“Alice around midnight” - Anthony Phillips and Richard Scott discuss the musical Alice with Brian Mathew. Originally broadcast on the BBC Radio Two programme “Around Midnight” on 29th March 1984. Memorabilia: The Pavilion/TWR archive.
BM: Well, now we are going to have news of a new musical: it’s at the Leeds Playhouse Theatre and it’s called Alice. Its by Anthony Phillips and Richard Scott who will be joining us in a couple of minutes’ time and as it happens, there’s also a new single that is also their joint work coming out very shortly by the Anthony Phillips Band, entitled Sally. As we have Anthony Phillips here in the studio with Richard Scott who wrote it between them, let me ask when is that going to be released?
AP: It’s going to be released on April 13th apparently…
BM: Not a Friday, I hope?
AP: I do hope not!
BM: Right, we're much more concerned about hearing about this mew musical “Alice” that you’ve written together with Richard. Richard, in your own background prior to forming a partnership with Anthony, did you ever work with a band or group?
RS: No, I played with Anthony for some years but we have never done anything professionally. I was an academic basically, a psychologist (laughs).
BM: In that sort of area, what did you do?
RS: I was doing my Doctorate when we started working and in fact, the Alice project stopped that for a few months.
BM: You will go back to it?
RS: Oh absolutely, yes.
BM: With what end in view?
RS: I originally started it because I wanted some ideas and I had some ideas I wanted to work out but I will see how things turn out with this.
BM: How long is it , Anthony, since you left Genesis?
AP: it seems like hundreds of years but it is actually fourteen years which is a very long time.
BM: And now a stage musical, is this something that has long occupied your thoughts?
AP: It’s mot something that was ever set up that I must do. I was about to have a go at writing some songs around the book “Masquerade” and Richard and I collaborated on that only to be pipped at the post by Rod Argent on that one. We then changed our ideas to ones about Alice which was our management’s idea. Tony Smith, my manager, is in fact, a big Alice freak and Leeds eventually commissioned us.
BM: Yes, let’s hear a bit about this musical at Leeds because, by all accounts, the Leeds Playhouse is dong great things in theatre. It’s not only breaking even, it is forging ahead I gather?
RS: That’s right, yes and it developed out of the blue really and through the musical director John L Edwards, who had done some work with us on the album. He knew we had written some songs.
AP: he was actually our singing teacher on the album and he mentioned to Leeds that he had heard that we had an idea about a musical and in fact what we had, to be honest, was eight songs and quite a good scheme. John Harrison came down and grilled us and we found that we hadn’t got enough to go on. There were not enough songs, that was the problem.
BM: The nationals have sent reviewers up to Leeds and word has got about that this could be going elsewhere, who has been responsible for that?
AP: Oh, Richard entirely.
BM: It doesn’t bear too much resemblance to Lewis Carroll’s original work though, does it?
AP: The major characters are there, in fact, if you sit in the theatre as I did the other night, the erudite do notice the characters and who they are supposed to be. People suddenly realise that and say: “Ah, he’s the caterpillar…”
BM: But he’s not a caterpillar in this, he’s a sax playing character…
RS: Yes, he’s a sax playing beatnik called Butterfly Williams. Yes, there are faint allusions to the original. It’s supposed to be an imaginative treatment of the original.
BM: In very contemporary terms?
RS: Not just in contemporary terms but over the least three or four decades back to the Forties and just taking various characters from various times and places.
BM: Maybe we can clarify that in a few moments but you have very kindly provided us a with a demonstration tape of one of the songs and it is very much that with just piano and vocals. Who sings on it, is it the girl who plays Alice?
AP: Sally Ann Triplett, yes.
BM: Will there be a record of this musical at some point?
AP: We hope so, but we don’t know yet.
BM: That’s Sally Ann Triplett proving that she’s a far better singer than we would have supposed after her involvement with that silly old Eurovision Song Contest (laughs). A song which she sang as “If You Come Back” and “Holding You Again” which is interesting because it shows how things evolve in the process of creating a musical. As Richard Scott who wrote the words, tells me it’s not called that now.
RS: No, it’s Holding Him Again. It was just a song to clarify who she was singing about and at that point it was quite important.
BM: Is there very much change in a musical from rehearsal to the final performances?
AP: yes, there are lots. Lots of things have to go. The arrangement of the songs can go; whole scenes can go and so on. The arrangement of songs you have to leave to the very last moment until the drama is decided and how these arrangements should be approached
BM: Who was playing the piano accompaniment on the piece?
AP: That was the dour Scotsman himself, the diminutive Kevin Fitzsimmonds who is actually a young genius. I shouldn’t say it, but he is.
BM: What kind of band have you got in the theatre?
AP: Two synths, guitar, bass and drums.
BM: So it’s a very contemporary sound?
AP: Yeah, very.
BM: Getting aback to the story, Richard as you said; the main characters are there for those who wish to see, but for those who couldn’t care less, what do they see?
RS: They see a young girl who lives by a code, a very repressed code and I suppose she is seduced by music, dance and her imagination; dreams, passion etc, etc…
BM: How does a story like that get us back two or thee decades as you have suggested?
RS: Just through the characters she meets. The Beatnik is from the Fifties, the Mad Hacker is from the Sixties, the Cat is a sort of Forties Music Hall dancer.
BM: If that’s happening in the storyline, Anthony, is the music doing anything similar?
AP: Yes, the music is all over the place. I didn’t actually know what I had undertaken when I said I would do this because the amount of different styles I had to cover, particularly in dance, was just unbelievable; I was used to doing my own albums and just being able to sit and do what I want. First of all, I had to try and conjure up a very modern, very technological world and then go right back through all these styles; many of which I had never come across before. Things like Be - Bop; I hadn’t got a clue how to play that! So, I leant very heavily on John Owen-Edwards and Heather Seymour was also very demanding in terms of the dance routines; sections which would go through all sorts of ideas. I think we got through from Reggae to Charlston.
BM: Goodness, that must have been a chore for you indeed!
AP: It was very challenging!
BM: You are back down in London now, Richard, looking for a London outlet for the show?
RS: Well, that’s what we are hoping for, obviously , yes. It’s a question of where to look really. The thing is to get people up there to see it, that can be quite difficult, actually.
AP: The press have all been up which is fantastic.
BM: Physically, I mean people will be interested. Have you actually been knocking on doors?
AP: Well, it’s not really up to us. It’s up to the administration at Leeds really. We are not actually calling people up and saying: “Come and see it” we obviously spread any contacts we’ve got but it is really up to the management to do that.
BM: Well, here’s wishing you both every success and to Leeds Playhouse as well.
Both of these interviews were originally published in #9 of The Pavilion.