Prodigy was commissioned and produced by the National Youth Music Theatre and featured a company of 27 young people between the ages of 11 – 23. These were cast from all over the United Kingdom after auditioning in acting, singing, dancing and – rather crucially for this show – playing an instrument!
The seed of inspiration for Prodigy was a hugely critical article in The Guardian about the BBC’s coverage of the biennial Young Musician of the Year contest. Once a prestigious classical music competition, the programme had apparently been dumbed down, treating its subject matter as ‘trivial, jokey and easy’. Ouch! Many blogs and message board users lamented the “reality TV” style in which the competition was presented and this became our way-in; a musical about the pressure of taking part in a serious music competition against the changing nature of television to accommodate the selfie generation. And, of course, with rampant teen hormones along the way – for extra oomph and comedy!
Six months of writing ensued, and in April of 2015 we came together for an 8-day workshop with the company, working 9am – 9pm with daily rewrites happening overnight. The advantage of a workshop process months before our premiere meant that we had time to go away and incorporate the cast’s unique personalities into our redrafts. When we reassembled in August it truly became their show. Our young cast of actor musicians shaped and steered this piece throughout; we would jump up and give them new lines and vocals right up until the dress rehearsal. They never flinched once.
As a story about instrumentalists, we knew very on that we wanted music to play a featured role in the production, blurring the lines between actor and musician. Under the expert eye of director Kate Golledge, musical director Candida Caldicot and choreographer Darragh O’Leary, we were able to put music at the heart of the action, featuring the instrumental skills of more than half of our cast onstage who played whilst also singing and dancing – quite the feat! The resulting sound is mightily impressive, and surpassed anything we could ever have dreamed of.
The original cast of Prodigy are an exceptional bunch of actors and musicians, and we know that in them, we’ve made friends and future colleagues for life. We can’t wait to see where their careers take them next – they are quite simply the stars of the future. To quote the opening song, as we did many a time to them during the run, we are ‘very, very proud’. They made this show so special, and we are so thrilled to have captured this special time in their lives – and in ours too – on this cast recording. It is to them, and our impeccable creative team, we owe all our love and thanks.
We hope that you enjoy listening!
Jake and Pippa x