Alex Parker: musical director
After taking up the piano as a teenager, Alex Parker’s aspirations soon turned to musical direction. Unable to find the experience he needed, he began producing his own shows as well. His latest project is a concert production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music at the Palace Theatre
How did you end up being both the musical director and producer?
I come from the music side of it and wanted to be an MD. Obviously the only way to do that when you’re young is by getting stuck in with shows. When I was 15 or 16 and I decided that I wanted to do it, all of the amateur groups in my area already had their established and long-term MDs and so I never really got to do anything. I suppose they didn’t take me seriously. So I thought I would have a go at doing shows myself. I thought, surely if I just booked a theatre and got some people together it would work. Obviously it’s not that simple, but I did think that if the projects weren’t going to come to me at that time, then I guess the next obvious thing was to initiate doing them myself. At the core of it for me has always been the musical director role. The producer thing was just a way of engineering it.
What was it about A Little Night Music that made you want to put it on?
It really is a masterpiece for me. I first saw the Menier Chocolate Factory production and I absolutely loved it. I’d never seen the piece before, and it was done as a chamber production, which I fell in love with. This is what the Menier continues to do – take shows that you think are massive shows that can only be done in a huge fashion, and do them in a different way. After that I obsessed over the piece, and ended up putting a concert production of it on in Guildford. We only did it for one night, so when I asked everyone to do it again at the Palace, they responded immediately, which was great.
Are you a big Sondheim fan?
I am. I think, for me, it’s that his work can be constantly interpreted in so many different ways. There are all these productions of Sweeney Todd at the moment, for example, all in such different styles and sizes. You can do it again and again. Everybody says it, but I really do think it is genius work. The moments that are created in the theatre in terms of the marriage of the plot and the music are particularly present in Sondheim.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
I’ve worked on things that have been great for so many different reasons. I worked on Stephen Ward, and that was just a really interesting life experience of working on a brand new show in the West End. To work on a new Andrew Lloyd Webber show and really experience what putting a completely new piece out on that level was like was such an opportunity. Obviously it wasn’t this great success, but in terms of things I took away in experience, I wouldn’t change that for the world. And I got to conduct two shows a week, which was amazing – it’s my favourite part.
CV: Alex Parker
Training: University of Birmingham (graduated 2012)
First professional job: Associate MD, Soho Cinders, Soho Theatre (2012)
Agent: Stuart Piper, Cole Kitchen