kate sees the Alex as the better venue for this type of show anyway: “The Alexandra Theatre lends itself to them. It is ideal for classic Broadway shows. I think they are better performed on a proscenium stage rather than a thrust one. What Chichester did was clever, but I don’t think it is the same as having the proscenium.”
As Kate explains, the show is about a small-town girl who goes to Broadway and ends up a star, the classic story from the film which became the musical. The girl – played by Caroline – is an innocent, but the point is that she is good. When the leading lady breaks an ankle, the small-town girl has all the abilities and seizes her chance.
David is playing Abner Dillon: “It is not a large part by any means. He is the Texan money man that puts up the money for the show. 42nd Street is a show within a show. There is a lot of backstage stuff, and I am the sugar daddy to the leading lady.”
As for being directed by his wife, David says it works absolutely fine. It’s not his wife he sees, but the director. As he says, he gets told off just as much as anyone.
Kate feels the same. More to the point is they have a thrilling show to work on, with Kate particularly inspired by 42nd Street’s wonderful orchestration, the music from the 1930s film, but orchestrated in a modern way.
“Kate has always been involved,” David says. “She has always been a dancer and a singer and then got into choreography. I met her when she was just in the transition period between performing and choreography. Being an architect, I was asked to design a set which I had never done before!”
He started stage-managing, and that has been his principal involvement for the past 30 years or so, interspersed, as he says, with what he calls ‘occasional activity on the stage.’
“If I am asked, I am always happy to act as well,” he says.
Tickets on 01243 861010 or www.alexandratheatre.co.uk