Æ News – John Paul Jones sails again!

Jul 16 2010 | By More

Hit musical gets rewrite and professional production

The original 2001 production at the Church Hill Theatre

By Thom Dibdin

A stage musical by Edinburgh-based composer Julian Wagstaff takes its first steps towards the West End in September, when a new concert version of Wagstaff’s John Paul Jones will be performed by musicians from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the Queen’s Hall.

Wagstaff plans to use the concerts, on September 24 and 25, to raise the profile of John Paul Jones, which recounts the true story of the Dumfries-born lad who became a hero of the American Revolution and is known as the ‘father of the American navy’.

“I am delighted to be working with an ensemble of such quality and renown as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra,” Wagstaff told the Annals. “Their musicians will be joined for the concerts by the vocal ensemble Consort of Voices and guest soloists in what promises to be a wonderful night out for music and theatre fans alike.”

The stage musical received its full stage premier in an amateur production at Edinburgh’s Church Hill Theatre in 2001. This professional production will feature a brand new, semi-staged version of the musical, with new orchestrations and a revised libretto written in collaboration with London-based scriptwriter Joel Jenkins. The conductor and musical director will be Simon Hanson and stage direction will be by Christopher Neil.

Poster for the new production

Wagstaff explained that he hopes the concerts will raise the musical’s profile and provide a showcase to potential investors in a planned UK tour of the fully staged show. Working with David Williams, the former general manager of Scottish Ballet, as executive producer, Wagstaff says his goal is to establish a professional touring theatre company based in Scotland with the capacity to take John Paul Jones forward to success on the wider UK and international stage.

The musical tells the incredible true story of the son of a Scottish gardener who became a hero of the American Revolution as the ‘father of the American navy’. In it, Jones defeats the British against incredible odds at the Battle of Flamborough Head, is knighted by the King of France, fights for Catherine the Great in a war against the Turkish Empire and dies amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

The newly rewritten show is the product of a year long collaboration between Wagstaff and film and television writer Joel Jenkins, who he was at college with. Jenkins is also a former script editor with the UK Film Council.

“I got to the point where I was going round in circles with the script for John Paul Jones and making no headway with it at all,” Wagstaff explained. “It needed a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh pen – both of which Joel provided in copious measure. The result is a tighter, more coherent, more dramatic story, with new songs and new dialogue, but one which retains the spirit of the original.”

Further details of the production are available on Julian Wagstaff’s website

Queens Hall website for concert details and tickets.

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