Paul Dale-Vickers is better known as singing superstar who stepped into the role of Jean Valjean in the West End & UK National Tour of Les Miserables. We interview him on his new musical, which is being toured before arriving in a cosy little pub in Islington.
Paul, What are some of the most memorable moments, in your professional career, that have helped you in the creation of the musical?
Obviously playing Valjean at the age of 23 was an absolute childhood ambition realised, but since then the success of my musical monologue 'De Profundis' which has taken me as far afield as China has been my catalyst to make new theatre. I've been very lucky that my career as a writer/performer had been enriched by my career as an educationalist and now the two careers are interwoven and compliment each other. There are other moments as a performer which stick out, performing in the 2000 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar was without a doubt the most fun I ever had in a rehearsal period.
But it's all incremental, it's the people you meet, the work and concepts you get introduced to from others who you respect that help you with your own creative identity.
It’s a long way from the massive stages you’ve performed with 2,000 people giving standing ovations, what are you most looking forward to in bringing your brand-new musical to a pub theatre?
Yes, it's interesting to the extent of how much you take for granted the capacity of audiences for long running shows like Les Mis, which I did for over three years. Now that I'm working in fringe theatre I have a much greater insight into how one generates an interest in a show, there are endless emails and a great deal of time spent on social media and a lot of relying on friends and family. But, I did come to the conclusion when I was doing my Masters a few years ago that audience size isn't the true measure of the quality of integrity of work, it's not the quantity, it's the impact the experience has on those who attend that matters.
What inspired you to create a musical from Leonid Andreyev’s short story, The Little Angel?
Again, this goes back to my time studying, we were looking at Avant-Garde theatre, it was about the same time that the musical ‘Spring Awakenings’ emerged and I saw a connection. I already loved Checkov and Gorky, but I'd never heard of Andreyev. I read his play 'He who gets Slapped' and fell in love with his style, undeniably nihilistic, but imaginative and provocative. I thought if ‘Spring Awakenings’ can capture a contemporary audiences’ imagination within a musical theatre context, then so can Andreyev. I then read his short stories and 'The Little Angel' stood out. I knew from the outset that I wanted to make the stage interpretation true to the literary experience of reading the book, which is why I used the convention of narration alongside song and scene. I am aware that it dosn't immediately present itself as a potential basis for a musical, but that has never really concerned me. I think you have to go with what captures your imagination and hope is resonates with others.
I have been true to the original structure/narrative, however, I have had to elaborate on the story a little and flesh out a number of characters just to give the piece some balance.
There is a ‘magical’ aspect to the story, how have you approached this?
Some of it is realised in the composition, from the outset the tone of the music and melody and chord structures were dark and I suppose quite filmic. Then, as I've left a great deal of the narration in, the language does all the work for you. Also, our technician Craig, is just brilliant at creating the right atmosphere, his simple design really achieves a world for the piece which works brilliantly in intimate spaces.
There’s also much humour, does this come from situation or character?
Both, it is uncomfortable at times which generates a kind of absurd laughter, the mother is deeply unpleasant and her disposition is at times ridiculous. As we are a company of five, we take on multiple roles and I also play a little girl with beautiful long blonde hair and a full beard.
Have you kept the juiciest role for yourself?
No, not at all, the Mother, Feoktista Petrovna is the best role, drunk, loud and free to say whatever she likes. In all honesty, I like playing the Father, but my enjoyment is absolutely in the creating and construct of new work, getting to perform in the piece too is just an added bonus really, it's great fun to play.
As a composer, who or what inspires you?
It varies, pop culture, some musical theatre composition, film music. More specifically, The Beatles, Philip Glass, Yann Tierson, Metallica, Orbital, Henry Purcell....it's a mixed bag
Could you tell us about the theatre company and its ambitions for the future?
We want to explore more community driven work, we are very loyal to the cultural landscape of West Yorkshire. We want to perhaps create pieces which may transpire to not fit comfortably within the category of musical theatre, maybe so called ‘music theatre’ and we want to continue creating work designed for intimate spaces and experiences.
Finally, do you have some favourite lines from the lyrics for THE LITTLE ANGEL you would like to share with us?
Mother: Back so soon?
Sashka: Die Mother!
Mother: You'd like that wouldn't you?
Sashka: With every atom of my being
No ambiguity in the nature of their relationship there.
THE LITTLE ANGEL Music, adaptation and lyrics by Paul Dale-Vickers
Presented by Actual Size Theatre
20th - 24th February - Hen & Chickens, Islington
Get your tickets here: https://www.unrestrictedview.co.uk/the-little-angel/
The Little Angel is a musical adaptation of Leonid Andreyev’s short story. It tells the tale of young Sashka Petrovna, a troubled boy with seemingly nothing to live for. His parents are violent, selfish and unsympathetic, it seems like Sashka’s life is spiralling out of control until one profound evening he sees ‘The Little Angel’ hanging on the Christmas tree and his life is inexplicably changed forever. It is moving, funny and full of heart.