The Just So Society returns to the Byre Theatre with a major musical production: Broadway classic Sweet Charity. In her interview for The Saint, director Hanna Lawson revealed the most eye-catching aspects of the show and why you should not miss it next week.
Hanna Lawson: Sweet Charity follows our main character Charity through her misdeeds and misadventures in the world of love. She’s a larger-than-life character who just wants to find love, and every time she thinks she’s found it, everything just goes wrong for her. The storyline may not be compelling as is the case with other popular, well-known musicals, I’d say the main appeal of the show is the music: it’s uplifting, catchy, recognisable. It’s filled with classics: “Big Spender”, “The Rhythm of Life”, “If My Friends Could See Me Now” are just a few examples of our versatile soundtrack. Being able to work on such iconic songs and the rich dance moves that accompany them has been incredible.
The Saint: Are you planning to branch out to various musical genres or are you sticking with the classics?
HL: It’s some of the best of what musical theatre can offer, from jazz hands to Bob Fosse’s choreography – a little bit off the wall, but relentlessly entertaining and engaging. We’re aiming to create a production that the audience can leave with a smile on their faces, while humming the tunes they just heard over the course of 2.5 hours.
TS: You have briefly commented on this already – could you expand a bit on what makes this show stand out to you?
HL: Besides the dancing and the music, it is worth noting that Just So hasn’t done such a large-scale musical in the Byre recently. Our previous efforts were more serious canonical works, while this is simply a large production with plenty of songs, superb choreography, over-the-top characters, all meant to transport you into a world of fun and exaggeration. In terms of other elements I have enjoyed, I would like to highlight the people I’ve worked with. You meet with production teams and gain insight into each individual’s vision; I believe the crews behind such shows don’t always get the credit they deserve, so I’d like to make sure they get their chance to shine. It has been a true honour to work with this group of almost 20 people who worked tirelessly on assuring that everything was on track.
TS: Is there a specific aspect in the show that you would like audiences to keep an eye out for (be it costumes, set design, etc.)?
HL: To be honest, everything. (laughs) Every single member of the crew has worked hard in their individual aspects, including costumes, set design, tech, publicity… We have been working on it since May, almost six months now.
TS: What challenges did you have to face in directing?
HL: It’s a big show. (laughs) It’s not a play in the traditional sense where we learn to block each scene, we have to organise a cast of 22 to learn the choreography, the songs… It’s been challenging to get people to come out of their comfort zones, and make them feel comfortable with some of the more “weird” aspects I’ve been asking them to do. We cast the show at the end of week 1, so we’ve had just over 6 weeks of rehearsal time, which is a very short amount of time for a more than 2-hour show.
TS: Could you share a memorable story from rehearsals?
HL: Rehearsals are always a laugh, especially when we’re doing some of the crazier dance pieces. A dear memory is when our musical director had to re-orchestrate the entire thing – it was written for an orchestra for 30, while our maximum band size is 15. Our musical director Sarah [Chamberlain], producer Shaina [Sullivan], her assistant producer Lauren [Liotti] and I spent a night in the library until 1 am, and we had to scan and upload four 90-page scores. By the end of it all, we were quite delirious, but somehow we managed to make the most out of those hours and ended up having fun.
TS: Last question: when and where?
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of week 9 in the Byre Theatre at 7:30 pm, tickets are ₤8 and are now available on the website. It’s going to be a great break from essays and revision, I can guarantee that you’ll leave the theatre with a smile on your face.