Little Fir Tree, December 18th 2018, Kings Place, LondonOh it’s getting so exciting! It’s only nine days away until the musical that David Stoll and I have written called LITTLE FIR TREE premieres at Kings Place on 18th December in London, as a staged –concert. Sylvester McCoy who is well known as the Seventh Doctor Who and The Hobbit Trilogy plus loads of other things, is our Narrator.

Sylvester has been extremely busy filming YOU in Dresden, and in fact has he has just returned to London, but he still found time to make a surprise visit to see us during rehearsals this week in Islington. He even posed for photos with the superbly friendly ladies of the Community Centre, where we are based.

We are now in the last week of preparations before our two concerts at Kings Place. The atmosphere at rehearsals has been very jolly thanks to our Director David Ian Neville, and Musical Director Stephen Clarke, but there is no way round it, it’s always a nerve racking experience staging a new work!

That said we are greatly aided by having a very talented cast ready to tackle anything with a can-do spirit.

Also, I must say that I am completely knocked out by the beautiful designs that Claire Lyth has done to bring the stage to life. She has crafted some stunning slides of a fairytale forest, a couple of which I have included in this blog. (By the way, Claire also did the set for our children’s opera THE DRUMMER BOY OF WATERLOO, which premiered in Aldeburgh in 2015).

So if you’re reading this and happen to be in London on December 18th 2018 do come along to one of the concerts, there’s still some seats left and here’s the link. We’d love to see you!

 

Little Fir Tree Stage

Oh my goodness it’s all happening! October has been a busy month. We’ve been inspired by the London Mayors tree planting initiatives at LFT Productions where I am currently Creative Director and we’ve been honoring our pledge to, ‘Brings forest magic to the inner city’ with the LITTLE FIR TREE PROJECT.

This is a project that links the Arts and the Environment with the aim of increasing awareness of the importance of trees in our cities.

As part of the ten free ‘Tree Awareness’ workshops that Alan Rickett (pictured here) and I have been presenting outdoors for Islington Primary Schools, we then head inside for hot chocolate and to hear music and some bits of the story from the new family musical called LITTLE FIR TREE based on the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Little Fir Tree, re-imagined by myself and my co-writer David Stoll.

...And that’s just the start. A staged concert version of our musical is to be premiered at two Gala concerts on December 18th 2018 at Kings Place, London as part of their Christmas Celebrations with an orchestra, high profile cast and star narrator.

This Gala evening is being supported by the Woodland Trust. You will be hearing more about it in the coming weeks…

We’ve just got our celebrity narrator on board, but I’m not allowed to tell anyone yet!!

Photo: Kim Appleby and Megg.

On Saturday I went to see my friend Kim Appleby perform at the ‘Let’s Rock’ 80’s retro music festival in Clapham Common.

I was really excited because I had never seen her sing live before. I was also a little nervous for her because it had been twenty-six years since she had performed her hits like Respectable …without her sister Mel beside her. (Mel having sadly died of cancer when they were at the height of their career).

So joining this show was a big moment for her and she had her doubts about doing it. As she said to me previously,

“I can’t go back in time and recreate something which was unique to ‘Mel & Kim’ and I really don’t want to sell my sister short by playing the nostalgia card and dressing up in the gear with the bolero jacket and stuff. If I’m going to do this it has to be how I am today and somehow at the same time celebrate what Mel and I did"

There was a lot riding on this performance. It had to satisfy not only the 80’s retro crowd but also Kim’s high expectations of herself and of course her desire not to let Mel down.

I’m happy to say she needn’t have worried, ‘cause from the moment she walked on that stage Kim nailed it. What a class act! I was watching first hand someone remembering just how much she loved performing. She radiated warmth and Bon Ami. The crowd loved her and the twenty–six years just melted away as she sung her heart out while her fans danced and celebrated with her.

Kim was back where she belonged…on that stage living life out loud!

Kim Appleby

Invitation to schools

When I read in the local Islington newspaper last year that Caroline Russell our Green Party Councilor say ‘Out of the twenty–five schools in Islington, only one came within the ‘safe’ pollution limits’, I was horrified.

We all know that living in a city presents problems in terms of the air we breathe, but to hear that, ‘Almost all school locations tested were exposed to “illegal air” – some almost twice the legal limit….’ was completely shocking to me.

Now as a Songwriter the one logical thing I might have done at that point would be to write a protest song about it and leave it at that.

However, David Stoll and I just happened to be working on a new family musical called Little Fir Tree, re-imagined from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale.

In our version Little Tree, is not chopped down and disposed of at the end of the story (as in the original) but dug up and replanted as a symbol of growth reminding us all of the value in preserving our woodland areas.

It occurred to us that perhaps inspiring future generations to think about the air we breathe, was not about preaching to them but about finding a way to connect that we all can relate to. And what better way to do that than through a good story with music.

Hence the LITTLE FIR TREE PROJECT was born and this week letters are going out to every Primary School in Islington from www.lftproductions.co.uk inviting them to take part in ten free outdoor Tree awareness workshops in the Autumn, where the LITTLE FIR TREE story and music will feature and also at the same time support the Woodland Trusts Urban Tree planting strategy.

It feels important that we all do our bit for the planet …don’t you agree?

Spike LondonI had some wonderful times touring with Spike and his lovely wife Sheelagh, when I was with the "Spike Milligan and Friends" Tour / West End show. There were so many laughs and stories it's hard to know where to begin. We even did a Royal Command performance for Prince Charles. Spike called him "Trainee King", much to our amusement, throughout the whole show.

I absolutely adored working with Spike. Not all actors did though because he was so unpredictable. For me that was all part of the fun, you never knew what he would do next and no two shows were ever the same. I met Spike through Ed Welch our musical director, when I was asked to sing on a Demo of a Christmas musical they had written called ‘Joseph I’m having a Baby!’ In true Spike fashion it was brilliantly funny. When shall we see that on stage I wonder?? Anyway when I was asked to do Spikes tour I jumped at the chance. We didn't rehearse a lot, normally it's six weeks for a West End Show then a few weeks previewing out of town. We did one week in Torquay at a friend of Ed's studio and then we opened in Dublin-with a sound check only! Talk about flying by the seat of your pants. We must have been ok though because the ‘house full’ notices went up almost immediately and we went back to Dublin ‘By popular demand ‘ later on before opening in The Lyric on Shaftesbury Avenue.

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