Andrew Corcoran

musical direction - piano/keyboards - music preparation

Relaxing Into the Tour

Well, July was *almost* a complete month of summery sun! A day of rain towards the end, though, was rather welcome considering how brown the UK had become.

Temperatures into the mid-30Cs caused a small amount of discomfort down in London where are new cast of kids have continued to rehearse all month, but my infrequent visits there have always been a delight as they clearly continue to enjoy the process of learning Matilda. In a few days time, they will finally join us up here in Birmingham and the month-long process of integrating them with the adult cast and with the fully-automated set can get underway.

Back on the tour proper, the most notable event of July was arguably our first Relaxed Performance for Matilda on the road. An autism-friendly event, the idea is for families to be able to enjoy the musical without the worry of disturbing other patrons too much. The house lights are left on (albeit on a lower setting), the auditorium doors are kept open and extra members of front-of-house staff are constantly available for assistance. From a show perspective, sound is less amplified, lighting effects are made subtler and small directional changes go in. It was a pleasure conducting this performance, especially as it fell on my 36th birthday! The focus and energy onstage was expertly geared towards providing the audience with the same experience that the usual show offers, and the reception at the end of that matinee proved that that had been achieved. Everyone had a spring in their step that day after that!

I also moved past 4,000 professional performances in my career this month. Yes, it's rather strange of me to keep count, but as I started counting back in 2004 it's proved very difficult to stop! It all stemmed from a biography in a programme I once saw where a principal claimed to have done "over 20,000 performances" in her career. Knowing they definitely hadn't counted, it intrigued me enough to see just exactly how many I would end up doing. And happy to see after 14 years I'm still going strong (just about)!

It was Showcase this month. This is the amateur dramatic spectacle that usually takes place at the Lowry in Salford every summer. It's full of familiar faces from years gone by and is always far too much fun, especially enjoyable to step back into the depths of an orchestra pit, behind a keyboard, and play things other than Matilda! Well, except that one of the medleys this year was, in fact, Matilda...!

August will flash by, I reckon. By the end of the month, our new set of kids, including two new Matildas, will have performed their first shows. Before that, much rehearsing awaits! Let's hope the weather outside stays kind. But if it doesn't, we probably won't notice much anyway.

If Ever There Was a Lull...

If ever there was a lull during this tour of Matilda, this was that month. Milton Keynes has been relatively easy-going: rehearsals are pretty much done and the theatre is more than well-equipped to deal with a large show like ours. Most importantly, the air conditioning works! Very useful during this rather elongated heatwave that the UK is enjoying.

Of course, by "lull", there has still been much to do. More of our understudies have been getting a chance to get on stage, and many technical departments have used the opportunity to train up new and existing personnel into specific roles on the tour. On the music side, Phil Cornwell has successfully joined us as one of our conductors, taking the helm for a couple of performances here in MK.

Audiences here have been great, as ever. It's also been lovely to live out in the suburbs around Milton Keynes this time, rather than commuting. The weather has helped, of course, but all the walking and cycling routes have been great to explore, especially around the lake and numerous parks. The area is much greener than I've ever given it credit before, what with Central Milton Keynes being so full of concrete!

Away from the tour, but still within the Matilda bubble, rehearsals for our 20 new children got underway this week. I was there for their first afternoon of music calls, everyone fizzing with excitement! They'll be joining us for technical rehearsals from August.

July sees a new venture for the tour as we begin our 10-week sit-down at the Birmingham Hippodrome. A great theatre, a great city - let's hope the weather stays good for the entire duration! (not likely)

Ends and beginnings

May, again dominated by the Matilda Tour (which played all month in Sunderland) saw the end of one process and very much the start of another.

The show itself continues to settle into its rhythm. The sheer effort it takes to put on each performance is quite like no other show I've worked on. It takes over six hours to prepare the production for a Monday performance, over three hours on any other given day and even the cast have to be in almost two hours beforehand. But the theatrical experience that each audience experiences each time it totally worth it.

