I’ve come across many new musical theatre writers in my years of writing, a certain number of which have just had that Something Special that made them stand out from the rest. Some I’ve found through Twitter and such social networking sites, some I’ve discovered through showcases, concerts, cabarets and other such events, some I’ve been introduced to through other people, and some I’ve developed an appreciation for through reviewing duties. There is a wealth of creative talent out there in the theatrical department of song-writing, all at different levels of recognition and success, but equally impressive at what they do nonetheless.
One writer who I was turned on to in the early days of my blogging life was Alexander S. Bermange, a British composer and lyricist who has risen to become a well-known name in the world of musical theatre. Many people out there may know him primarily for his work in radio, but my first experience of his musical talents came courtesy of his 2008 album, Act One – Songs From The Musicals Of Alexander S. Bermange. The CD is a collection of twenty of his original compositions performed by a cast of up-and-coming West End stars, most of which are now leading men and women in the industry. The stellar list of names reads as follows: Jon Robyns, Susan McFadden, Jenna Lee-James, Dean Collinson, Ricardo Afonso, Cassandra Compton, Sabrina Aloueche, Jon Lee, Lara Pulver, Linzi Hately, Oliver Tompsett, Dean Chisnall, Daniel Boys, Summer Strallen, Mark Evans, James Gillan, Joanna Ampil, Shona Lindsay, Dianne Pilkington, Earl Carpenter, Janie Dee, Ben James-Ellis, Aexia Khadime, Sally Ann Triplett, Oliver Thornton, and Ramin Karimloo. It was this last name who is the reason I became aware of the talents of Bermange in fact. Mr Karimloo had recently been cast as The Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, which had just released a music video of him performing ‘Til I Hear You Sing’ from the new show. I showed this to my mother, who is a musical theatre fan herself, and she absolutely loved the song, and his voice, so when she found a CD which featured a track performed by Karimloo, she immediately bought a copy for herself and one for me also. Hello Alexander S. Bermange.
I still have his album, and if in fact you were to peruse my CD collection, his would be the first one you’d see – if simply because I arrange all my books, DVDs and CDs into alphabetical order. It is still a wonderful listen and Bermange remains a favourite of mine to this day, although I’m far from alone in being a fan of his work. He has gained a huge fan following in musical theatre circles through the numerous musicals he has written, the first of which – Nessie – he wrote while studying at Oxford University and staged at the Burton Taylor Theatre in 1996. Six years later, it made its international début at Musical Kongress in Hamburg, Germany. He has also composed the music for productions of Snow White, The Blue Light, Sleeping Beauty, King Drosselbart, The Seven Ravens, The Golden Goose, The Frog Prince and Beauty And The Beast – The Singing Springing Lark, all of which were also performed in Germany over successive summers at the Amphitheater Park Schloss Philippsruhe in Hanau. He also wrote the music and lyrics for Close Encounters at the Century City Playhouse in Los Angeles, US, and for several other UK productions, including Odette (Bridewell Theatre, London), Dead Heat (Bradford Playhouse), Thirteen Days (Kiveton Park, Sheffield & Arcola Theatre, London) and Walking On The Sun, which was first seen at both London’s O2 Arena and the specially constructed Theatre In The Park, Rotherham in 2000 before being revived in 2003 and 2008 for subsequent performances in Rotherham. The Bridewell Theatre in London also premièred his original musical Shadowless in 2003, for which he won two Frank Wildhorn Awards (Musical Theatre Graz, Austria). His most recent musical to be stage in London was The Route To Happiness, contributing music and lyrics for the production which ran at the Landor Theatre in 2013. A recording featuring Kerry Ellis, Ben Forster and Louise Dearman is set to be released next month. Throughout the summer of this year he also travelled with the UK Tour of Murder On Air, for which he wrote the score, accompanying the performers on piano.
Outside of musical theatre, Bermange is also recognised as the resident comic songwriter and performer on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House and the World Service’s Weekend. His solo cabaret, The Wit and Whimsy of Alexander S. Bermange, showcased this aspect of his writing and was first staged at the St James Theatre in 2013, followed with a revised and updated version there in July 2014 with performances by West End leading ladies Julie Atherton and Cassidy Janson.
His next London show takes place tonight (Tuesday 18th November) at the Pheasantry, a popular cabaret spot located in the heart of Chelsea. Alexander S. Bermange and Special Guests is a showcase of some of his best-loved comedic musical creations about second-rate singers, perverted pensioners, tube-travelling trainspotters and popular personalities, from Prince Harry to David Beckham. He will also be premièring a selection of brand new material as part of the evening’s entertainment. A line-up of hand-picked leading ladies from the West End stage will be joining him to perform his songs, with Aimie Atkinson (Carnaby Street, Dirty Dancing, winner of the BBC Radio 2 Voice of Musical Theatre), Lucy May Barker (Sweeney Todd, Spring Awakening, and plays at the National and Open Air Theatres), Helena Blackman (Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, TMA Award nominee for South Pacific, Off West End nominee for Noel and Gertie), and Laura Jane Matthewson (Dogfight) all expected to be in attendance.
The award-winning composer and lyricist has a wealth of further writing/performing credits to his name, such as the CD of nineteen original comic songs recorded by a cast of international musical theatre artists, entitled Weird & Wonderful – A Collection of Songs Celebrating Weirdos And Weirdness, and contributions to such shows as A Song Cycle For Soho (Soho Theatre), Bitesize (King’s Head Theatre), Snap! (Jermyn Street Theatre), and All The Divas Of Arabia (Edinburgh Fringe Festival). He has also worked extensively as a musical director and accompanist on both his own shows and others.
Any who can make it along to the Pheasantry tonight to see him and his special guests should certainly do so. Alexander S. Bermange is up there with the best of them and continues to do a stellar job of representing British musical theatre writers.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 18th November 2014