Is Katy Lip­son the fu­ture of mu­si­cal the­atre?

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - IN­TER­VIEW JOHN NATHAN

WHEN TALK­ING to Katy Lip­son it’s easy to con­clude that you’re speak­ing to the fu­ture of mu­si­cal the­atre in this coun­try. And not just be­cause the 32-year-old Lon­don-based Man­cu­nian is cur­rently pro­duc­ing no less than six mu­si­cals, nor be­cause a few weeks ago she won the Best Pro­ducer award at the Offies, which recog­nises off-West End the­atre, but be­cause she talks about her pas­sion for mu­si­cal the­atre with the breath­less en­thu­si­asm of the very young and the knowl­edge and au­thor­ity of the very old.

Also, her place at the heart of fu­ture mu­si­cals seems par­tic­u­larly as­sured to­day as stand­ing a few feet away is per­haps the most in­flu­en­tial liv­ing fig­ure of past mu­si­cals, An­drew Lloyd Web­ber.

Lip­son and I are sit­ting in the foyer of Lon­don’s newly named The Other Palace the­atre (for­merly the St James’s The­atre) which, since Lloyd Web­ber be­came in­volved in run­ning the place ear­lier this year, has been ded­i­cated to nur­tur­ing and dis­cov­er­ing new mu­si­cals.

And there he is, look­ing fash­ion­ably dated in a flow­ery shirt and talk­ing very se­ri­ously to a col­league about mat­ters mu­si­cal, no doubt. He doesn’t look in this di­rec­tion, and he’s not in Lip­son’s eye-line, so they don’t ac­knowl­edge each other. But, over the next few weeks at least, the two will be in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with a forth­com­ing fes­ti­val of new mu­si­cal the­atre, From Page To Stage (FPTP).

One of the high­lights is a new mu­si­cal by Burt Bacharach called Some Lovers. It’ll be given a 12-per­for­mance try-out dur­ing FPTP and if any show re­flected the sheer am­bi­tion of Lip­son, this is it. She’s just come back from vis­it­ing Bacharach in Los An­ge­les.

“I went to his house in Santa Mon­ica with my co-pro­ducer Olly Rosen­blatt,” says Lip­son with only a hint of awe. “We sat in his liv­ing room. There were a lot of Emmy and Grammy awards around. Lots of mem­o­ra­bilia, records, CDs and a beau­ti­ful grand piano in the cor­ner. He said: ‘Come and hear the new song!’ We had a lovely chat about his mu­sic and what I was up to.”

Lip­son is up to a lot. The six shows cur­rently on her ros­ter range from the kitschy cult hor­ror Toxic Avenger, which re­turns to Lon­don af­ter a stint at the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val, and a re-in­vented ver­sion of the 1960s clas­sic Hair, which trans­fers from Manch­ester’s Hope Mill The­atre to Lon­don’s The Vaults in Oc­to­ber. But the show that is tak­ing Lip­son up a league in the pro­duc­ing stakes is her re­vamped ver­sion of The Ad­dams Fam­ily mu­si­cal which is tour­ing the UK un­til Novem­ber.

“It’s my big­gest pro­duc­tion ever and it’s the show that has al­lowed me to ex­pand my busi­ness plan. I’ve been able to bring on staff which has been huge for me and al­lowed me to con­tinue to de­velop projects for 2018 and ’19.”

This is the kind of strate­gic busi­ness talk you might ex­pect of a pro­ducer. But one of the ways in which Lip­son dif­fers from her pro­ducer peers is that she can hold her own on stage as well as off it.

“I play piano, cello and gui­tar and write songs,” she says as can­didly as she does about her busi­ness plan.

“As I was build­ing [her pro­duc­tion com­pany] Aria I made my in­come from be­ing a self-em­ployed mu­sic teacher. And be­cause that money is quite de­cent I would do that for two or three days a week while I was build­ing my busi­ness.”

She gets her acu­men from her father, a busi­ness­man in prop­erty, she says. Her brother Rick is a top set de­signer work­ing with “en­ter­tain­ment ar­chi­tects” Stu­fish, whose clients in­clude U2.

But Lip­son also has a de­gree in clas­si­cal mu­sic, plays cello, gui­tar and piano to pro­fes­sional stan­dard and per­formed in a good few shows af­ter she grad­u­ated. There are, I say, few pro­duc­ers who can ac­tu­ally do the thing they pro­duce.

‘It’s true,” she agrees. “At 20, I was writ­ing my own mu­si­cals, putting them on the stage and play­ing piano for them.”

So why choose pro­duc­ing over per­form­ing?

“I never re­ally felt that per­for­mance was my call­ing. I could sing and act and knew I could os­cil­late be­tween per­form­ing and di­rect­ing. But I just knew in my soul that I wasn’t go­ing to pur­sue it. I never felt pas­sion­ate enough.”

Pas­sion is key and the thing that she found she has in com­mon with pro­ducer So­nia Fried­man from whom Lip­son re­ceived her Best Pro­ducer award.

“We both pro­duce from the heart and, like So­nia, I only lead pro­duce. She’s a huge in­spi­ra­tion. A lot of pro­duc­ers don’t have ideas. They pig­gy­back on some­one else’s ideas. But So­nia com­mis­sions, de­vel­ops, trans­fers and en­hances — and I think we’re very sim­i­lar in those ways.”

Where the two might dif­fer is that Lip­son cut her pro­duc­ing teeth on what she calls her “Jewish shows”.

While teach­ing, a thought popped into her head. What about a show that cel­e­brated the Jewish con­tri­bu­tion to show­biz?

“I didn’t have a clue how com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful it would be,” she says, but the re­sult — shows such as Jewish Leg­ends, The Great Amer­i­can Jewish Song­book and That’s Jewish En­ter­tain­ment — played to Jewish au­di­ences in Radlett, High­gate and Hornchurch among oth­ers and were key to the sur­vival of per­haps this coun­try’s most promis­ing pro­ducer.

“I worked for so many years for no in­come. I in­vested all my money into shows and of­ten it would be the Jewish show at the Gate­house that would make profit and keep me go­ing.

I lost a lot of money over the years. But they were crit­i­cal suc­cesses so I did have that joy.”

‘From Page To Stage’ sum­mer fes­ti­val is at The Other Palace, Au­gust 14 – Septem­ber 3 2017. Box Of­fice: theother­palace.co.uk/ www.frompage2stage.com

PHOTO: MATT MAR­TIN

The Ad­dams Fam­ily mu­si­cal is cur­rently tour­ing the UK

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