The process that came to an end was officially our rehearsal period. 169 days after teaching "Bruce" to a load of kids in a hall in London, we had our dress rehearsal for the 2nd cover understudies. That now means every child is rehearsed and every adult company member knows the tracks they perform as well as the tracks they cover. Stage management are happy that everyone knows technically what they are doing, and wigs & wardrobe are happy with the look of every character. Oh, and I'm of course delighted with how everyone is singing their roles! The "cover run" was well-timed, as one day later saw some company members having to cover these exact roles, which they of course did brilliantly. In fact, the whole company pulled together magnificently to maintain our spectacular show.

The one that begins? Rehearsals. Again. We have now cast our next set of children who will start performances in September. They initially rehearse in London at the end of this month before joining us on tour in August so that they, too, can be teched & dressed into the production. More exciting times await and we can be sure (although it was never a surprise) that this tour will never get boring!

The show moves to Milton Keynes next week for a 4-week run. We'll continue to prep for these rehearsals from there. And, who knows? More understudies may get the opportunity to get out in front of an audience.

Irish Eyes Were Smiling

Well, that went fast... no sooner than we travelled to Dublin, opened, threw a pint or two of Guinness down our necks and did some more rehearsals did it seem as though we were flying back to the UK once again!

Dublin never fails to disappoint. The weather did its best to, of course, as the month of April threw strong winds and incessant bands of rain across the Grand Canal area. But the audiences really turned up and showed their appreciation for Matilda, which was of course making its Irish premiere. Standing ovations at every performance!

I was recently in the Fair City with The Addams Family, back in August 2017, so there wasn't much left for me to explore. That was no bad thing, as pretty much every weekday was spent rehearsing children or understudies. Our kids cast are now fully rehearsed, and our first cover cast (the principal understudies) teched and dressed. I did manage a few trips into the city centre, though, and even an impromptu train journey out to the seaside town of Bray one Sunday.

Now it's time for another week off. This is one to try and make the most of, as we then have 18 (EIGHTEEN) straight weeks of performances ahead of us, taking in Sunderland, Milton Keynes & Birmingham. By the end of that third venue, we'll be saying goodbye to a fair portion of our children's cast and introducing some new young faces to the tour.

For now, though, it's a week of life admin for me: accounts, dentist appointments, car servicing, a friend's wedding... before I know it though we'll all be up in the North East to show audiences there how great Matilda is.

Off to Curve

Today, rehearsals for the Matilda tour reached a milestone. After eight weeks, we had completed our work in the rehearsal rooms and are now ready to begin our next month of preparation. The days have often been long, running 10am-8pm up to six days a week, but the sheer fact that it is this wonderful score and script that we get to work on has kept a bounce in the step of every company member as we have strode in to work each frosty morning.

The reason for the lengthier rehearsal process is to ensure the children are as knowledgable as possible in regards to every aspect of their show, especially when it comes to safely performing the staging and choreography. Also as there are up to three children covering each character (four in the case of Matilda), sequences have to be run multiple times. This week alone we have had to do four full runs of the show in the main hall.

I'm having a truly wonderful time discovering the score. There are so many layers to peel back and still much work to be done, especially in regards to adding in the band and working with sound. There are just over four weeks to go until our first performance. All the songs have now been taught, so in that respect it's a case of maintaining the high standard we have set.

There are moments in the rehearsal room where I've figuratively stepped back and reminded myself what an incredible tour this is to be a part of. The children are ridiculously inspirational and I have a feeling this is all going to be a lot of fun on the road! Tomorrow I leave for week 1 of 7 in Leicester, ready for technical rehearsals to begin at Curve on Monday. Soon the tour will really feel underway.

In The Beginning

2018 officially begins, although for me the new year began on December 11th when rehearsals for the Matilda tour got underway.

