In addition to his career as an actor in West End musicals, straight plays and movies (his latest show has been Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre), Mark Carroll has written five musicals, the latest of which is entitled Supernova.
Cameron Smith talks to him about what it takes to get a new musical produced nowadays.
Mark Carroll’s latest project, Supernova, is a rags-to-riches tale set in the modern-day music business. It has a catchy pop/rock score and a female lead role ripe for a bit of celebrity casting.
The composer has even financed an album, staged a fully-costumed and choreographed workshop at the Prince Edward, and produced a high quality video of the performance. It seems like a good commercial prospect. Yet, despite his efforts, he’s struggling to find a producer.
“There’s got to be at least 75 per cent of a show there. If you are someone like me doing what I do, what’s the step between that and a production? I don’t know what the answer is.”
And it’s not as if he’s lacking credentials. He’s an experienced West End performer (his credits stretch from the original cast of Miss Saigon to the last four years in Jersey Boys), and he has also been writing pop songs since he was a teenager. In his twenties he won the John Lennon Award for outstanding new songwriter and used the prize money to write and record his first musical, The Wood. Since then he’s written four more musicals, as well as individual songs for the Ruthie Henshall album Pilgrim, which he also produced.
But his feeling is that theatre producers simply aren’t looking for new musicals and it’s something that’s been borne out by his experience with a previous show. The Attic, a family musical about a group of Victorian toys getting mixed up with a group of 1960s toys, was staged as a workshop and filmed at the Haymarket Theatre in 2008. As with Supernova, he struggled to get producers in to even see the workshop.
Now a theatre company from the Netherlands have found the video of the workshop online and will stage the first full production in Utrecht. He’s happy that The Attic will finally get its premiere and, after Utrecht, who knows?
“All it takes is a very rich lady from Amsterdam who thinks this is good.”
He wonders what it says about the commitment of producers to new musicals in the UK. “These people who were looking for new writers managed to find me on the internet. So someone in this country isn’t doing what they should be doing.”
Carroll doesn’t want to be a producer, he just wants to write. But there’s no doubting his own commitment. And if he did have his way, things would be very different.
“If I won millions I’d just say to people, okay send me your stuff. And there’d be no strings, no holds barred. I’d just say, this looks like a good idea – here’s 25 grand.”
I believe he would too. Until then, new musical writers may have to keep on the lookout for those rich ladies in Amsterdam.
* An extended interview with Mark Carroll will appear in a future issue of Musical Theatre Review