THE Playhouse Stage Experience is ten years old this week and to celebrate, this year’s cast of aspiring young performers from across the Capital have been given a very special vehicle to demonstrate their talents.
Hot on the heels of the success of the Oscar-nominated Disney film adaptation, and with a new creative team overseeing the production, Stephen Sondheim’s multi-award winning musical Into The Woods is set to take The Playhouse Stage Experience to a new level.
The new creative team is led by acclaimed West End performer and director Peter Corry, who returns to the Greenside Place venue having played the role of Inspector Javert there in 1993’s record-breaking production of Les Misérables.
He laughs, as he reveals, “Every time I’ve been here in connection with the Stage Experience, I’ve been going in and out of the front of the building. Last night, I came out the Stage Door for the first time and it just sort of hit me... ‘Oh yes, I remember this very well’.”
The Irishman continues, “I have some brilliant memories of playing Edinburgh and I am delighted to be back doing this.
“I find it hugely rewarding to be working with young people who come in and are enthusiastic, keen, and want to learn and do their best.
“It’s a great reminder for me and the creative team of the passion that young people have for musical theatre.”
The cast of the 2015 Stage Experience are all aged between 11 and 24, and indeed Corry wasn’t that much older when he starred in Les Miserables.
He elaborates, “I suppose you set yourself certain goals, and I certainly have set myself goals in my career. I came to performing relatively late, I think I was in my mid-20s.
“I’d never been to see a musical until I was 22, when I went to see a local production of Brigadoon. I liked it and got into a production of Grease.
“Within two years I had won a TV talent show in Ireland, a forerunner to The X Factor back when TV talent shows were more like Opportunity Knocks,” he laughs.
Turning professional he soon found himself in the Capital.
“Les Mis was and still is my favourite musical and probably the one that drew me into musical theatre more than anything else.
“So playing Javert was certainly a goal. The moment I found myself working as a professional, the show I wanted to get into was Les Mis.
“It was here that I established myself in the role of Javert.”
Corry’s 100-strong cast of youngsters who are ready to take to the stage on Friday and Saturday will no doubt be hoping to follow his example.
Based on Grimm’s fairy tales, the musical charts the not-so-innocent quest to live “happily ever after” and features some of Sondheim’s most famous songs including Giants In The Sky and Children Will Listen.
“We are in the theatre now for our tech week, so we have all the sound and lighting, costumes, and all of that coming together, which is fun,” says Carry, adding, “It’s starting to get real for everybody now.
“It’s quite a big show, and a lot to get through in just over a week. Last night we just finished act two with the cast, but without the technical side of things. It’s been a very busy eight days. Great fun and a lot of hard work.”
For the cast, that hard work is about to pay off as they prepare to take to one of the most famous stages in the country.
“They were on the stage for a while the other day and it was great to see because, when you are rehearsing in a rehearsal room, you try to explain that they need to get a big performance because of the size of the Playhouse; it’s the biggest proscenium arch theatre in the UK, so you need a performance that fills that space.
“When they got on that stage I could see them all growing, realising that they need to deliver it...”
To ensure that everyone gets their moment in the spotlight, this production features many new roles.
“You have to make it an enjoyable experience for the younger members of the cast and a challenging one for the older members, so what we have done is create many more roles,” explains Corry.
“The forest, for example, comes alive, so the young people make up the forest and get to comment and move around, which makes this a very unique production of Into The Woods.”
Already Corry admits he is impressed by some of the talent on display, although he refuses to single anyone out.
“I never butter it up and say, ‘You can go in to this business’, but there is undoubtedly a lot of talent in this cast and certainly some I could see going on to have a future in the business,” he offers.
“But what I really want is for an audience to leave after the show, not saying ‘That was a great youth production,’ but ‘That was a top notch show.”
Into The Woods, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, Friday and Saturday, 7.30pm (matinee 2.30pm), £19.40-£22.40, 0844-871 3014