AMUSICAL written by a dyslexic locksmith from Stamford will make its stage debut in April.
Tom Jones is based on The History of Tom Jones, the raunchy 18th century novel by Henry Fielding. The show will be performed by Rutland Musical Theatre in Oakham, Stamford and Uppingham.
It is the work of Rutland Musical Theatre member Andrew Lee.
Andrew, 45, of Reform Street, Stamford, had no ambition of ever writing a musical.
He said: “I didn’t plan it, it never entered my head. But Rutland Musical Theatre are doing Footloose this year which is more for the younger members, so a group of us oldies were down the pub thinking we might do a fundraiser for the society. Someone suggested a songs from the shows type of thing but I said no, that’s boring, why not write our own musical?”
It normally costs about £5,000 just for licensing, script hire and royalties and a show such as Footloose is costing £23,000 to stage when costumes, orchestras etc are factored in. Andrew spent long hours searching the internet for something out of copyright that they could get for nothing and came across Tom Jones at about 4am one day. It had been done as a comic opera in 1907 with music by Edward German and lyrics by Charles H Taylor and in 1929 Stamford Operatic Society had performed it at the Corn Exchange. But this 260-page Edwardian musical score was a twee version of the 1749 tale, all the naughtiness had been removed.
“Although I’m dyslexic, I have a good memory and I knew I had seen a copy of this score in Uppingham Bookshop. I went and bought it and the next day ordered a CD that Opera North made in 2009. My singing coach was one of the soloists on that so I rang him and he said no-one had staged the opera for 15 years because it was rubbish. When I read the original script I threw it across the room in disgust. They had gone too far with the olde English and I didn’t like it.”
Andrew said that apart from a BBC mini-series in 2009 and a 1960’s film with Albert Finney, the story has been largely untouched.
“I have gone back to the book and written a two-hour show with one hour of music. Tom Jones was written as a comedy and as I’m a bit of a comedian I’ve tried to make it funny – not rude or crude, no nudity or swearing, but we have put a suggested age of 12 plus on it.”
Andrew’s new score is 150 pages long and took him two months to write. Having been a hospital radio DJ and run his own mobile disco, he was confident enough to rearrange the music.
“I have written 100 per cent of the script, spellchecked by my wife, but not any of the music which I think is really beautiful and not many people will have heard it. I have done a lot of acting and have learned thousands of lines, so it just flowed out of me. I found it very easy.”
Now he faces an anxious wait until the show goes on.
“I don’t really know how it will be received. About 20 RMT members are rehearsing it and we have some rights holders coming to see it. They would take the show to other companies and it could even go global.”
Andrew has written it with amateur societies in mind. Most musicals are written for the West End or Broadway. The National Operatic and Dramatic Association has been helpful. He doesn’t know if it will make any money and has so far bought costumes and built sets at his own expense. Costs are estimated at £2,500 and everything the show makes above that will go to Rutland Musical Theatre.
“It’s all a bit mad really but it’s copyrighted to me and we will try and market it to other amateur societies. Most musicals are American but this is English. It’s refreshing to be able to speak with your own accent,” he said.
Performances will be at the Catmose Theatre, Oakham on April 28, Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre on May 26 and Uppingham Theatre on June 9.
“We have 900 seats to sell for the three nights and hope to raise £1,000-£5,000 to help counterbalance money losses on Footloose,” Andrew said.
He is Rutland Musical Theatre vice chairman and has also performed with Stamford Gilbert and Sullivan Players, Stamford Amateur Musical Society, Stamford Pantomime Players, Peterborough Gilbert and Sullivan Society and Nene Opera.
“I was too shy to act as a child. Dyslexia affects your confidence. I was the class clown at school, getting into trouble and preferring detention to schoolwork. But being dyslexic makes you determined. I can’t write longhand but on the computer I can do it. Everything takes longer. You have to work twice as hard to do simple things. My wife Teresa joined Stamford Amateur Musical Society in 1995 and I went along. I haven’t stopped since. I’ve done 20 or 30 shows.”
His favourites are Oklahoma and The Pirates of Penzance.
Stamford born and bred, Andrew went to the Exeter School and now runs a locksmiths business from home. He has been a stalwart behind the rebuilding and relaunching of Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre and theatre manager Judith Mackie is his sister.
“Every Sunday I’m usually doing some kind of manual work there,” he said.
Andrew has also developed properties and his own house was converted from a Plymouth Brethren meeting hall. Teresa works as a teaching assistant and they have two teenage children, Nicola and Ryan,
“I have done many, many productions and all I can say is since we started rehearsing people haven’t stopped laughing,” he said.
Rehearsals are at Edith Weston Village Hall. Andrew is producer and will play the lead Tom Jones. Richard Jordan is director and Jan Williams choral master. Leigh Evans is playing the female lead and the show also stars Lizzie Jordan and John Hackett.
“We’re having a great time, it’s the story what I wrote and I’m 100 per cent confident it will be funny,” Andrew said.
Tickets for each show cost £9.50 (£8.50) with group discounts. For Oakham book at www.wegottickets.com/event/152533 and for Uppingham /152889. For Stamford see www.Stamford-corn-exchange.co.uk or call 01780 766455.