We have spent three weeks concentrating on songs, choreography and scenes that involve the children in the cast. The sheer amount of information they have to take in means all of this extra time before the adults start is very much used! These preliminary weeks also allow stage management, wardrobe and the rest of the production staff to ready the rehearsal spaces properly for rehearsals in January, with brand new props and elements of the set appearing in the space. Tomorrow, Tuesday 2nd January, is when the adults begin their rehearsals ahead of the official company Meet & Greet on Wednesday.

The children have been working very hard, especially impressive considering they've had to battle the distraction of the festive season! I managed a quick visit to Cheshire to spend Christmas itself with my parents. It was just the three of us this year, as my sister and her husband are working in Berlin through the winter, but a very pleasant (and relaxing) day was had. I am now once again trying to relax on New Year's Day before the madness of rehearsal gets going again!

January is fairly straightforward: rehearse the Matilda company six days a week, rest on the seventh. Any divine intervention is of course welcome.

Hamilton was excellent, by the way. I managed to see a preview performance. I'm sure you're all planning to go and see it at some point, so there's no real reason for me to go on about it. Have a wonderful 2018, everyone!

#TourLife

October was in many ways a very ordinary month of touring: a week in Belfast, Glasgow, Wolverhampton & Milton Keynes apiece. It has been a busy schedule as we prepare the show for its transition to Singapore next month, and every single working day for me in October started at lunchtime and ended well after 10pm. However, The Addams Family only does performances Tuesdays-Saturdays due to the amount of time it takes to shift the set from city to city, so I have enjoyed - and certainly made the most of! - a two-day Sunday-Monday weekend every week.

The UK tour finishes this week in Dartford - a complete sell-out as the perfect storm of Halloween, London interest & the end of the tour saw a real ticket rush. We say goodbye to Sam Womack, Les Dennis, Jess Buckby (a member of our fabulous ensemble) as well as the UK band. We then have just one week off before we head over to Singapore to get used to our identically-built set and our Singapore set of musicians ready for our three-week run over there. In the interim I will be continuing to prep for the beginning of Matilda rehearsals, which for me get going almost as soon as I step off the plane from Singapore in December!

Fun with the Family

A busy month on the Addams Family tour, finishing up a great run in Salford, followed by a week each in Sheffield, Bristol & Woking. All four cities brought with them fantastic audiences which really buoyed the performers and ultimately makes the show such great fun to conduct each night!

We welcomed some new recruits to the tour this month: I have a new Assistant MD starting, Joe Hood, who takes over from John Donovan (who heads off to MD The Band). We also met some new cast members who are being rehearsed in to the show ready for our run in Singapore: Lavinia, a new ensemble member, Corey English who will be Fester, and Rebecca Thornhill, who takes over as Morticia. I will in fact be working with Rebecca for quite a while, as she will also be reprising her role of Mrs Wormwood on the forthcoming Matilda tour!

Talking of which, there was another quick visit to London this month to drop in on the London production of Matilda. I had another fabulous insight into the rehearsal process, sitting in on the day of the full sound check with the band. It felt like a concert performance and is a really good way to hear the orchestrations, harmonies and sound effects all working in sync for the first time with the new cast. It makes me all the more excited to get started with the tour.

October kicks off with a brief visit back to Cheshire to wish my mum a happy 64th birthday today. We're sat drinking Champagne as I type! Apologies for any spelling errors as a direct result. Tomorrow I fly to Belfast to enjoy a week of Guinness and Bushmills, as well as of course more Addams Family fun. Later in the month we take the show to Glasgow, Wolverhampton & Milton Keynes before culminating in a Halloween performance in Dartford, our final UK venue. Time really does fly when you're having fun!

Back at the Quays

The Lyric Theatre in Salford Quays is probably the theatre I've visited the most in regards to different productions, having performed a dozen or so different Showcase concerts, plus Hairspray, Wicked and now The Addams Family within its hallowed walls. Having rattled around in the metallic acoustics of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, for the past fortnight, the warmer curtaining & carpeting of the Lyric's auditorium is taking some getting used to!

