“The roar that goes through the auditorium is like no other” — Crazy For You producer Jamie Wilson on why New Wimbledon Theatre is unique
Currently embarking on a UK-wide tour, highly-acclaimed musical Crazy For You has been winning rave reviews for its high-energy song-and-dance routines.
With the Watermill Theatre production coming to New Wimbledon Theatre for its London run between March 6-10, we catch up with the producer, Jamie Wilson.
How has Wimbledon influenced you growing up?
“I grew up in Sutton, but I used to travel to Wimbledon every week to go to rehearsals at a local amateur dramatic group. And then I very quickly found my way into New Wimbledon Theatre.”
What do you like about New Wimbledon Theatre?
“It’s very special. What’s great about New Wimbledon Theatre is that it has a large capacity – it’s actually the seventh biggest in London. The way the auditorium was designed, it wraps right round the stage, so you feel really intimate – which is why so many TV shows and comedians like to use it for their next DVD.
“When it’s a large enough theatre and something funny happens on stage, the roar that goes through the auditorium – it’s like no other. There are not many theatres that have that, so that’s why I love it.”
Why did you choose Crazy for You?
“It’s tricky, as you’re so close to London so you need to find the right show, and the great thing about Crazy for You is it really is the right show. It’s not been in London for a while, but it’s a musical that, if you love going to your local theatre, you will love this show. It’s so feel good and it’s so theatrical and wonderful.
What make this production unique?
“No one has an idea of what they think it is. They go in not quite knowing what it is. They may know the story, or seen a version of it before. We concentrated on the direction, the storytelling and found a totally new way to do the musical.
“For me, it’s about creating a big, brassy Gershwin sound from actors. If you love music and musicals and tap dancing, you won’t see another show that combines all of them so well. Producers don’t normally do this show, because how on earth are you going to do a dance musical and have actors play instruments at the same time and get away with it?
“There’s also a wonderful surprise at the end!”
How did you cast your main actors?
“I saw Tom Chambers in Top Hat and I just remembered thinking ‘Wow’. There are not many people who are a triple threat, where they can do a bit of everything. Then I Googled him – he had this dance percussion sequence, where he danced and played the percussion at the same time, and I thought he would be incredibly as Bobby. He’s so lovable and personable. I took him out to dinner and by the end of the dinner he had signed up for it.
“I saw Charlotte Wakefield play Maria in the Sound of Music and I thought, ‘Oh my God, you are a star’. She has that star quality. She can hold the stage by herself and look out at every member of the audience and draw them into her. I always knew that she was going to go on to amazing things. By chance, she was available to do this show. She walked into audition and when she opened her mouth to sing ‘Embraceable You’, I was like ‘Oh my word, this is incredible.”
What is the secret of being a good producer?
“Persistence. Persistence. Persistence.
You need momentum behind yourself to go ‘right, okay, we need to make this happen – how do we make this happen?’
Dates, availability and logistics. I usually do that by telling a lie — I tell everyone there’s a deadline and if everyone doesn’t agree by this date, the whole thing falls apart. Usually six months before it needs to happen, but that way, it gets everyone working towards a date and that’s how I usually do it. Things roll on and momentum drops, and then you’re rushing to make it happen. I like to prepare properly.”
What do you want people to feel after watching your show?
“I want them to smile and say ‘that was a wonderful, wonderful show. I want them to go and have another glass of wine at the bar and then book their next show. You don’t always have to like a show as long as you talk about it afterwards. And you can debate it, or read up about it and the origins of the story. I think that, for me, is as interesting as absolutely loving the show.”
Your company, Jamie Wilson Productions, is 10 years old. What’s next for you on the horizon?
“It’s all about the future. I’m about to open the world premiere of An Officer and a Gentleman at Leicester Curve on April 6, so we’re about to go into rehearsals for that. It’s incredibly exciting.
“And then I’m reviving a brand new production of White Christmas.”
Photo: Richard Davenport