Kate Golledge is a theatre director and dramaturg, who specialises in new musicals. This Christmas she directs the world premiere production of Claus The Musical at The Lowry.
Adapted for the stage by Simon Warne and with spellbinding music and lyrics from Andy Collyer, Claus The Musical brings the beloved L.Frank Baum children’s classic The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus to life in a show that will appeal to the child in everyone.
Kate is delighted to be working on another new musical, “I love working with writers, and supporting them to make the best version of the story that they can,” explains Kate, “it’s a great process to have people in the room who are responding to something that is still changing, because actors are wonderful creative beings, and often, they will come up with things that then make their way into the show and exist forever.”
Claus The Musical isn’t like some of the other new musicals Kate has worked on, “we did the workshop of this back in 2014, and since then, Katy Lipson has been figuring out a way to bring it to the right place at the right time.”
“Actually, it was this show that made Katy want to become a producer, she was a musical director and came across the score, and wanted to be able to stage it, so I feel very privileged to be working with her to make her dream come to life.”
With the project brewing for so many years, Kate has understandably fallen in love with the show, “It’s really magical, it’s got a beautiful score, and it’s very timeless and Christmassy. It is quite traditional in a way, but it tells a very gorgeous story of young Santa that you haven’t heard in quite that way. There have been lots of Santa origin stories, but this one is quite unusual.”
“And I think the fact that the original source material was written by L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wizard of Oz, means that there’s a whole world of knowledge and perspective that the audience have on it already, which is quite magical.”
Kate spent two years as associate director on the last West End production of The Wizard of Oz, so has plenty of insight to the author’s work, and reveals there’s a link between the two shows, “It’s set in a place called Burzee, and if you look on the Oz map, Burzee is down there at the bottom of it, I love that there’s that connection.”
Kate is keen not to give too much of the story away, but tells us that the Forest of Burzee is a place where immortal beings live, a world populated with nymphs and fairies that sits right on the edge of the human world.
“One day, a human baby is found on the edge of the forest, and the youngest nymph decides to adopt him and raise him as her son, and that baby is Claus. He grows up in the forest, but eventually wants to visit the human world, and realises that his purpose is in making children happy. He starts creating toys and so the story of Santa evolves.”
Kate has directed many pantomimes over the years, but says this is a very different kind of Christmas production, “this is much more of a story and in the way that we’re doing it, it has its own storytelling language really. So, it will be an amazing combination of text and dance and music and visuals.”
Kate says that if she were to liken this new show to something that already exists, it would be something like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or The Wind in the Willows, “definitely those kind of classic literary stories, some bits are a bit scary, but I’d bring my five year old and it’s definitely fine for seven or eight year olds and up. It’s got a really lovely story thread about the love between a mother and her son, and how far you’re prepared to go as a mother to make sure that your kids have what they need in life.”
Claus is also a musical with a new and original score, “I’d call it orchestral,” says Kate, “like a film score really, and there is something like an hour and fifteen minutes worth of music in a show that is two hours long. So, a lot of the scenes are very tightly underscored with the dialogue. There’s a mixture of music, there’s quite a lot of different characteristics within the pieces of music but it’s twinkly and magical and Christmassy.”
Claus will premiere at the Lowry’s Quays Theatre in Salford, “I went to watch a comedian in there recently, and it’s just the most amazing auditorium, because it wraps around the stage, I don’t think there’s a bad seat anywhere. It just feels like the auditorium is kind of hugging the stage. Because our story has a narrator, it will be the perfect scale of space for the narrator to be able to connect with the audience.”
Kate says that over the years of development they’ve looked at a number of potential venues, “but the Lowry was the perfect fit for it. So, we’ve gone for it, and it’s interesting to revisit it in light of everything that’s happened over the last eight years. I think audiences have changed since then, and the script has gone through another process of rewriting, and getting ready for this production.”
“I think that London has a lot of new work, but there’s a real audience for stuff that is different outside of London. And I think Manchester and Salford have such a history of music, and theatre and art. I think doing something like this up there will hopefully connect with that audience that are really hungry for great new work.”
As we sit down to chat, the beginning of rehearsals are fast approaching, “At the moment I’m just deep in prep, I’ve been storyboarding with the designer, and I’m now trying to bring everything together. One of the complicated things about working on new stuff is that no versions of anything match up. I’m trying to work out what’s been updated, what the cue lines are, so at the moment it is a bit of a logic problem.”
But Kate has already met the cast, while filming a promo video, and is keen to start working with them properly, “they are a great group of people, they hit it off immediately, it was like they’d known each other for years. And they just really nailed the style, they know what it is, they totally understand the world. I can’t wait for them to bring it all to life, because right now it only exists in my brain!”
When rehearsals begin it’ll be a frantic time for Kate, “The thing that I always have to do, that no one else in the room can do in quite the same way I guess, is just maintain a vision of the whole thing and make sure we’re all telling the story in the correct way.”
“On a really practical level, being in rehearsal is a lot, because every single person in the room needs a little bit of you all the time. But I’ve got a great assistant director, and so we’ll be all right.”
Kate is desperate to get to Salford, “I love traveling to different places, and I travel a lot with work. Often, there isn’t really time to explore places, although, when I was at the Lowry before, I did quite enjoy the fact that it’s where BBC breakfast is filmed. I always like seeing places in real life that I’ve seen on the telly. So yes, I’ll hopefully get to explore a little.”
Kate says that Claus The Musical is for the whole family, “I think that the story has total multi-generational appeal, because it starts with the children, I think often you go to the theatre at Christmas for the children, but I think with this one, the grown-ups are going to fall in love with it as well.”
Claus The Musical, directed by Kate Golledge, is at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre 14th December 2022 to 8th January 2023.