Royal & Derngate will present the premiere of April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers’ ambitious new musical Gin Craze! as part of its Made in Northampton 2021 season. This Royal & Derngate, Northampton and China Plate co-production, in partnership with English Touring Theatre, takes to the Royal stage in Northampton from Saturday 17 to Saturday 31 July.
The production has been developed as part of a three-year project which has seen Royal & Derngate lead a national consortium of partners to support 150 artists in nurturing the creation of new musical theatre. Lucy is also writing the music for Sherman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol adapted by Gary Owen later this year, as well as developing a show based on the first British female tattooist.
With book and lyrics by April de Angelis and music and lyrics by Lucy Gin Craze! is a booze-soaked love ballad from the women of Gin Lane. Tickets are on sale here.
Your new musical Gin Craze! Is opening at Royal & Derngate, what can you tell us about it?
Gin Craze is a riotous, booze-soaked love letter to the women of Gin Lane. Set in Hogarth’s 18th Century London during the height of the Gin Craze, when Britons were drinking on average 1.5 Litres a day, we follow two young women from the streets as they try and make a life as Gin hawkers in a world which is hell bent on trying to stop the poor drinking, enjoying and selling Gin. It’s a bitter battle between the haves and have-nots, Beer and Gin, survival and death. It is also very funny, satirical and packs an emotional punch.
What inspired you to write this musical?
April De Angelis had the initial idea of writing about the Gin Craze from the women’s perspective and I came on board after she had written a rough first draft, as she always knew she wanted a lot of songs in the show.
I was very attracted to the rich history and feminist themes and could see how it would be interesting and relevant to a contemporary audience. I feel like the songs are a great way to open up and bring this rich world alive, and I find music always helps get to the emotional core. It has definitely been a cathartic and fun experience to write songs for these resilient, flawed and wonderful women that history has forgotten.
What’s been the biggest challenge in getting it to the stage?
We were working on this show for a couple of years before we were given the go ahead, and it made me realise that it’s a really big deal getting a brand-new musical commissioned because they are expensive and risky, so I feel very lucky. There’s also been the little matter of a global pandemic which has delayed the opening and has meant rehearsals have been a bit more dominated by safety procedures, but we have an incredible team working on the show and it’s wonderful that our producers are putting it on at all during this difficult time.
How would you describe the music, what can audiences look forward to hearing?
The music is a mix of contemporary folk songs, raucous sing-alongs, rousing protest anthems, emotional torch ballads, and a bit of Handel thrown in too. We have an incredible multi-talented cast who play lots of instruments and are led by our brilliant Musical director Tamara on piano. You can look forward to beautiful string and horn arrangements, timpani and tubular bells, as well as more bluesy street band accompaniments, but the star is their voices. The songs cover all the aspects of these women’s lives and it’s pretty powerful when they all get singing together in harmony and protest.
Michael Oakley is directing, what do you think he will bring to the production?
Michael has been on this show from its inception and has been a key collaborator on all the various stages of development. He, April and I have worked together very closely and there’s a wonderful trust that has been built between us. He has an incredible knowledge and passion for the characters and history of the time, and his enthusiasm and sense of fun is infectious.
He and April have already got a wonderful working relationship established, so he understands how to direct her scripts to get the most out of the humour and language. He’s also been very supportive and intuitive on where the music needs to take the lead. Michael brings flair and drama and is not afraid to go big in style without losing any emotional depth.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Gin Craze?
I would say they’ll be fully transported and entertained, they’ll laugh and cry and hopefully leave feeling uplifted with the songs ringing in their ears. Like a good night out drinking Gin, it’s a wild and rocky ride that may leave a bitter sweet taste but worth every drop.