Hi, I’m Mike Benyon and I’m musical director for Urinetown. I’ve been with SMP since joining as a keyboard player for our 1993 production of Alice in Wonderland. I’ve musically directed countless musicals, pantomimes, cabarets and talent shows and have even trodden the boards for a few, while my biggest challenge was taking on the dual role of director and musical director for our 2006 production of Much Ado Ron Ron.
Well, that was my biggest challenge…until now! Having seen the wonderful recent West End production of Urinetown at St James Theatre and the Apollo Theatre I’d hoped that it wouldn’t be too long before amateur rights become available for the show. This happened much quicker than expected. With the incredibly talented pair of Warren McWilliams on board as director and Jo Bakhurst as Choreographer it took very little (actually none) convincing for me to join the production team.
As I’m sure you will appreciate, having being involved with so many shows over the years it gets more and more important to find the next big challenge. It does reach a point where it is no longer enough just to be involved. There is the need to be part of something really special, something that will simply take people’s breath away. When Urinetown came along I knew I had found that challenge.
SMP have always had great casts. Like the top football teams, however, great teams come and go. I have seen the talents at SMP ebb and flow over the years. What was apparent with Urinetown was that we needed the best cast ever. However, as the auditions approached in February it became apparent that while we had some great people, we did not have enough of them! What happened next was a revelation. There were obviously a lot of people who had seen the recent West End production and were desperate to be part of the show.
The ‘newbies’ as they are affectionately known, have been a revelation. They are not only very talented but all have a very professional attitude. They are also extremely nice people which may sound a bit twee, but in a group that has always prided itself on being friendly and welcoming this has been very important. As a result, we have a company that very dedicated and committed to producing the best show ever.
What makes it so important that we have a great cast is that this show is completely full on for every single member of the show. Many traditional musicals are essentially a star vehicle for just a few members of the cast with the chorus coming on to do a few big numbers at various points in the show. In Urinetown the chorus are involved in almost all of the numbers. Not only that, they all have to learn some of the most incredibly rich but complex harmonies ever written for a musical! It would have been an easy option to simplify some of these harmonies or even to get the cast just to sing the tune. Far from it, the cast have worked amazingly hard not only to learn these harmonies but to spend their own time working on them. The result has been some of the best singing we have ever heard at SMP.
Well, it’s now less than a month to opening night. Last week’s rehearsals were very much about re-capping and covering the final scenes and songs before we start doing runs this week. So while all you lovely people have been spending the couple of Sundays in the garden with your barbeques and ice creams, we have been working hard to get the show into tip-top shape.
I am looking forward also to getting our amazing musicians together. This year’s show includes SMP regulars Chris “Chunk” Wall on drums and percussion and Steve Rogers on bass. It also includes the wonderful Erika Gundesen, Flick Chilton and James Goodwin from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Well, Urinetown is a wonderful show as anyone who saw the recent West End production will agree. With our talented and dedicated cast and production team and superb musicians I’m sure it will be a show that will live long in the memory of anyone who comes to see it. If you haven’t already, get your tickets now! Tickets available here