Richard Thomas, Olivier award-winning composer of Jerry Springer the Opera, is launching back into theatre life post lockdown, as part of Jonny Woo’s All Star Late Night Cabaret. He tells Quays Life why he was quick to join the call to cabaret, catching Covid, and writing a musical about it.
How does it feel to be back in front of a live audience?
Richard: “Ha! I’ll tell you after the gig. Seriously I’m really looking forward to it. I had six shows in the works – some new and some revivals which have all been postponed or cancelled over the pandemic so it’s just great to have a thing which is actually on”.
How would you describe In the Cabaret Club?
Richard: “Jonny has a very enigmatic, original approach to cabaret which has been honed over many years. He’s very good at creating a great atmosphere and thrives on an intoxicating mix of slick spectacle and anything-can-happen spontaneity. I saw him years ago in a tent doing Gay Bingo and it was chaotic and fun. The crowd loved it. So, I always say “YES!” when the Jonny Woo call-to-cabaret klaxon is blown.
It’s billed as a star spangled spectacular with a strip tease lip sync – it there an American Ru Paul’s drag race theme?
Richard: “I’m not sure how Ru would react to the Woo. The strip tease lip-sync is a showstopper with a firework ending that puts July 4th celebrations in the shade”.
“I think Jonny is one of those rare, transgressive, alternative performers who make an amazing impact on the community. He set up The Glory pub in London which has become one of the most enlightened venues in London. I think he’s up there with the likes of Divine and Leigh Bowery in terms of the impact he’s had on the scene. He’ll pretend to hate me for saying that, but I know he secretly accepts a compliment”.
How did you meet the other performers – Sooz Kempner and Kevin Davies?
Richard: “I met them all through Jonny. I think we did the Latitude festival many moons ago. He put on about three hours of entertainment which was thrown together in a few days and a few phone-calls. It was fearless and quite remarkable”.
What is your part in it?
Richard: “I play piano and write songs for Jonny and the crew”.
Can fans of Jerry Springer The Opera expect to see any of that humour in the show?
Richard: “Ohhh yes for sure! Look out for stellar numbers “Famous Anus”, “Five Ways of Saying it’s Crap”, “The Sound of Sodomy”, “Doctor Death”, “Celebrity Kidnap” I tried to grow up – it didn’t work so I decided to grow down I think we might be doing a Jerry Medley as well”.
How did you keep your sense of humour during the past 18 months?
Richard: “I caught Covid and suffered very badly from it. I thought my time was up. Interestingly, for me, I wasn’t scared but it was, ahem, certainly a buzz kill”.
Can you tell us about your show, The Covid-19 Variations – A Piano Drama?
Richard: “A concert pianist mate of mine got Covid in New York just after the first lockdown. It was a horror show for him.The Guggenheim Museum in New York were commissioning artist to write 3-5 minute pieces to be filmed. I ended up writing the 19 variations which is a piano drama in 19 sections lasting about 24 minutes about getting the disease based on our experiences. It’s very funny at points but also very moving. We’re doing performances of it in Birmingham Rep in August with 19 films made by the wonderful BAFTA winning artist Alison Jackson.
“I like the idea of Piano Dramas. It’s a new thing for me which I like to think I invented. I did another called, “Rhapsody in You” which is about living in the city and I’ve got another on the go called, “Broadway!”.