Kris Rawlinson is one of the busiest and youngest musical directors currently working in London. Rawlinson is about to have his own solo show at The Pheasantry. John Roberts took some time out to speak to him about his career to date and what to expect from his forthcoming show.
You have been busy with many projects over the last 12 months!What were some of your personal highlights?
I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in so many different things this year. A big highlight for me was being musical director for The World Goes Round again in February. It transferred to the St James Studio after performing it at the Pheasantry last summer. It was such a lovely group of people to work with, and a lovely little show, and you might even hear some material from it on Monday.
Our third instalment of West End Switched Off, which was in March, did exceptionally well this year. We added a matinee due to popular demand which sold out too, and we had some great feedback. It’s lovely to see something that you have worked on so hard for a number of years getting noticed, and having people not only talk about, but enjoy it too, that’s really nice.
I was also recently musical director for Emma Hatton for her solo gig at the Pheasantry. That was a really great night, as it was a chance to get away from musical theatre music for a night. Jazz and Blues are also favourite genres of mine, and Emma’s voice is a perfect fit. It’s nice to introduce a theatre audience to material they may not have heard before.
How did you get into musical theatre?
I have always loved the world of musical theatre. The energy, the excitement of live theatre, the buzz, it really can transport you away. My mum used to bring me up to London in the summer holidays to see a musical, and as I grew up, the amount of trips increased to every couple of months. I knew I wanted to get into the industry, and even had a go at performing in some earlier projects. My first production as a musical director was a revue show in my village when I was 15. I was the musical director for the annual revue for seven years while also working as the musical director on two full scale musicals, and directing and musically directing Little Shop of Horrors before I moved away for university. Once I was there, I used the opportunity of being in London to get as much experience as I could, and to meet as many people as I could, and that definitely helped.
You work as a Musical Director, Arranger and Composer. Which is your favourite job?
I love arranging music – it’s a big part of my day to day life, but I really do love playing live. Hearing your own arrangements live is a great feeling. I am currently writing a piece, which is very exciting, but I can’t find the time to sit down and write. I have note pads and sound bites full of ideas, melodies and motifs, but no complete songs yet. That’s the next one on the list to tick off!
What should your audience expect from Kris Rawlinson &Friends?
It will be a great night! I have known everybody performing with me on the night for a long time, and I am looking forward to be performing with all of them again. The whole cast are exceptionally talented and there’s a huge variation in performers, in style and sound, and that’s not something you usually get in a cabaret like this.
How do you go about choosing a set list for a show like this?
Creating this set list has been fun – I’ve gone through set lists from all the gigs I have done with the performers selecting the best songs that had the best reaction, or we enjoyed the most. There are lots of comedy songs, some upbeat stuff, and a few well placed ballads – we have a few songs from a collection of shows, because I love them, and we have some stand alone theatre songs and some pop covers as well.
You have a great line up of performers for the night. Is there a singer you are particularly excited to work with?
Yes, that night features an exceptional range of talent. I really love Gloria Onitiri voice. She sung for me last year in West End Switched Off and I’m looking forward to finally be hearing her again. One of the songs in particular is going to be great, as she is a sublime actress and the song is full of emotion.
Further, Sam Lupton has appeared in most of my work, most recently starring in Starting Here, Starting Now back in April. I’m not sure I could do a gig without him now, he is my ‘go to’ man and I love working with him.
What are your dream musicals to MD in the future?
I love the music from Wicked and that’s the show that really got me visiting London so regularly. Being involved with that show will always be a big dream! I’m also a massive fan of Adam Gwon and Ordinary Days is definitely a show that I would like, or like somebody else, to bring back to London soon!
Which composers do you admire in the industry?
I really enjoy a very wide breadth of music and composers. I love the music of Stephen Schwartz, and am a massive Disney fan. Alan Menken should never be overlooked as the greatest song composer ever. I really like Pasek and Paul and loved Dogfight at the Southwark Playhouse and I am a big fan of Bonnie and Clyde by Frank Wildhorn. I also recently saw Waitress in New York, and thought the music, written by Sara Bareilles, was fantastic. I hope the show comes over here, and that she writes more.
What is your favourite musical playing in London right now?
I really enjoyed In the Heights. I saw it at Southwark Playhouse before it transferred to King’s Cross Theatre. As I said earlier, Wicked is a big show for me. I could see it over and over again – I must go to see it again soon!