Andrew Corcoran

musical direction - piano/keyboards - music preparation

Working The Fingers

The last complete month of this first Matilda UK Tour is done. The show completed its run in Southampton and is now residing at its final venue on this long road, the Theatre Royal, Norwich. The smallest of the theatres we have played, but some of the most welcoming audiences of our entire tour! This Norfolk city sparkles in the warm summer sunshine, with incredible buildings around every corner. There are so many churches here that my digs are actually in one, converted into a lovely modern flat!

I turned 37 at midnight on Press Night, so I was “treated” to a rendition of Happy Birthday from most of the company (thanks guys!). The following day, a few of us (including the whole orchestra) headed out onto the pitch & putt and crazy golf courses of Eaton Park for a day of golf competition. Suffice to say I didn’t win…!

Also this month, a week’s holiday between venues were well-timed enough for me to head back up north for my traditional visit to the Manchester am-dram circuit, helping out with their annual charity Showcase at the Lowry. Always a top fun day seeing old faces, and a great workout for my fingers to play songs from such hits as Miss Saigon, Little Shop of Horrors, Heathers & Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Talking of that final show, I decided to pop and see ETAJamie’s West End run as I didn’t know the show too well. A really lovely story, well performed, I was intrigued enough to dig out the old BBC documentary on iPlayer that it was based on!

With just over two weeks to go, thoughts turn both to giving this show the amazing send-off it thoroughly deserves, as well as to what is to come post-Matilda. For me, I’m looking forward to getting started on Falsettos, which is currently in rehearsal, as their Associate Musical Director. It’s my first time back in London working on a show since I was Associate Conductor on Jersey Boys almost three years ago, so it’s high time I show my face in the capital once more! That runs until November, and I hope to be able to share news with you next month about a show I will be MD-ing through 2020! Stay tuned…

Return of the Mayflower

Finally proper summer temperatures have arrived, just in time for our matinee performances! Thankfully, though, the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton has just had a state-of-the-art air-conditioning system installed, meaning the dressing rooms and stage/pit are all nicely temperate. It helps, also, that Southampton sits by the water, meaning temperatures aren’t as stifling as in other areas of the South of England.

I’ve also been quite lucky that my digs for Southampton are on a boat! The cooling water below means my room stays a lovely temperature. I’ve been looking forward to staying on this houseboat all year - I last stayed with the couple who owned it back when I did the Hairspray tour in 2013. They’ve renovated another part of the boat since then, meaning that I have a rather luxurious en-suite double on the top deck.

Talking of renovations, although it was less than two years that I was last at the Mayflower (with Addams Family), the theatre has had another spruce-up. Adding to the backstage extensions when they extended the dock area in recent years, the auditorium has had a lick of paint. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that they had enlarged the pit, utilising under-stage space that was previously a corridor. The new pit is sensational and I’ve never heard a show sound as good as that out front before! The Mayflower had always been a head-scratcher for sound designers and music supervisors, but it looks as though future productions should have a very lovely stay at this venue.

The show itself ticks along nicely. Cast are starting to audition for new projects and everyone backstage is asking about post-tour plans. There are less than two months to go until the tour is done and dusted! We played a rather hilarious post-show game the other day which involved jumbling up little-known facts about our colleagues and then matching up with the correct name. I only managed to guess 2 people out of the entire company! The winner got 20, no idea how, but it was a great chance to find out just how little you actually know about the people you’ve worked with for the past 18 months!

July sees us play Southampton for one more week, then we have a well-earned final holiday week before we open in Norwich. It’s also that time of year again when I pop to Manchester to be a part of Showcase. Oh, and I turn 37! Who’d-a-thunk-it…

Nine Lives

Joseph 2005, Jerry Springer: The Opera 2005, Scrooge 2006, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2007 & 2009, Hairspray 2013, Wicked 2015, The Addams Family 2017… Matilda the Musical marks my ninth visit to the Bristol Hippodrome with a musical! It’s a theatre that inside & out hasn’t seen very many changes, remaining one of the quintessentially traditional venues on the touring circuit. However I’ve watched the city adapt and develop over the years into quite a place.

The streets teem with art & culture. Fine coffee, vegan bakeries & cider outlets are in abundance. Takeaway cups and plastic bags are on the verge of being outlawed (or at least massively frowned-upon). Musicians descend on the Harbourside almost in flashmob-style, bringing crowds singing & dancing with them. A Cat Cafe (You & Meow, of course) is a recent addition to the establishments by stage door. Cuisines are so far-reaching that I’m managing to eat in a different establishment every single day, and loving every single one of them.

