6/6/2013 - Will today’s British Invasion be met with more welcome than the one nearly 250 years ago?
Palace Theatre director Carl Rajotte certainly thinks so. He wrote and directed the Palace’s upcoming show, which features songs by top Brit singers like Elton John, Sting, Adele, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, The Beatles.
The show, he said, is unlike anything the Palace has done before. The sets, costumes, music and artistic storyline in British Invasion blur between rock concert and musical theater. Rajotte has been working on and thinking about the production all year and calls British Invasion his “baby.”
“It’s a big one,” Rajotte said in a phone interview last week. “I love doing this. I get to do it [produce original shows] maybe once a year, and I look forward to it every year.”
The music, he said, is key.
“Everyone loves this music. That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about people liking,” Rajotte said.
The first act is “pure music,” with iconic Beatles songs done in a contemporary way. It begins with four children, present day, squabbling over a television remote, fighting between The Ed Sullivan Show and MTV, until the two videos merge together and crack. The outcome is a punked-out Beatles band. An old-fashioned TV camera films this first act, and it’s projected onto two flat screens, Rajotte said, combining the old and new into one style.
The second act is more theatrical than the first and has an Alice in Wonderland kind of twist. The children depicted in the first scene grow into adults (adult dancers, specifically), and make their way through this fantastical, rock music world, through spooky woods and London cityscapes. They’ll dance their way, cirque du soleil style, over London Bridge and through the air using silk saris that hang from the ceiling. All the while, the band will play England’s great hits.
“The second act has a bit of a more contemporary feel,” Rajotte said.
Even the costumes are more contemporary. Actors, singers, dancers will be clad in what costume designer Jessica Moryl calls “steampunk” garb.
“There are a couple of different styles in steampunk. It’s Victorian wear with a bit of goth and Western thrown in,” Moryl said. “They wear coats and vests, but they’re all a little punked out, with velvets and tulle lace. … It has almost a Tim Burton feel.” One gown, she said, features yards and yards of tulle and a 15-foot train of feathers.
Rajotte worked hard to attract the best people he could for this show. He needed to find a certain caliber of dancers who could perform the tricks and exquisite numbers that are required in this piece.
Palace regulars will recognize faces like Michelle Rajotte, Carl Rajotte’s sister, who most recently starred in the Palace’s Divas Through the Decades. Gus Curry, who sings some of the Beatles songs in the show, performed in the Palace’s Royalty of Rock ‘n’ Pop, and Garrit Guadan, who played in The Four Piano Men, also returns to Manchester.
“Every original show, so far, we’ve tried to make a little different from the others,” Rajotte said.
This one was inspired by something he saw on So You Think You Can Dance a few years back.
But they all stay true to a specific format: a band stage with fantastic dance numbers.
“I think this is the first time that the band and the musicians are integral to pushing the show along. It’s a little more artistic than the others,” Rajotte said.