We chat to Musical Director Fiz Shapur about his expansive career and work behind the scenes for the upcoming community Music Of The Night show at Harrogate’s Royal Hall celebrating the life of Dr Richard Lestner.
London-based Fiz Shapur is one of the most respected and sought-after musical directors in the UK. Involved in many of the biggest musical productions both in London and abroad, his work encompasses a wide spectrum of musical styles from West End musicals to Jazz, Pop and Cabaret. As a Musical Supervisor for The Really Useful Group, Fiz is also involved in setting up CATS around the world.
Hi Fiz, tell us all about Music Of The Night!
Music Of The Night will be a show combining some of the best loved songs from musical theatre. I’ll be presenting a mixture of tracks from golden age classics like Phantom Of The Opera and Les Misérables to modern shows like The Greatest Showman and Frozen. There will also be some solos, duets and trios from our cast of six performers and some more cabaret sections using material from West Side Story.
I’ll also be on stage playing along to the songs on piano or performing a few solos which should provide a more intimate feeling for the audience. But for other parts I might just take a step back and let the show roll on. Overall it should be a wonderful evening with some interesting twists and plenty of variation for the audience!
How has it been putting it all together?
Because of COVID restrictions, it’s become a necessity to downsize the number of musicians on stage. This means that only myself and the six singers will be on stage for the night, with all the orchestra sections recorded beforehand throughout February. I’ll be directing a full-sized orchestra during this time to record most of the material, or using a smaller 12-piece band for songs from musicals like Wicked.
It’s become a necessity to do things this way lately, but even though we can’t have a live orchestra on stage, the recordings will still sound exactly as they should from the original musical. I think it’s worked out great for this particular show though, as the large amount of money normally used to transport the musicians to the theatre can now be saved for the charities involved behind the production.
Is this a big change compared to your usual work?
I’ve sort of found myself in a unique position to begin with, as I’ve worked a lot in China as a music supervisor for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company, The Really Useful Group. Western musicals have become more popular across Asia over the years, but it’s often hard to find all the musicians you need for certain productions. This is where the recorded elements get used to embellish smaller bands when putting the music together.
How did you first get started directing musical theatre?
I pursued classical training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where I also did a post-graduate degree in conducting. The college happened to have a drama department, which I found myself spending more time with.
I eventually got more involved by working on the material for the department’s internal musicals which are held every year, and we had visiting musical directors to see what we were up to. Close to my graduation they asked me to work with them on their own musicals, which I’ve continued with ever since!
What else do you have planned for this year?
The outbreak has had a big knock-on effect to the theatre industry. Rehearsals get delayed, tours get cancelled, and producers can’t sell tickets because audiences are understandably reluctant to visit theatres. The pandemic has also put my work in Asia on hold the last two years, and other potential projects have a big question mark stamped on them.
At the moment I’m concentrating on work for smaller communities and private concerts. I can get the go ahead for these easier than with major shows, which often cancel altogether if just one production member has to pull out.
More producers have recently gone onto putting on private functions this way, or corporate gigs where possible to keep the industry live and running.
We’re at the mercy of it all, but just try to get on with things and make the most out of what we can.
‘The show must go on’ has quite literally become our mantra! Music Of The Night will be presented by Ricky’s Angels and performed at the Royal Hall at Harrogate on 27th March. Ticket proceedings will be donated to The Dr Richard Lestner Student Scholarship for Oesophageal Cancer Research and The Zone’s Youth Support Services.
Order tickets at Harrogatetheatre.co.uk Ricky’s Angels are Gaynor Sorkin, Naomi Lestner, Rayna Sheaf, Katie Taylor, Sammi Shapiro, Belinda Richmond, Janice Delroy, Nicola Lewis, Phillipa Goldstein and Alex Myers.
With thanks to the main sponsors Skopes, Naomi Lestner, The Pharmacy Group, Marcia and Andrew Brown, Astonish, The Dentist, Living Care Group, Amber Cars.