We’ve just completed half term week. It sold out months ago, so the Hippodrome requested we add a ninth performance which took place on Friday afternoon. With only five-or-so weeks notice, impressively that performance also sold out! Audiences as ever have been fabulous, and we have one week left here before we move on to our penultimate venue, Southampton.

The end is looming into view, now, with just over two months left. The tour feels like it’s taken over half my life, and yet counterintuitively the warmth of June has had us all reminiscing of the heat this time last year in Milton Keynes & Birmingham, which only feels like five minutes ago! It’s definitely one of the peculiarities of working on a tour that lasts more than a year. It almost makes it feel like a proper job…!

11-show week

The Matilda company survived Bradford! Not that there’s anything explicitly wrong with the Yorkshire city (indeed the city centre continues to improve and the curries were absolutely fantastic) but we hit cast change hard at the end of a gruelling 16-week run non-stop. Our final week saw 8 performances and 3 dress rehearsals - an 11-show week!

Once the curtain came down on that 11th performance, however, a week’s holiday awaited us. The tour has essentially been paused for 7 days. No emails, no WhatsApp messages, just everyone enjoying some away time before hitting the next venue. Next? Edinburgh!

I have arrived two days early into the Scottish capital, largely to enjoy the sights of the city before our busy first week setting up the show here. We are still busy rehearsing the new children - they have each done one performance in front of an audience, so to ready them for the change of venue they get three days in a rehearsal room first. As ever, these new kids have amazed and humbled me with their work ethic. Every single one pulled it out of the bag in that final week in Bradford. Our 3 new Matildas - Sophie, Olivia & Freya - totally stepped up and should be rightly proud of their achievements after ten weeks of rehearsal.

We are only in Edinburgh for 4 weeks. I could have easily done 10 weeks here! But we’ll make the most of it and I can’t wait to seek out the social life here to see what’s changed and more importantly which of my favourites are still here.

So it’s the end of my week off - a week where I purposefully didn’t make many plans and ended up hiring in a hot tub for Mother’s Day! I had one of my usual Cheshire Chill-Outs, made extra special by the fact that my new niece was around for the week. I thought about heading off to a nearby spa hotel, before deciding that I could bring the spa to my parents’ house instead…! My mum was rather pleased, as you can imagine. Cheers mum!

New Arrivals

A little late with my update this month, which only serves as evidence of how ridiculously busy things have been over the past few weeks. I left Plymouth early to head back to London, working with the new cast of children as they prepared to join the tour. The show has now moved to Bradford, and current cast met new cast as everyone congregated at the Alhambra (and its very useful studio theatre doubling up as a rehearsal space) to complete the rehearsal process for 20+ new pint-sized members of the Matilda cast.

As I write, we are halfway through technical rehearsals. We tech Act Two next week and then we dress and open them the following week, before hot-footing it to Edinburgh, our next venue! Back to Bradford, though, and I’ve been ensuring I find time to sample its famous cuisine of Pakistani Desi flavours and sumptuous curries. I’ve been trying to find more of the well-established favourite haunts around the area, and was blown away by Shimla Spice up in Shipley. I still have Mumtaz and Akbar’s to cross off this time around!

In family news, my sister (whose birthday is today, in fact) gave birth last week, making me an uncle for the very first time! Welcome to the world, Léonie. Apparently I have to teach her piano at some point.

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Snow in Plymouth?

Almost… not quite. Into February, and the Matilda tour is in Plymouth. Whilst most of the South West of England has been cut off by snow, the coastal city is just slightly sodden. We’ve been here almost three weeks, and with rehearsals for the new cast of children taking place elsewhere in the country, our full attention has been on the show each night, as well as making most of the winter season in this seaside resort!

Audiences have been flocking to the Theatre Royal in this usually quiet post-Christmas period, making us feel very welcome here in Devon. This is my fourth show here, and I have been rediscovering the likes of the Barbican, the Hoe, and visiting Fort William Yard for the first time. Our two woodwind players on the tour, Sue & Duncan, own an old mill a few miles north of Plymouth, and they hosted the most amazing Sunday meal a few days ago. I couldn’t think of a better way of spending a weekend at this time of year!

