The brand new musical The A-Z of Mrs P tells the true journey of the eccentric Phyllis Pearsall, who got lost on the way to a party and spent the next five years of her life walking the streets of London creating the A-Z. It opens at Southwark Playhouse on Thursday 20 February 2014 and runs until 29 March (press night is 24 February).
A love letter to London, The A-Z of Mrs P stars Isy Suttie (Peep Show/Shameless) in her first musical, as the pioneering Mrs P, with Frances Ruffelle (Les Miserables, Pippin, Piaf) as her emotionally fragile mother, and Michael Matus (Martin Guerre, The Baker’s Wife, The Sound of Music, Lend Me a Tenor) as Phyllis’ enigmatic father. The book is by Diane Samuels (Kindertransport – West End/Broadway) and music and lyrics by singer/songwriter Gwyneth Herbert (albums on Blue Note & Universal). The A-Z of Mrs P is their first musical together. The song ‘Lovely London Town’ has already won the Stiles and Drewe Best New Song Prize.
Starting in the 1930s, The A-Z of Mrs P is a very British musical and an exploration of both the streets of London and the eccentric Bohemian artist Mrs P on her incredible journey to build her iconic business, mapped against her own troubled family saga.
Unusually for British musical theatre, it is a very female-led creative team. Working alongside Samuels and Herbert are musical arranger Sarah Travis (Tony Award for Sweeney Todd on Broadway) and designer Klara Ziglerova (Jersey Boys, Sister Act). The A-Z of Mrs P is directed by Sam Buntrock (Sunday in the Park With George – Menier/West End/Broadway).
The cast also includes: Stuart Matthew Price as Phyllis’ brother Tony Gross, Turlough Convery (Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer Of The Year 2013), Dawn Sievewright and Sidney Livingstone.
Samuels commented: “One of the joys in my life is walking around London as Phyllis did. The link seemed pretty straightforward. Then behind a simple series of very handy maps, I found out about her emotionally complex family story, particularly the relationship between Phyllis and her father Sandor Gross. I’d always wanted to write a father/daughter play and here, unexpectedly, it was. Gwyneth and I were outside the musical theatre world, and in writing and composing our take on Phyllis’ journey, we have faced her struggles and thrilled as she found her own feet, to create an intimate, epic work of psycho-geography that celebrates what it is to have a vision.”
Herbert added: “I’d never seen a musical before I started this crazy journey five years ago. Thing was, I loved stories, I loved music, I loved the theatre. And now, after working intensively and intimately alongside Diane exploring Mrs P’s own inspiring journey, I find myself in love with this huge beast of an art-form: its limitless possibilities for creative invention, the way you can plant one thought or feeling and make it shudder through the whole piece, music and words and action and visual art all weaving together. For me, I have found it’s the most multi-dimensional and exciting way to tell a magical story.”
Phyllis Pearsall was a celebrated resident of Southwark (with a blue plaque bearing her name) so premiering The A-Z of Mrs P at the new Southwark Playhouse has an added resonance. The A-Z of Mrs P is supported by The Geographers’ A–Z Company – the company that Phyllis set up – and Arts Council England Grants for the Arts. The show was conceived by Neil Marcus who produces with Paul Tyrer and Jamie Clark for The Booking Office and Michael Peavoy Productions.