Spotlight On… Director of Pageant, Bill Russell & Star of Pageant, Miles Western

The Flash Point Group presents:
PAGEANT
August 10th – 25th, London Irish Centre, Camden Fringe

Pageant, London Irish Centre and Poole Lighthouse, Aug-Sep 2017 – casting release

Here are Break A Leg’s exclusive interviews with director of the show, Bill Russell and one of the actors, Miles Western:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Bill. Tell me about the piece and your vision for it.

Pageant is a farce which examines how concepts of beauty are sold to (foisted on?) women. Having men play the female contestants puts that in high relief. This is not drag, which I would define as men commenting on the fact they are dressed as women. Here they are playing the characters for real, kooky though they may be.

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

I have directed the show a number of times in wildly different circumstances and with many different actors. I look for highly skilled musical comedy performers who can sing, dance and hold stage like stand-up comedians because they are out there on their own a lot. When I directed the show in the fringe and West End in 2000, Miles Western won the Olivier Award for his portrayal of Miss West Coast. I very much wanted to work with him again and asked him to play the emcee this time.  I did cast this production on line. First they submitted videos. Then for final call-backs they were with the choreographer and music director in a rehearsal studio in London performing to me on a mobile on Facetime from New York.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I think people come to the show expecting it will be a hoot. But I hope they leave saying, “That was such a gas. But I never expected the theatrical values to be so strong – the acting, the singing, the dancing, everything about it was of very high quality.”

Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?

I’m answering this before actually starting rehearsals. Actors always bring new and surprising discoveries to the process and I look forward to that.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

One of the most consistent comments we get are people saying their faces hurt from laughing so hard. I can pretty much guarantee people will have a good time.

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

Be well-prepared but open to accidents and the unexpected. And casting may not be everything but it’s damned close.

*******************************************************************************

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Miles. Tell me about the piece and your character.

I play the role of Frankie Cavalier, host and emcee for the evening. I aim to play him as a character who relishes the attention, lights, camera and applause but in truth …really needs the gig!! Bookings are fewer and fewer for him these days so he jumps at this opportunity and dives straight in. There is a sense of old style glamour about him…but Reno rather than Hollywood.

What was your initial impression of the script?

My initial impression was a long time ago in 2000 when I was first in a production in London but then I was playing one of the contestants. I recall thinking how hilarious this show could be in the right hands and with quality performers. Fortunately that came true then and will again come true this time.

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

Rehearsals are yet to begin but Frankie has to make sure he doesn’t mix his contestants and their talents up…it’s a fast paced, ever-changing show, so I need my wits about me.

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?

There are six strong defined characters when it comes to the girls….I have to match them to bring the whole piece together but I’m the real link for the audience so I need to woo them with some  charming cheese or cheesy charm…I’ve yet to decide.

 

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

In this country we don’t have a tradition of Pageants as they do in the US but we are a savvy people and know roughly how they work but to experience one is something else, especially one where men are playing the girls! The whole thing is done with genuine affection and with great comic effect! Also though, these girls are seriously talented and I would hope the audience really appreciates what they do as well as laughing solidly for 90 minutes!

Wishing every success to the team with the show!

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