by Malcom Huddle, Company Musical Director
I’ve always had a passion for musical theatre – way back when I was just nine years old, I was part of the Children’s Choir for a production of Joseph. Needless to say, I’ve been hooked ever since!
I always loved working and learning from many different Musical Directors when I was involved in shows. Watching and listening to how they pieced every harmony together with the cast and brought the orchestra together to really bring the show to life. As time went on, I realised I wasn’t the world’s best actor or dancer, but I was alright at the music side of things. I sang and learnt many instruments throughout high school, and loved conducting, and back in 2006 at the tender age of 16 I was lucky enough to Musically Direct my first show, an original version of Aladdin. I also played in the orchestra pit for many productions with long-time friends and colleagues, learning from them and taking countless advice to my own productions. It was the perfect fit for my passion for music and theatre! I’m very fortunate to continue to work with talented directors and choreographers, as well as fellow MD’s and musicians, on shows both large and small.
My first introduction to Sondheim’s music was many years ago, listening to Into The Woods during a car ride with some typical music theatre friends. I loved his intricate harmonies and clever lyrics, not to mention the complex time changes and structures. I was introduced to Company after watching an amazingly B-Grade movie called ‘Camp’, where one of the characters sings ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’ – I immediately downloaded the soundtrack and was again intrigued by Sondheim’s masterful composition, not to mention the way the music and book are so tightly interwoven in both of these shows.
When Colin asked me to be part of his application along with Mon and Tess for Company with Beaumaris, I was both ‘excited and scared’ – Sondheim’s music is notoriously complex, both to understand and teach. However, I knew that this amazing team, guided by Colin’s incredible vision and coupled with the lovely and amazing support you get when working with Beaumaris Theatre would make the challenge a very rewarding experience.
The auditions were a big process; we had almost 90 people audition for the 14 roles, so were spoilt for choice. We needed people who were exceptionally strong vocally and musically and were strong character actors. The talent we saw was incredible. We ended up with what has been described as ‘The Avengers of Musical Theatre’ – 14 very experienced and remarkably talented cast members from all over Melbourne working on this iconic show.
We’re now well into rehearsals, and have covered a lot of ground with both the music and the blocking. As I’ve mentioned, there are some very unusual harmonic structures and timing variations in Sondheim’s score, so some rehearsals definitely haven’t been without their challenges! However, the hard work and dedication from the team and our wonderful cast means that we’ll be able to polish everything in no time. A special mention and thanks must go to our rehearsal pianist, Adeline Han – we’re very lucky to have her on board for this show. Adeline is a long time friend of mine, and a phenomenal accompanist who plays through Sondheim’s score (which is practically written as if she had four hands) without batting an eye.
Next month I’ll be starting rehearsals with the orchestra – a group of friends and fellow musicians who I am very fortunate to have come and play for my shows. Again, it will be a challenge to rehearse and put things together on this side of things too, but I’m very excited to bring the orchestra in with the cast for Sitzprobe and production week to really bring the music to life.
Company will be my third show with Beaumaris Theatre, having had the pleasure of Musically Directing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2013, and Avenue Q in 2016. The Committee and team at Beaumaris are some of the loveliest and most supportive people to work with on any show, and I cannot think of a more ideal company to stage Company with!