Composing for a Winter Wonderland.

I’ve had Dominic’s script for a couple of weeks now, but I started developing some of the musical ideas for the show over the past few months. Now I have real lyrics to set into songs and numbers. This first priority is to write the songs so that the cast have them by the first day of rehearsals. Once I’ve written the songs then I can start arranging them and creating the backing tracks. After that, and during the rehearsal process, Dominic and I will decide where we need underscoring and musical stings to accompany any action or media.

The great thing about using backing tracks is that I can write for a full orchestra and band without the players taking up half of the LPAC auditorium in performances; so I’m enjoying making Hollywood scale arrangements for our small theatre. The challenge is creating tracks that can be flexible enough to allow the cast space to perform. With that in mind, I’ll spend time with the cast on their interpretation then I will start programming in speed changes, creating loops for vamps, and splitting tracks for pauses and ad libs etc.

Once rehearsals start in September then I’ll be working with the cast, teaching them their music. I can’t wait for that; I’ll finally hear my music jump off the page and come to life!

In terms of a musical style for the show, I have pretty eclectic tastes and believe that for music to serve the stage it should draw on anything that enhances the performance. I’ve been inspired by a number of elements in the Alice narrative: transformation, other states of normality, the fantastical and nonsense poetry of Lewis Carroll’s world made me think of, among others, two strong musical idioms: The psychedelic rock of the 1960s and bitonal French 6th Chord, with its transformative nature. Alice is enticed into Wonderland by the cast calling her name spelling out the notes of the magical chord that can live in many keys at once and none in particular at the same time. Similar to Wagner’s famous Tristan Chord, it disturbs our musical equilibrium and invites us into an ever-changing soundscape.

The Mad March Hare and the Mad Hatter enjoy a crazy duet in a whirligig of psychedelia: cue Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds-like guitars and organs as well as a twist of Gilbertian patter song. Tiger Lilly and Alice have a playful duet based on word games while the Tweedle twins enjoy a slap-stick Music Hall number. I particularly loved writing the Pig’s Song. It’s a madcap world but as W H Auden said: “No [music theatre] plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.”

Mark Wilde, Composer and Musical Director

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