Magna Carta goes to England

In March 2003, Prospect Playhouse in Grand Cayman was the venue for the world premiere of the locally written musical drama Magna Carta: The Musical Trial of King John.

‘World premiere’ is a phrase that some people might have thought a bit grandiose for a play conceived, nurtured and brought to fruition on this little island.

But the phrase was accurate in the literal as well as traditional sense because Magna Carta will soon have its UK premiere; in Plymouth, England, to be exact, at the 300-seat Athenaeum Theatre.

The play is being produced by the Plymouth Musical Theatre Company, with auditions 5 February and performances scheduled for the last week in May or first week in June.

Already the theatre company’s website is carrying a synopsis of the play and, impressive to behold, a list of the ‘creative team’ members: Colin Wilson, writer; Dody Denman, writer; Chuck Quappè, composer; Barrie Quappè, composer; Scott Wieprecht, director.

The Plymouth Musical Theatre Company was formed in September 2003 and, as its name implies, does only musicals. It is a teaching theatre, Colin explained.

He, Chuck and Barrie are already planning to attend one of the performances. Dody, whom Colin credits with making his dialogue more authentic, lives in the US. It was not yet known if she would also be making the trip.

Colin was Magna Carta’s director. He has been in contact with his successor and has learned that the Plymouth production will feature a cast of ’35-plus’.

This must be personally as well as professionally satisfying to him: one of the initially perceived problems with Magna Carta was the number of characters. In fact, its publisher, New Theatre Productions, planned two scripts: one with 24 important characters; the other with that number reduced to 13 plus chorus.

The thinking was that professional groups would hesitate to take on the expenses of such a large cast, while school or amateur groups would welcome a good script with so many meaty roles.

Chuck and Barrie, the husband-and-wife team that has been performing, writing and producing songs for over 20 years, provided the words and music of 19 original songs for the two-act play.

Chuck played keyboard in the band for the show. Barrie not only played drums in the orchestra pit but also sang and danced on stage.

Chuck has admitted being curious about how another conductor will interpret their music.

Many people will be curious about how the English production compares to the spectacle achieved by the Cayman Drama Society. Perhaps more than that, they will want to know what the critics say.

When that curiosity is satisfied five months from now, there may be yet another milestone to look forward to: Colin revealed that Magical Musicals Ltd. is interested in doing the play in or just outside London. If it goes ahead, that would happen in September or October.

Magna Carta is an original drama based entirely on historic fact and delineated through original music in a variety of styles. It focuses on the reign of King John of England: how he came to power, how he stayed in power for 17 years in spite of personal and political intrigues. New Theatre Publications, its publishing company, describes the play as having a modern musical score, love, romance, intricate webs of deceit and ‘a fast-paced history lesson for everyone.’