Andrew Lloyd Webber is the quintessential 21st century composer, and it’s a pretty safe bet his name will live on in the pantheon of music alongside Stephen Sondheim and The Beatles.
Webber’s music is challenging. In addition to hitting the high notes, a singer needs to project strength from the voice. With that emotive power that manipulates people’s hearts, it’s no wonder every singer with ambition yearns to sing in a Webber production.
It’s not difficult to see why Edmonton Musical Theatre artistic director Michelle Miller was so drawn to his music. But she refused to direct just a straight-up revue.
Instead Music of the Night, opening at Westbury Theatre tomorrow night, has a defined storyline with a slightly spooky, yet humorous element.
Once again Colin McLean’s witty repartee weaves the many intersecting strands of this haunted wax museum. Mrs. Mopp (Lesley Paxton) and Jeeves the butler (Wayne Morgan Williams) are the cleaning crew that come in after hours and discover the wax figures mysteriously come to life.
“I’m from New York and I’m more story oriented in communicating what every song says. I want to create shows that are more standard musical theatre than revues,” says Miller. She was hired as artistic director last year after Steffni Ault stepped down.
Music of the Night promises to be quite an extravaganza with 48 actors and 300 costumes representing a variety of Webber shows including Cats, Jesus Christ Super Star, Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera and Evita. One of Miller’s favourites is Starlight Express where actors are wheeling across the stage on rollerblades. “Picture hockey but in a disco style. We even have fingertip lighting.”
St. Albert’s own Lesley Paxton is Mrs. Mopp, the very bubbly Cockney who is a perfect foil for the stuffier Jeeves. Together they tie the story together.
Born in the Isle of Man, Paxton studied performing arts at the Birmingham Theatre School before embarking in professional theatre and television work.
A triple threat performer, Paxton sings Buenos Aires from Evita, a lively tune where the young Evita reveals her dreams and ambitions. “Buenos Aires has quite a fast tempo and you have to keep up with it, and the vocal range is wide.”
Paxton first moved to St. Albert in February 2008 after Edmonton Police Service recruited her husband. The first time Paxton auditioned at EMT, she landed the lead role of Mrs. Mopp. “I was delighted to have the opportunity and it’s really great to be accepted.”
In addition to Paxton, there are six other St. Albert performers in the show. Barb Hubbard sings the haunting solo Memory from Cats and Jaime Johansson performs a duet from Phantom. Kirsten Kirsch, Darcy Robinson and Lucy Haines sing in the chorus while Jen Magel is the assistant stage manager.
Music of the Night
Edmonton Musical Theatre
June 18-20 and June 23-27
TransAlta Arts Barns
10330 - 84 Ave.
Tickets: $25. Call Tix on the Square 780-420-1757