A love of reading permeated my entire childhood and I have many good memories from those early years in which books played a big part; I think a home video of me screaming “Books! Books! Books!” opening my presents one Christmas morning still exists somewhere…
This passion for the written word continued long into adulthood and anyone who knows me will know that I’m probably at my happiest when I have my nose stuck in a book. Could I pick a favourite book? No. I have found joy in so many different worlds hidden within pages that it would be completely impossible to name just one. As a kid though, some of my favourite stories came from writers like Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, who have enriched the lives of so many children with their imaginations and immortalised themselves through their work. Many fellow bookworms will also remember Sue Townsend’s brilliant Adrian Mole series, which were certainly a favourite of mine growing up. That’s why I was so pleased by the news that musical adaption of her first novel, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, is to make its world premiere next year.
It was recently announced that the brand new musical will be coming to the Leicester Curve in 2015. It’s the perfect place for Adrian to make his stage debut as Leicester was the fictional character’s hometown, as it was too his creator, author Sue Townsend. The show, written by Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary, is set to run at the Curve from 17th March (previews from 7th March) to 4th April 2015.
There are eight novels in the Adrian Mole series, the first of which (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾) was published in 1982 and has since sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Introduced to Adrian when he begins a diary on 1st January 1981, readers were hooked as they read about the daily dramas of his teenage life, including his parents’ marital problems, school bully Barry, his love for the beautiful Pandora, and of course, that pimple on his chin…
The musical is an idea that was three years in the making. Already fans of the book, writing team Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary approached Townsend with the idea through her agent, and after presenting some test scenes and songs, they were given the go-ahead green light. A workshop of the musical took place last year. Brunger and Pippa, who first met at Bristol University, are an up-and-coming force in the musical theatre world and have already previously collaborated on such musicals as Jet Set Go!, The Great British Soap Opera and Red Riding Hood. They are currently writing a new show for National Youth Musical Theatre called Prodigy.
Jake Brunger wrote the book for the Adrian Mole musical and music and lyrics are by Pippa Cleary. Sixteen songs have been written for the production and a lot of the lyrics came from the book itself. Cleary, speaking about the show, said: “The book sings so beautifully; Adrian is such a brilliant character to write for, he was a character we all grew up loving. I think Sue took a punt on us because we are a relatively new writing team and we wanted to bring it to a new audience.” She went on to say that Townsend, who’d endorsed the musical and was involved from the very beginning, had been “very happy” with it. The author sadly passed away this year at the age of 68, but her husband, Colin Broadway, said that she was “thrilled” to be working with them on the musical and that “we, as a family, are looking forward to being at Curve for the opening night.”
The musical is being produced by Curve but was originally commissioned by Curve and the Royal and Derngate in Northampton. Joining Brunger and Cleary on the project as director is Luke Sheppard, who most recently directed In The Heights at the Southwark Playhouse and is the Associate Director for the RSC’s Matilda. The creative team described the show as being “in the model of Matilda, but very different.” The search is currently underway to find a child star to play the iconic diarist, and they are hoping to find him in his home city of Leicester. Auditions are being held there in the hope of casting as much local talent as possible, with the aim being that the four main child roles will be filled by local kids.
The opening of the musical in Leicester next year is a wonderful tribute to the late Sue Townsend, who wrote many other novels in addition to the Adrian Mole series and won numerous literary awards over the course of her writing career. The Adrian Mole books were what she was best known for though and they have previously been adapted for stage, screen and radio. A show which is “unashamedly musical theatre”, Curve’s Chief Executive, Fiona Allen, described working with Townsend as a “huge privilege” and went on to say: “It’s very exciting to be staging a brand new musical adaption of her much-loved book right here in Leicester., Sue’s beloved home town, bringing Adrian Mole’s story back to life – not only for his fans, but also for a new generation.”
Tickets for the Adrian Mole musical went on public sale today (Thursday 10th July 2014). The notorious adolescent was a big part of many childhoods, and this new stage adaption allows them to rediscover his story with the additional benefit of an original musical score. ‘Honestly. My family just don’t understand me. Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13 ¾ year old intellectual.” Well, you are famous now Adrian. We’ve shared in your ‘torment’ and followed you through the highs and lows of your life, and guess what, we love you for all of it. All your fans can thank Sue Townsend for bringing you into existence and everyone involved in the musical adaption for bringing you to the stage.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 10th July 2014