The life of an actor: fear of a synthetic future for musical theater
Nicholas Pound is a professional actor / singer who has performed in theater for over 35 years. He has played lead roles in Les Misérables, The Rocky Horror Show, Chess, Evita, Notre Dame de Paris and Man of La Mancha.
He has had a long association with the role of Old Deuteronomy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. He moved to Eastbourne Old Town 5 years ago, after living in Spain for 9 years where he was the founder of vocal harmony group Tres Divos and hosted his own weekly radio show The Sound of Musicals on Talk Radio Europe.
Nicholas shares his thoughts …
“An actress friend was cleaning her loft the other week and sent me a copy of the program for my first West End production – the 1987 revival of South Pacific at the Prince of Wales Theater, with Gemma Craven and Bertice Reading. As I nostalgically flipped through the pages, I remembered how different West End theater productions were back then. Especially the size of the orchestra! It was the norm at the time for a producer to employ up to 30 musicians in a hurry in the smallest of orchestral wells. South. Pacific had 26 musicians including 10 strings, a harp, an English horn and even a tuba! Nothing beats the sound of musicians playing real instruments.
“Although theater has a lot to benefit from the digital age and ever-expanding technological advancements, musical theater orchestras have unfortunately become the victims of these advancements.
“When I started playing in Cats in 1998 the London Orchestra numbered 18. The 2003 UK tour started with 13 musicians and by the time the show returned to the Palladium in 2014 the numbers had been reduced to 8. The reason is the computerized sampled sounds of many individual instruments which are now programmed into the most sophisticated keyboards. With a simple gesture, a talented keyboardist can transform the lower half of their instrument into a double bass, for example, while the top half plays an oboe solo Three keyboards in a modern orchestra can now easily replace 15 live musicians.
“The pandemic has allowed West End producers to re-evaluate the size and scale (and expense) of their productions. The West End production of Phantom of The Opera began in 1986 with 27 musicians and remained until what the show is forced to close last. March. Traditionally, it has always been nearly impossible to terminate a musician’s employment due to the strength of the musicians’ union, but thanks to Covid, producer Cameron Mackintosh was able to terminate all contracts. “Original Phantom” it was recently announced that the orchestra will be downsized by 50% when production returns this summer. Former players will have the opportunity to re-audition for the new orchestra, but unfortunately 13 positions will no longer exist.
“Of course, even Cameron Mackintosh lost millions in earnings during this hateful year, but it’s hard not to be cynical and wonder if the pandemic presented the perfect opportunity to downsize and downsize. save hundreds of thousands of pounds in the future.
“The synthesized future of musical theater has long been inevitable and sadly, many talented musicians will lose their livelihoods as a result.
“The recent government campaign encouraged ballet dancer Fatima to retrain in computer skills. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar ad urged harpists and tuba players to consider a future in programming musical keyboards? have a lot of demand! “