The Quays itself is, as ever, sparkling in the August sunshine. It's always a joy to come back to find even more restaurants and bars appearing around the area, having remembered a time when the canal side was merely just an outlet mall and the theatre. Today alone, The Botanist and The Alchemist both open bars alongside the complex.

It means for me that I get to stay at my parents' cottage in the Cheshire countryside. They are away in France at the moment on holiday so I get the place pretty much to myself, bar a pet cat or two. One of the things that makes touring bearable is knowing that Smithy Cottage awaits in the middle of the United Kingdom when I'm on my travels!

August was of course largely dominated with being on the road with the Addams Family, which played in the large theatres in Cardiff & Dublin, meaning we've had six long summer(ish) weeks performing shows by the waterside. The show continues to go down well, although being an unfamiliar musical largely requires on word of mouth to fill the auditorium each night.

There was quite a lot of journeying back-and-forth between Cardiff and London, in part due to continuing to familiarise myself with Matilda the Musical whilst West End rehearsals continue, but also to witness the fabulous spectacle that was the World Athletics Championships in London, bringing back all the memories of the Olympics in 2012. Juggling all three made for quite the whistle-stop fortnight, but it was quite exhilarating!

September sees The Addams Family tour continue, alongside a little more Matilda-watching. We have another week in Salford to go, then off to Sheffield, Bristol and then closer to the London area with a week in Woking.

On With The Show(s)

Wow, that was a busy month! And this is just the start...

So I'm up and running as Musical Director for THE ADDAMS FAMILY UK Tour now. I've completed my first full venue and I'm LOVING it. The company are really rather fantastic: a brilliant cast, hard-working and lovely technical team and a band who are nightly knocking seven bells out of this fab score. We're currently all on our way to Cardiff for the Welsh premiere of the show, then later in August it'll be time for the Irish premiere in Dublin. Considering I've just come from playing the piano-heavy Poppins score, this next statement is rather telling: save for the odd am-dram, I don't think I've ever played so much piano during a show as I have done with THE ADDAMS FAMILY!

There were a couple of days available to finish and record the song for Tram Tracks that I wrote with my sister. You can hear the results below. I'm quite pleased with how my first song has turned out! It serves its purpose, if perhaps running a little long. Laura & I quite like the idea though of an epic adventure-style song detailing what would otherwise be a rather run-of-the-mill journey. It went down brilliantly in a concert jam-packed with similar songs at the Bridgwater Hall.

I had some very exciting news this month regarding work in 2018: I'm going to be Musical Director for the very first MATILDA THE MUSICAL UK Tour! It's already highly anticipated and tickets are selling fast, and I simply cannot wait to take this beautiful show to some of the greatest theatres in the land. See my Now & Next page for tour details. I've joined the team at an auspicious time as they are just wrapping up adult cast auditions, as well as rehearsing a new cast for the London production. Both processes are extremely useful for me to observe ahead of rehearsals starting in earnest in the winter. Every day spent with the RSC troupe has been an absolute joy, and every single person I've met has been so welcoming. The tour is expected to continue well into 2019.

Back in the present, August is of course centred around my current tour. I leave for Cardiff in an hour or so and, other than a couple of brief returns to the capital to witness what is going to surely be an incredible World Athletics Championships, will be away from London for the duration. I'm also very much looking forward to the Guinness awaiting me in the Irish capital later this month!

Clicking Into Place

It's been a satisfyingly busy June. I've largely been kept out of trouble on three fronts: playing occasional performances of ON THE TOWN in the middle of Regent's Park, writing songs with my sister for Bridgewater Hall & Metrolink's TRAM TRACKS programme and getting to grips with THE ADDAMS FAMILY score ready for my first performances next week.