A great feed with the fabulous Matilda Band! L-R Yvonne Parsons (cello), Sion Jones (trombone), Andrew Corcoran (me), Mike Steel (Assistant MD), Felix Stickland (guitar), Simon Wells, Duncan Ashby (woodwind), Sue Phipps (woodwind), Jim Davies (trumpet).

A great feed with the fabulous Matilda Band! L-R Yvonne Parsons (cello), Sion Jones (trombone), Andrew Corcoran (me), Mike Steel (Assistant MD), Felix Stickland (guitar), Simon Wells, Duncan Ashby (woodwind), Sue Phipps (woodwind), Jim Davies (trumpet).

We have just over two weeks left in Plymouth, then all hell breaks loose in our next venue, Bradford, as Cast Change meets Matilda Tour. Better enjoy the relative calm while it lasts!!

Christmas in Cardiff

For a few short weeks, the Matilda tour has felt more - how should I say - ordinary? Rehearsals have purposefully not been scheduled over Christmas and New Year, largely due to extra performances and prescribed days off. Other than a few rehearsals for our new male swing and a returning Matilda preceding that, the tour has had a chance to really settle down nicely again with a run of continually sold-out performances at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.

I was fortunate enough to get three whole days off over Christmas, returning to Cheshire once again to be with my parents. A very Chilled Christmas! Lots of great food, drink and relaxing. Perfect. Most of the company managed to have similarly relaxing times, and spirits have been high. We’ve just celebrated New Year 2019, with about half of us watching fireworks explode over the theatre from Roald Dahl Plass. All very apt.

Attention does of course now turn to 2019, the year that the first Matilda Tour will come to an end having started rehearsals way back in late-2017. In the immediacy, we have rehearsals! Elliot Harper’s run as Miss Trunchbull is about to begin, and he starts with us tomorrow. In just two weeks, rehearsals for our final cast of children will get underway in London and carry on until April. Then there will be just four months left of this epic tour. Time really is flying.

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas and I’ll be back with an update in a month’s time once we’ve all settled into 2019!

Well-Deserved R&R

Did I really say rehearsals had ended in my last post? I should have known better…

The behemoth that is the Matilda UK Tour has now finished its fantastic Manchester leg and everyone is having a well-deserved week off before moving into the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, for a six-week run over Christmas. Most of the company have jetted off to find slightly warmer (or colder!) temperatures, whilst I plumped for a few days R&R at the Cheshire Abode, before a few days sorting out and catching-up back at my London flat (which I haven’t really seen since July).

The final few weeks in Manchester were busy on two fronts (not including the 8-show weeks): we completed our search for our final cast of children for 2019, culminating in a big weekend of auditions in London (shared with the West End production). Rehearsals begin again in January - not too far away! We have also welcomed Tom Mather to the show, who will be one of our swings. Brand new to the musical, he has now been in full-time rehearsals with us for the past 3 weeks and has already made a (brief) appearance during a couple of numbers in the show when we had a few people off. We continue to rehearse him into the rest of the show over the coming weeks as we settle into our Welsh run.

I’ve managed to catch a few other shows during the pockets of down time, finally seeing the fabulous Kinky Boots when it arrived in Manchester. Whilst back in London, I’ve tried to catch shows that I know close soon: Company at the Gielgud, and Bat Out Of Hell at the Dominion. I don’t think I could’ve seen two different types of musicals if I had tried! But really glad I got to see both fantastic companies before they end their runs early next year.

Talking of 2019, I don’t think I will get back to London in any notable capacity until at least February now. Our six-week run in Cardiff, which includes a busy Christmas schedule immediately followed by rehearsals for our new Miss Trunchbull, Elliot Harper, then goes straight into a few weeks at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. I do at least get back to my parents in Cheshire for a couple of days around the Big Day itself, so that’s something to look forward to. Have a great Christmas! More updates in the new year.

Manchester Continued

Only a quick update this month as the Matilda tour gets settled into its Manchester run. Rehearsals reached their conclusion (for now) and all the new children and adults are performing fully in the show. We are welcoming new members of the backstage technical team as some staff move to other productions, so we have people learning how to call the show, mix at the sound desk and operate the lights. Lots of new faces to learn as ever!

