From Left: Alexa Tamsett (Producer), Robin Kendall (Sky Masterson), Siobhan Brennan (Director) and Laura Bird (Miss Adelaide) of MTW's 'Guys and Dolls'. Photo: ashmorevisuals

Musical Theatre Warwick- Behind the Scenes

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These days, Warwick Arts Centre plays host to some of the best theatre companies and comedians touring the UK. In 2012, around 213, 543 tickets were sold throughout the course of the year for a variety of different performances from companies such as ‘Frantic Assembly’ and ‘Forced Entertainment’. But on Wednesday 14th May, crowds will be flocking to see Musical Theatre Warwick’s production of Guys and Dolls, one of the university’s many student productions staged at the Arts Centre. To find out a bit more about how Warwick students prepare for a performance on the big stage, Boar Arts caught up with some of the cast and crew of Musical Theatre Warwick’s Guys and Dolls. 

Musical Theatre Warwick manages to churn out 6 fantastic productions a year including two 5- performance runs at Warwick Arts Centre. After an incredibly successful production of Sweeney Todd earlier in the term, their new production of Guys and Dolls has a particularly tough act to follow. But director Siobhan Brennan is certain that next week’s show will achieve similar success.

“As a director, there is a lot of pressure on you. There are always decisions to make and a lot of hours are put into each rehearsal to make sure the show meets its high expectations. When you perform in the Arts Centre, you are side by side with professional touring companies and it makes us realise how fortunate we are that we are able to perform in such a great venue, especially the biggest arts centre outside of London!”

In her role as director of Guys and Dolls, Siobhan had the difficult task of choosing the right performers to play each role, a process which she could not afford to take lightly.

“In this particular production, each member of the cast is a character in their own right. To make this show work, we have tried to establish a character for each of the ensemble, giving them different wants and aspirations. Throughout the show, the audience will be able to see a variety of relationships form between different members of the cast and in my view, it’s this kind of thing that makes the show worth a watch.”

Whilst Siobhan manages the people on stage, the producer Alexa Tamsett makes sure everything runs smoothly off it.

“The role of producer in a student production is slightly different from what you might expect. You control pretty much everything and you end up doing more odd-jobs than you would in a professional production. However, everything remains professional and to a very high standard.”

Alexa meets regularly with the Arts Centre to make sure that everything is in place for the show to be a success and to make sure that enough tickets are sold for each night in its 4- night run.

“Liaising with the Arts Centre is very important. We have pulled out fantastic shows every year which helps make our relationship with the Arts Centre so strong. Our shows are always professional- they have to be for us to break even! As the producer of Guys and Dolls, I’ve checked through all of the publicity to make sure it is of the required standard and I have made sure that the set is suitable for the production.”

Musical Theatre Warwick is an entirely self-funded society and they do a lot of fund raising to make sure that they have enough money in the bank to produce great shows.

“We have put out a variety of different advertisements around the piazza just so that we can increase the number of students who buy tickets. Just like any professional show, if we sell all of our tickets, we make a profit.”

With tickets selling fast, Guys and Dolls could well be performed to sell out crowds on each night. Laura Bird, who will play the lead female role of Adelaide next week, spoke about what it’s like to perform in the Arts Centre in front of sell-out crowds.

“It is such a great experience. Everyone backstage treats you like a professional and, more often than not, you share a dressing room with actors and comedians you might recognise from the TV. It is incredible that a drama society like us can perform on such a big stage, with such a huge range of students from different subject fields.”

Guys and Dolls will see Laura play a lead role for the first time alongside Robin Kendall (Sky Masterson) who relished the challenge of adopting the mindset of his character.

“Putting myself in the mindset of a 1950s gambler has been an interesting challenge. I have worked particularly on adapting my persona and my body language to play Sky, attempting to develop the character by learning slight of hand tricks. As a first year, it has been a fantastic experience to be involved with, especially when working with such a talented cast. MTW in general is a society I would hugely recommend getting involved with whether your interests lie in music, performance or backstage work.”

Guys and Dolls will be performed at the Arts Centre from 14-17th May and tickets cost £9.50 for students.

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