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Writing the book for a musical: Secret Gardens, the art of collaboration and the state of the British musical – an interview with Garry Lyons

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Garry Lyons is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, producer and academic. He is currently Lecturer in Writing for Performance & Performance Production within the School of Performance & Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds, and Programme Leader for the School's M.A. in Writing for Performance & Publication. He began his career in the 1980s with Major Road Theatre Company and as Director of the Theatre in the Mill, Bradford before turning freelance. His theatre writing includes Frankie and Tommy (Lyric, Hammersmith, 2000), Wicked, Yaar! (National Theatre, 1994) and Mohicans (Donmar Warehouse, 1984), and among his screen credits are the Royal Television Society award-winning Decisions (Channel 4, 2004), Britain's First Suicide Bombers (BBC 2, 2006) and four seasons of the Bafta-nominated children's series The Worst Witch (ITV, 1998–2001), which has been broadcast in more than 60 countries worldwide. His adaptation of The Secret Garden played to sold-out houses over the festive season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse (2009–2010) and Birmingham Repertory Theatre (2010–2011). The Independent described the new musical as having 'a filmic quality' and added 'this Secret Garden doesn't shout its secrets at the audience. Instead, it creates some lovely musical intimacies which enhance the magical sense of human fragility and reality on stage'. Here, Lyons talks to George Rodosthenous (Lecturer in Music Theatre, University of Leeds) about his collaboration with the composer Tim Sutton and the director Ian Brown, writing the book for a musical specifically 'for a regional English audience' and how 'the lack of encouragement and investment in new musicals in this country is woeful'.

Keywords: Birmingham Repertory Theatre; Garry Lyons; Ian Brown; The Secret Garden; Tim Sutton; West Yorkshire Playhouse; collaboration

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Leeds

Publication date: January 20, 2012

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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