WILD the musical
The FUSE International festival is a multi art form festival that takes place annually over 10 days in Kingston Upon Thames. Among this year’s highlights is the family-friendly WILD (The musical), coming to London courtesy of the City Chamber orchestra from Hong Kong. It’ll play Kingston’s Rose Theatre on 7 and 8 July. We sat down with their Artistic Director Leanne Nicholls to find out more…
So tell us a bit about WILD (The musical) – how would you describe it to audiences?
It’s a hybrid! A cross between a cheetah and a tiger….no seriously it IS a hybrid and it’s nothing like one has seen before! It’s a Broadway-style musical set in the jungle with the orchestra on stage as part of the story and the theatrical action. Added to this is the fact that its an original Hong Kong production. Hong Kong is the East-meets-West capital of Asia, so audiences can expect to see some Chinese flavours in the mix too.
How did the idea for the show first come about?
I have always been passionate about bringing the orchestra to young audiences. But becoming a mum was the turning point. That’s when I realized that there are very few quality programmes with live music one can take a child to – especially between the ages of three and six. As the Artistic Director of City Chamber orchestra of Hong Kong, I became increasingly aware of the limitations of our existing music catalogue. Thus, I found myself creating my own works and curating new ideas in order to bring the orchestra in touch with children in a new and refreshing way. They are the audience of the future, so they must be top of our agenda. In many ways, the idea of writing a musical for the orchestra seemed a natural progression for me. In addition to my music degree in oboe, I do have a musical singing background and my grandmother was a costume designer at a school where I learned to dance. All the seeds were previously sown, so to speak!
Can you share some details about the storyline and the unique elements it brings to the stage? The storyline follows the adventures of wildlife poachers Jim and Chad who discover a wild orchestra in the jungle and make plans to capture the talented animals for a lucrative show on New York’s Broadway. WILD (The Musical) features 40 musicians, singers, dancers and actors from Hong Kong in dazzling wild animal costumes and speaks to all ages with its powerful message about wildlife preservation. The show includes live orchestral music, hip hop, beatboxing, ballet, cha cha dance, body percussion, Chinese drumming, Chinese martial arts dance and unicycling. The diversity of the performances in the show represents the biodiversity of our wildlife.
Can you tell us a bit about the creative team and how they came to be involved?I have been privileged to work with a top-notch team in creating the show including Nick Harvey as composer and Simon Whiteside as orchestrator. Nick Harvey is one of the Britain’s most popular TV composers and super-uber talented in many other ways as both an actor and a singer. I first knew of him in Hong Kong as a kids’ entertainer, as part of the visiting British comedy duo Scotty & Lulu. At one of these shows I approached Scotty and Lulu about the possibility of combining forces with the orchestra and the rest is history! Our first creation and collaboration was Bug Symphony which won the Public Choice Award at the YAMawards (Young Audiences Music Awards) in 2017. Audiences wanted to hear more and so I came up with the concept, story and song lyrics for WILD (The Musical) and Nick came on board as composer.
The world premiere in Hong Kong last year was a huge success, and the show went on to win the Public Choice Award at the YAMawards in Belgium 2022. For both shows I have worked with some of the best Hong Kong designers. They have all been challenged by having to work with musicians on stage. For me it’s all about stretching boundaries and exploring new ways of expression on stage in order to engage young audiences (while also keeping the mums and dads engaged too!)
The blurb says that WILD (The musical) is suitable for all ages – how do you capture the attention of young audiences and keep them engaged?
WILD (The Musical) engages young audiences because it is a fast-paced show and a feast for both the ears and the eyes. There is never a dull moment! When I write something for young audiences my approach is never to talk down to them so that the content is equally interesting for the adults. Occasionally I will pop in a line or two that will go over the heads of the kids, but those are intended for the parents. I also put details and effort into visual elements because our kids live in a very visual age. I’m a mum, and so I have felt what it is like as a mum, to sit through a show and fret over whether your kids will sit still the whole time. The excellent feedback with the shows I have created and curated for family audiences in the past 10 years, spurs me on. Often the parents are surprised their kids had fun and sat all the way through it! Mission accomplished!
Fuse International is on from 30 June – 9 July 2023. Tickets and info on all shows are available here: https://creativeyouthcharity.org/fuse-international/