Old school friends and family members not nearly seen enough continue to come and see the show while it’s at the palace, so I’ve been having lots of lovely catch-ups. As a thank you for tickets, my sister arranged for me to have a relaxing spa day at a hotel nearby. While I’m a big fan of the odd jacuzzi, sauna & steam, this was actually my first ever spa to include a massage and a facial (yes, totally ridiculous for a 36 year old never to have had treatment, I know). As a pianist who also conducts every night, it was totally worthwhile getting some of the tension massaged out of my shoulder and upper back. I already want another one…!

Just over three weeks left of our Manchester run. Do come along if you haven’t seen the show yet!

Busy Bee

So our new set of Matildas are now performing and the rest of our kids cast are settling in. We are also underway in our new temporary home of the Palace Theatre, Manchester, playing to stunning audiences every night. So rehearsals have finished, then? Not on your Nelly.

Having began the process way back in June, we have two weeks of rehearsals left as three of our new children cast learn a second role, a covering arrangement unique to the Matilda UK Tour. We have also welcomed a new adult ensemble member, Richard Astbury, who has just left the London production, as well as a new swing, Katie Lee, who debuted in the role of Hortensia last night.

All these new additions have meant rehearsals continue relentlessly. We have a dress rehearsal planned for next week, at which point things should start to calm down, although we have already begun the process to audition for the 2019 children’s cast, so it never really stops.

It is a joy to be back at the Manchester Palace. For me, it’s my childhood theatre, where I watched all the big musicals as they began their first outings from the West End. I know, therefore, how much the audiences are appreciating seeing Matilda for the very first time in Manchester. The cast are definitely feeling the love! As a city, Manchester is blossoming. I haven’t really worked here that much since I began this career, as most shows I’ve worked on have played Salford. As a result, its been great to re-explore the city as a 30-something. For the first time, I even have digs a mile away, although I still have the very welcome option of driving 45 minutes to my parents house in Cheshire, which is indeed where I’m spending the weekend.

I’m also loving meeting up with rarely-seen friends and extended family while being back here: school friends who now have families, am dram mates who were there back when I was learning from early mistakes, and family members who have never seen me conduct a show before. It’s a real boost at this stage of the tour, making all those hours of aforementioned rehearsals worth the slog. I look forward to meeting up with many more over these remaining eight weeks.

Cast Change

August did flash by, as I fully expected it would. The month was totally dominated by rehearsals for 19 new children who will join the tour for the next six months or so. They have been rehearsing since June in London and joined us at the beginning of August to acquaint themselves with the technicalities of the show proper, including all of its moving parts and the various adults that make appearances during the performance!

Our two new Matildas, Sophia & Scarlett, have excelled already high expectation and their first performances were an absolute triumph this week. The rest of the young ensemble have been inspirational in their devotion & focus towards a stunning debut performance, honestly making the whole rehearsal process overall easier than I was expecting it to be! They are joining a fantastic company making it even more so, and I can't recommend enough that you get yourself to Manchester & Cardiff in these next few months to see them in action.

The existing company, both on stage, backstage, creatively and administratively, have stepped up to the plate admirably and, pulling 12 hour days back-to-back for almost a month, somehow kept spirits high to ensure the new children are well-rehearsed and prepared. We officially ended cast change last night with a "Sports Day" front of house (adults only!) which involved Scoot-offs, newt-chucking & hockey limbo. Far too much fun, but well deserved after a long week of dress rehearsals!

It was, of course, goodbye to our first cast of children - my first cast. We have been through A LOT together since all beginning our journey with the show back in mid-December last year, and it was especially poignant to me to say farewell to two Matildas, Poppy & Lara. I look forward to seeing every single on of them further their theatrical careers a little further down the line. For now, get back to school!

Ten weeks in Birmingham are almost up, amazingly. Later this month (after an extremely well-earned break) we sit down for another ten weeks in the city I grew up in: Manchester. I have a long history with the Palace Theatre, having seen many of my first musicals there with my mum, and taking part in a couple of shows with my dad there, too. I haven't really worked there enough in my career, yet, as this will only be the 4th show I've done, but this extended stay will more than make up for that. I'm looking forward to lots of old friends & family swinging by to see our amazing show.

Family matters took an unfortunate precedent for a time this month, in fact, as my grandad (on my mother's side) passed away. The last surviving grandparent, always proudly supportive of my endeavours, it was an emotional send-off to a great man who joins his wife to carry on their adventures elsewhere. Rest In Peace, Grandad.

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.