Depping in Regent's Park has been my first experience of playing at its Open Air Theatre venue. Obviously the British weather has had its say once in a while, but truly when the sky is clear and the temperature warm, there's nothing quite like it. Those big gulps of (almost) fresh air as you play some top-quality Bernstein has made it really lovely to pop in and play with the exquisite band. As I write this, the show is readying itself for its final two performances, one of which I'm playing, the other (this evening) I'm watching.

As for writing with my sister, composition isn't something I've done to any great effect since my school days, and the initial "blank page" moments were a little bit tough. But we have two songs, one for the Lowry Chorus to sing and one that my sister will perform, and I'm pretty happy with how both are sounding! We have one more week to get them ready, so some final tinkerings lie ahead. Hopefully I'll have a track or two to share with you on here next month.

It's a really special feeling to sit there guffawing your way through a show that you are meant to be learning. Something I haven't felt since the days of learning JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA or OUR HOUSE. But, my word, THE ADDAMS FAMILY is utterly hilarious. Performances to die for (see what I did there?) and a really meaty score to get under the fingers. The Musical Director has his work cut out on piano now that the show has been re-orchestrated for eight players, which suits me down to the ground. Andrew Hilton has been doing a brilliant job as out-going MD as he moves comic-horror genres into YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN territory. I get to play a few shows as part of the takeover period next week before taking over full-time from the middle of July. For now, I must get back to practising!

I had the pleasure of hosting my mother for a few days when she travelled down to London to take in some fine West End fodder. My 2nd visit to 42ND STREET was made extra special by landing on my feet with an incredible view of the stage: seats C20-21 in the Grand Circle, my top tip! We also saw BEAUTIFUL before it closes in London (which made my mum cry - in a good way, obviously) and DREAMGIRLS, which totally lived up to the hype around it. She then of course saw ON THE TOWN on an evening when I was playing and absolutely loved it. By all accounts it was a successful trip to London!

So July for me is dominated by joining THE ADDAMS FAMILY tour, although mercifully the company get a week off before I properly start, so I've potentially got some time to enjoy Wimbledon, as well as my birthday. A few of us are renting a big house in Cornwall for a few days around then, which should prove fun!

Back On The Town

With my latest tour done and dusted 10 days ago, Mary Poppins finally flew off and we flew back into Heathrow with the aim of getting back some sort of normality. Dubai lived up to the adventure, having been driven around the nearby desert, sailed around the Palm Jumeirah, thrown myself down slides at the nearby waterpark and enjoyed some amazing local foodstuffs. 30C temperatures awaited us back in London, a bit of a shock to the system after a month of 40C...! OK, not really.

After a weekend of relaxing and re-acclimatising, I got straight back into London life, learning two of the three keyboard chairs for ON THE TOWN, a new run of the show taking place outdoors at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. I spent most of last week there, sitting in and playing for some of the performances. I can't wait to see it from out front, but from my vantage point within the band tent, it sounds spectacular. The audiences appear to quite like it, too!

As well as that, this month is largely about prepping for two other projects: a collaboration with my sister, writing two songs for the Tram Tracks project, celebrating 25 years of Manchester's Metrolink, commissioned by the Bridgwater Hall, due to be performed later this summer. In all, over 90 songs are being written, one for each stop on the network. We have been asked to write a song for Timperley, the station near to where we both get up, and Broadway, a stop in Salford Quays within proximity of The Lowry. The latter song is being written for the Lowry Chorus to sing.

My other project, equally as exciting, involves taking over as Musical Director on THE ADDAMS FAMILY UK Tour from mid-July. It's a show I'm only mildly familiar with and it's tremendously exciting to be joining a brand-new production, especially one that I've been hearing hugely positive feedback about. My tenure with the show kicks off in Southampton and the tour currently runs through until early November.

I'm also looking forward to another few days back with my parents in Cheshire, once again perfectly timed with Father's Day, as well as catching some West End shows when my mum pops down South for a visit. All in all, I think that's June sorted! See you in July.