A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending a gala launch to celebrate the first public season of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO). It was an incredible evening, which really showed off the immense talent of the musicians on stage and it got me very excited for their first show this year, State Fair at Cadogan Hall on 6 November. And because this performance is just a month away now, I'm delighted to share with you my interview with Freddie Tapner, who is the founder and Principal Conductor of the LMTO.
Hi Freddie, thanks for joining me on Page to Stage today. First of all, what made you decide to set up the LMTO?
As well as a passion for musical theatre, I’ve always loved the big orchestral sound, in any genre of music. Music to me is all about the art of collaboration and I think an orchestra is the apogee of that art. LMTO came about because I was playing Phantom on the piano, and thought it might be more fun to do it with a hundred more people…
So I put a note on Facebook saying I was organising a rehearsal of a musical in private, and did anyone want to join in the fun? 12 hours later, two hundred and fifty people had signed up – madness! From that moment on I’ve known that we’ve had the support of players and singers. The next goal is the support of an audience.
The LMTO was founded only last year and you're already performing two public shows this year. Can you tell me what the journey has been like and how the decision to perform publicly came about?
After a year of doing our private monthly play-throughs, I was starting to think about how we move forwards to show the world our passion. Quite by chance I was introduced to James Yeoburn and Stuart Matthew Price of United Theatrical, a production company managing the upcoming concerts, and we clicked instantly. It was with their help and expertise that we’ve been able to develop the public programme of performances.
What has been your own journey with musical theatre? Have you always been particularly interested in this performance style?
I was introduced to musical theatre at a very young age. I remember having the CDs of Phantom and Chess on repeat during long car journeys, and I think my passion grew from there. I was lucky at school with leading parts in musicals, but come university I was desperate to play more of a part in the music side of things. I conducted Joseph in a lecture hall and loved it – and went on to conduct the Cambridge Footlights Panto and the first ever amateur concert performance of Phantom.
What has been the best musical you've had the joy to watch in the theatre this year?
The Stationmaster by Tim Connor and Susannah Pearse. I saw this work in its first outing under Aria Entertainment’s From Page To Stage Festival, a season of new musical theatre. I fell in love with the music instantly (we actually featured the opening song at LMTO’s Gala launch): a virtuosic but accessible score, packed with great tunes and a cracking story. Crucially, it’s the first new musical I’ve seen which didn’t go out of its way to be clever for the sake of being clever. It was just GREAT. With the right development over the next few years, I can see it on a West End stage.
And which musical is at the top of your wish list for performing as a public show with the LMTO?
I’ve been asked this question a lot recently! Somewhere near the top are The Producers, Love Never Dies, Avenue Q (given the full orchestral treatment), Candide and The Full Monty.
Are there any performers, musicians or singers, that you'd really like to work with in the coming years?
I’m really keen to work with Ramin Karimloo - he sang at LMTO’s Launch, and it would be a huge pleasure to work with him again. His voice is, quite simply, unbeatable. I’m very lucky with the orchestra line up in that they are my dream team, but were we to add soloists, working with Joe Stilgoe on the piano could produce something really magical.
A particularly special moment for me will be conducting an old music teacher of mine, Simon Carr, in State Fair – I love connections like that.
Finally, can you reveal a snippet of what's in store for the LMTO in 2017?
We’ve got our first guest composer slot - a world-renowned musician and writer, he’ll be performing his own work with LMTO fresh from successes overseas and in another wonderful venue. I’m looking forward to being able to announce the details of that soon.
Thanks Freddie, for sharing these great insight into the LMTO!
Has this interview made you excited for the LMTO's public shows? Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair will be performed at Cadogan Hall on 6 November (book here) and Alan Menken and Lynn Ahren's A Christmas Carol at the Lyric Theatre on 19 December (book here).
Photo credit: Nick Rutter.