Reel-to-Real: The Movies Musical aims for a spectacular show of the best of the genre
Show promises intense live multi-media entertainment
With its mix of clips from movie musicals, live performers and Broadway classics Reel-to-Real is one of the most sumptuous and ambitious shows ever mounted at the Fringe. David Pollock gets the inside story behind its creation
Producer Simone Genatt Haft is utterly convincing in selling Reel-to-Real, the show she and business partner Marc Routh are bringing to this year’s Fringe, and it sounds like she has every reason to be. ‘This is probably the most intense live entertainment, multi-media musical format that has been developed so far,’ she says. ‘We’re using cutting edge technology, there are only six of the projectors we have in the whole world.’
As well as a whole list of attention-grabbing technical specifications – with 32 crew, 200 costumes and 12 cast members, this will be one of the largest productions ever to have appeared at the Fringe – there are other, more traditional reasons why Reel-to-Real has all the makings of a commercial hit with audiences at this year’s festival. It draws on popular showtunes from many of Broadway and Hollywood’s most familiar musicals of years gone by, combining live song and dance with footage from the original movies to create what is likely to be a new and unique experience for the audience.
‘The show is an around-the-world journey,’ elaborates Haft, ‘a race between a brother and a sister competing to take over their father’s movie empire. They race from Wall Street to the Great Wall of China, the son travelling east, the daughter travelling west, and take in ten very exotic locations around the world. The score mixes together Rogers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein and Lerner & Leowe, all the Broadway greats from Singing in the Rain to The Sound of Music, from ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ to ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’.’
Much more than any other musical production, this show has been a challenge to pull together in terms of the rights and permissions involved. ‘It was definitely a challenge,’ says Haft. ‘We had to approach Warner Brothers, MGM, Samuel Goldwyn, Universal and Fox, and they were all incredibly supportive, to be honest. Our original mandate was to create this show in four months and we were dealing with intellectual property rights from some of the most powerful companies in the world, but we found an enormous amount of support for the show. It was created as a modular piece, so that we could rehearse each of the songs we wanted and then drop some from the show if we didn’t get all the rights. But we got them all in the end.’
Why does she think these media powerhouses were so keen to get involved? ‘They were interested in the idea,’ says Haft, ‘and they were interested in China.’
While its Edinburgh run will be the Western hemisphere premiere of Reel to Real, the show was first debuted during September 2009 in Beijing, where it returned in updated form in June of this year. ‘Our company [The Broadway Asia Company, which brought the Korean show Cookin’ to the Fringe in 1999] was approached by the Mayor of a Chinese city called Huairou,’ says Haft, ‘home to one of the largest film production facilities in the world, which was built just before the Beijing Olympics. He’s something of a cultural visionary in China, and his approach to us was with a view to building the city as a base for live performance too. So together, we created this show.’
Presumably with so many known and loved properties involved, this Edinburgh run is being seen as a springboard to more shows in the West, perhaps even with an eye to the West End and Broadway? ‘The show is fantastic and unique, quite frankly,’ says Haft by way of agreement. ‘I don’t think anything like it has been seen before. For example, we’ve intercut footage of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca with live performance from one of our cast members, and we’ve devised a really unique sequence for ‘Singing in the Rain’ where our lead male principle does a kind of duet with Gene Kelly. We’ve managed to extract him from the main footage and make him almost move around the stage with the live artist on a bank of screens. It’s a striking integration of Hollywood icons and live performance.’
And also, presumably, the kind of cover-all-bases spectacle from which Fringe blockbusters might be created.
Reel-to-Real: The Movies Musical, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 7–30 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 6pm, £13.50–£15 (£12.50–£14). Previews until 6 Aug, £9.