The role of Musical Supervisor is to essentially be in charge of the music and how it sounds. What this actually entails varies from production to production. For a pantomime the majority of the work happens prior to rehearsals starting – working with the director to source or transcribe the songs that are in the script, arranging any scene change music or underscoring and creating or recording tracks that your band will play along with. Then, once rehearsals start, you have to be available to create any last-minute bits of music that the production needs and listening to the balance during the tech rehearsal.
The Musical Supervisor will often work alongside a Musical Director, and this relationship can be very varied. I’ve worked as an MD with Supervisors who were very hands on and even took rehearsals, and then on the other hand I’ve worked with Supervisors who were very hands off and largely left me to it. I’m quite relaxed so ahead of Aladdin at the Corn Exchange Newbury my MD, Harry Haden-Brown, and I had a chat before the production and we outlined our roles. As my job ends once the show opens it was important to me that the MD had some creative input (especially as, in this case, I was unable to be in rehearsals during the first week) so whilst I scored the songs and created the tracks, Harry created the vocal arrangements.
Music is incredibly important to pantomime. Can you imagine the villain entering to absolute silence? Underscoring clues our audience into how they should respond to the characters, for example: evil music for the villain, magical music for the fairy and comedy for the Dame. A lot of the underscoring is created by the MD during rehearsals but they have to respond in the moment during performances because of the unpredictable nature of audience participation (and some actors!) which is why it’s important that the musicians are adaptable. When it comes to musical numbers, I’ve been involved with and seen various different styles of pantomimes over the years and feel like virtually any song can work in a panto. However, it’s lovely when, wherever the songs have come from, they all exist together in the same Soundworld. This also means a mixture of genres is essential to a good panto as the age range of the audience is often so wide. In Aladdin this year we have current and classic musical theatre and pop music represented as well as musical stings ranging from opera to KRS-One!
My top tips as a Musical Supervisor are: Keep an eye on the details, but conversely also keep an eye on the piece as a whole, be adaptable (because everything changes all the time), be creative and have fun!
Theatre includes: Priscilla Queen of the Desert (UK Tour); Leave To Remain (Lyric Hammersmith); Jack & The Beanstalk (Hastings/ Qdos); Twelfth Night (The Young Vic); Live Birds Flying Home (Royal Court Liverpool); Sleeping Beauty (Chatham/ Jordan Productions); The Wedding Singer (UK Tour); One Love: The Bob Marley Musical (Birmingham Rep/ Playful Productions); Murder Ballad at Arts Theatre (West End); The Buskers Opera (The Park Theatre); Into the Woods (Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester); Soul Sister (Hackney Empire/ The Savoy Theatre/ UK Tour); Britain's Got Bhangra (UK Tour); Little Red Riding Hood, Five Guys Named Moe and Aladdin (Stratford East Theatre Royal); Buddy (Upstairs at the Gatehouse). As Associate/Assistant: The Rocky Horror Show (European Tour); I Was Looking at the Ceiling and then I Saw the Sky (Stratford East and the Barbican); Cabaret (UK Tour). Film includes: Soft Lad (Peccadillo Pictures) Upcoming: Get Up! Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical (West End)