Nick Boyle, has written, directed and choreographed a new, original jazz musical called The Jazzabelles, set in Belfast.
Starring exclusively local cast and crew, it tells the story of three girls in 1950’s Belfast who are trying to make it as a jazz trio. There are several hurdles of bigotry and adversity to overcome in the process – controlling husbands, religious fanatics, fraudulent show business snakes and a strong sub-plot of homosexual discrimination.
It has already been offered six dates in February in various theatres across Northern Ireland (Omagh, Derry, Armagh, Lisburn and Antrim).
Nick is a composer and pianist, who has directed BBC Sing Carols, written music for shows such as Play of the Book and collaborated widely with sound artists, theatre companies, visual artists and film makers. He is also music director of Wireless Mystery Theatre.
We sat down with Nick to chat about his inspiration, how he felt growing up in Belfast, and his belief in the importance of supporting local talent.
Where did the idea for The Jazzabelles come from?
The idea for the The Jazzabelles came in two parts. The first was from my work with vocal trio, The Mystery Sisters. I arrange music for the group, taking contemporary tunes and jazzing them up in close harmony. I wanted to do more with that sound.
The second was from my interest in stories about the trials and tribulations of bands trying to make it to the top. The two strands joined up and developed to become a story about a Belfast trio in the 1950’s attempting to put their mark on the music world against the odds.
What was your inspiration in choosing the particular time period?
The 1950’s conjures up images of big blockbuster musicals, taffeta Dior dresses, pixie cuts and sharp suited businessmen. That was my perception until I worked with the elderly. The reality wasn’t quite so glamorous.
They described a time of hand-me-down dresses stored in mothballs and saving up for a perm. The Belfast they inhabited fascinated me, one of lamplighters, trolleybuses and tea dances. It seemed like a golden age. But it was far from that…
It was a time of social change and contradictions, on the one hand challenging authority, on the other, conforming. It was also a time when music challenged orthodoxy, of rock n roll and jazz. It seemed like an ideal period to set a story. It had to be set in Belfast, particularly as I’m Belfast born and bred.
How important is it for you to support local talent?
As The Jazzabelles is a Belfast musical it’s important to me that Belfast is represented in its cast and crew.
More generally, I think we should all support local talent. We are fortunate to have many highly skilled and dedicated local artists who work hard and enrich our culture. I think I need to get on my soapbox for a moment and say that a lot of them are having a very hard time due to cuts to the arts. Art is about ideas, voices, and new ways of thinking. These are things that should be valued and nurtured, not cut.
There are several hurdles of bigotry and adversity – is this an important message for your audience?
In the 1950’s various forms of inequality, intolerance and exploitation were the norm. This was a time of corporal and capital punishment!
Women were expected to know their place, divorce was practically unheard of and homosexuality was prosecutable. I didn’t feel I could ignore these aspects of 1950’s society and wanted to explore how people might have dealt with them in The Jazzabelles.
I also hope some of our contemporary problems of inequality are reflected back in The Jazzabelles.
Does the play draw from your own experience?
In terms of getting an idea to become reality The Jazzabelles draws on my own experience – of people committing to a goal, working tirelessly together, solving problems and bringing it to fruition. That’s an intense, but very worthwhile, inspiring process to undertake.
Fortunately I’ve never personally come up against the type of situations the characters in The Jazzabelles find themselves!
What is the key message you want the audience to take away from the musical?
That when people set their minds to achieving a dream, pull together and look out for each other, they can overcome any adversity and achieve that dream.
Can you tell us more about your Kickstarter campaign?
The show has been programmed throughout Northern Ireland in February 2016. We’re running a Kickstarter campaign to ensure the production is the best it can be and to secure the brightest talent possible in terms of performance, choreography and musicianship. We don’t have long left on the clock so do contribute if you can! When that run is over we want to bring The Jazzabelles back home to Belfast in an even bigger, snazzier form later in 2016.
To find out more give our Facebook page a like! This is a homegrown musical full of snappy tunes and a great night out!
To find out more check out kickstarter.com.