Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Music man Alex is note perfect for his first panto

YOU may not see a lot of Alex Beetschen in the Kenton panto — but you will certainly

YOU may not see a lot of Alex Beetschen in the Kenton panto — but you will certainly hear him.

He is the musical director of Jack and the Beanstalk and is planning to give the show his own special touch.

A talented pianist and writer, Alex will be in the theatre’s “pit” weaving his musical magic in what is his first pantomime. He has an impressive CV that belies his age — he is just 25.

But music has always been part of his life. His father Matthew has spent more than 20 years as organist and choirmaster at Dunblane Cathedral.

Alex’s talent blossomed at Strathallan school in Scotland and he then went to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he studied music and was a choral scholar.

His work as a musical director and arranger has taken him from Little Shop of Horrors to West Side Story and La traviata. But he does not see Jack and the Beanstalk as unconnected with musicals and opera.

“It is musical theatre where the music plays a major part in the drama, in the storytelling, and my heart is in musical theatre,” he says.

“The Kenton pantomime is very traditional and my arrangements and underscoring are as much part of that as the script.

“We are not a production with a TV star. It is as someone said a boutique pantomime — a show tailor-made for the Kenton. It has its own script and its own music.”

That is not to say that Alex won’t be delving into current pop songs, but he is planning to give them his own treatment. “There is a lot of improvisation and there will also be musical gags,” he says. “They are part of pantomime and I and Robert Carr — who is a drummer — we are finding out just how many noises you can make!”

Alex has been working on rehearsals in London, but with the cast having moved into the Kenton on Monday this week, he is pleased to be getting down to business.

“There is a lot of work for me to do but I am thoroughly enjoying it,” he says. “So far I have not even been to the Kenton or even to where I am staying, but I am really looking forward to being in Henley. It is going to be a very busy time.”

Rehearsals started on Monday at the theatre in New Street, overseen by writer-director Ian McFarlane and producer Oli Seadon.

“Ian wants to make the storytelling important — pantomime has a great tradition and great stories,” says Alex. “Then there is the humour that works on two levels — for the children and the adults in the audience. But with the children it is much better that you don’t play down to them.”

Alex, who lives in Acton, West London, has recently composed the music for the short film Stranger Side and At the Manger — a work for choir, solo tenor, string orchestra, organ and percussion.

He is obviously a man of many musical talents and will be playing a key, if unseen, role in the Kenton show.

l Jack and the Beanstalk runs from December 17 to 27. For ticket information and to book, visit www. kentontheatre.co.uk or call the box office on (01491) 575698. The box office is open to callers in person from 11am to 3pm on weekdays and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.

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