One night he was receiving a Tony award, the next he was back in Leeds working on a new musical. Nick Ahad spoke to Martin Lowe.
What do you do when you win a Tony Award, the theatre world’s equivalent of an Oscar?
You get straight back to work. Well, you do if you’re Martin Lowe.
“Got back yesterday; back in rehearsals today,” says Lowe who seems far too cheery for a man who ought to still be ploughing his way through the champagne in New York but is in fact ploughing his way through the work involved in bringing a new British musical to the stage.
It seems the buzz from winning a Tony can survive jet lag and a quick dash across the Atlantic.
Lowe won the Tony on Sunday night for his work on the orchestration of Once, a Broadway musical that collected eight awards at the ceremony.
Just 48 hours after collecting the gong, he was back at West Yorkshire Playhouse keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings for the musical Loserville, for which he is music supervisor.
It must have felt pretty nice to stride back into rehearsals at the Leeds theatre with a Tony award in his backpack.
“I think the worst thing I could have done was come back in with any airs and graces, the best thing always is just to get back in a rehearsal room and start working. Wouldn’t it be awful to just sit about navel gazing and being pleased with yourself?”
To be fair to Lowe, he could be forgiven for being a little pleased with himself. Once is the musical theatre show that never stood a chance. Based on the Oscar-winning film starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, it had good pedigree as a movie, but that didn’t mean it was likely to win one of the theatre world’s Oscars.
The Tony Awards are handed out annually for shows on Broadway. Big shows, certainly in the musical category, tend to take the gongs from the red carpet. The show for which Lowe won the Tony, Once, relied not on big money production values, but on “imaginative theatricality, inventive staging and ensembles of little-known theater actors, instead of the big-budget or star-driven productions that often prevail on Tony night”, according to the New York Times.
Lowe says the event itself was actually a little torturous.
“It was like flying through turbulence, so nerve wracking,” he says.
“My category was the first of the night and best musical, which we also won, was the very last, so it went on all night for us.
“They don’t serve alcohol at the venue, so by the end we were desperate for a drink. We did party pretty hard once the show was over.”
Lowe has got pretty used to big successes. As musical director he worked on the film Mamma Mia! and in theatre on War Horse, Jerry Springer The Opera and The Full Monty. Has he got the magic touch?
Lowe says: “I really only try to do work that I really believe in and, ideally, I have to love the music from the moment I hear it.”
Which all bodes pretty well for Loserville.
The new musical, which begins previewing on Monday next week is written by Elliot Davis and James Bourne, with Lowe’s name appearing on the credits for the musical arrangement alongside them.
“I have been sitting in the stalls listening to the music and fine-tuning things,” says Lowe.
“One of the things I love to do is lots of different things, from War Horse, to Mamma Mia! to Jerry Springer. Coming back to Loserville from New York with Once was great – to go from a small show with an acoustic guitar and a mandolin to this huge piece, which has a real pop-punk sound, is brilliant.”
Given his track record for backing winners, does he have high hopes for the show?
“As soon as James called me and played the songs down the phone, I was in.” He may soon be back on Broadway.
Revenge of the computer nerds
Loserville is written by former Busted boy band member James Bourne and Elliot Davis.
Aaron Sidwell plays the role of the super-smart geek Michael Dork who, in 1971, with a little help from his friends and the beautiful and brainy Holly played by Eliza Hope Bennett is about to revolutionise the world – as long as Gareth Gates’ have-it-all rich-kid Eddie doesn’t get in the way.
Lowe says: “It’s the story of the quest to send the first email. It’s electric guitars and punk sound with a pop sensibility.”
West Yorkshire Playhouse, June 18 to July 14. Tickets 0113 2137700.