At only 21 years of age, Chris Daniels is certainly making a niche for himself in the Adelaide creative scene. During the day he owns and runs a successful video production company, Chris Daniels Productions; whilst, in the evenings he involves himself with the Adelaide amateur musical theatre scene.
Somehow, I managed to sit the ever on-the-go Chris down to chat about his stage directorial debut with Marie Clark Musical Theatre’s upcoming production, FAME – The Musical.
BG: Hi Chris. Firstly, tell us a little about your background in theatre and entertainment.
CD: I started doing theatre in high school out of a generalised passion for singing and meeting girls. I went to an all-male school and have no sisters, what was I supposed to do? Performing and storytelling quickly became one of my driving forces through school, and I started getting involved with filmmaking with a group of school friends. Since leaving school I continued performing with Marie Clark Musical Theatre, and kicked around at university for a bit before it became pretty evident that I was only ever going to be satisfied with a creative career. To this effect I founded my own video production company three years ago.
BG: Chris Daniels Productions?
CD: That’s right, and got my start by producing editorial video content during Adelaide Cabaret Festival and for various theatre companies here in SA.
BG: What made you decide to direct a musical?
CD: I’m a terrible armchair critic. I always find myself with extremely strong opinions about people’s directing and storytelling choices in particular. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and see if I could do any better!
BG: Fair enough! Why FAME?
CD: Towards the end of performing in Young Frankenstein, I approached Ben Stefanoff about possibly directing a show for Marie Clark in 2015, and whether there was anything he’d be interested in working on with me – he almost immediately put me on to FAME. At the time I knew nothing about the show whatsoever, but after reading through the script and hearing the music, the show grew on me quickly. What excited me most was (and still is!) the fact that my direction is as original and unbiased as possible, having never had any exposure to the show before reading the script that first time. The other thing that piqued my interest is the wealth of different characters in the show; rather than a lead male, lead female, and lead antagonist, FAME has fourteen leading characters that all demand a fully developed back-story and four years of growth over the two-and-a-half hours of show time. No small challenge!
BG: Indeed, it is not! As the show is set in the 1980s, how did you go about researching that period?
CD: One of the first things I did after reading the script was begin constructing a picture of New York in the 80s. It was imperative to understand the cultural influences of the time, to discover the issues in race; find out what movies and records had been produced in the late 70s; even find out how well the public transport was working! All of these factors influence every character on stage, from colouring their development through their teenage years before they got to the point where the show begins, to how a character might feel and act in an early morning class given that they had to take a bus, ferry, and subway for an hour and half just to get to school.
BG: How do you feel the fairly young cast has assimilated to being in a show set in the 80s?
CD: I think that everyone’s done a stellar job at stepping in to the 80s feel, particularly in the case of the music. In any case, I have chosen not to make the show too 80s, if that makes sense. Having come off the back of two 80s parodies – The Wedding Singer and Xanadu – I’m going for a more middle of the road approach to time period.
BG: You have basically answered my next question. Does the time period matter?
CD: No, I don’t think that the 80s time period is very important. Sure, some of the issues discussed in the show were more prevalent back in the 80s, and the composition of some pieces is very symptomatic of that time, but realistically the show is one very minor rewrite away from being placed in any generation of the last 40 years.
BG: We mentioned earlier about the fact that you work in the video production arena: has your job as a film/video director helped you in directing for the stage?
CD: Absolutely. It meant that I wasn’t going in totally blind! Film direction has helped in particular with the creation of shapes and background elements, and my work behind the camera has taught me about controlling the eye with composition and lighting. I can’t imagine what it would be like going in without some knowledge of those key things.
BG: How does your version of FAME differ from other productions?
CD: Having never seen another production of FAME, I honestly couldn’t say! What this show does bring to the table however is a significant breadth of purely dramatic scenes and interactions, such as might be expected more from a stage play than a musical. Also on offer is the most spectacular host of new talent that I could imagine. For many of the cast this is their first adult show. Some of them are still in school!
BG: Lastly, would you like to say a few words about your production team For this show?
CD: I certainly would! Along with a truly unbeatable cast, I have been fortunate enough to work with probably the best creative team in Adelaide. Between Ben, Ness, Ali, Renee, Emily, Shay, Rodney, Amie, Cara and Laura (and all of their respective team members!) there is easily enough talent and ability to make this show the best production this season. The company itself and all respective members have supported me since day one – almost a year ago now! This will absolutely be the first of many, many productions alongside this team.
BG: Thanks for that, Chris and for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to talk to Glam – and all the best with FAME!
CD: My pleasure, and thank you!
Marie Clark Musical Theatre’s production of FAME – The Musical is on at the Goodwood Institute, 166 Goodwood Road, Goodwood from 23 – 31 Oct 2015. Ticket prices: $25 – $33 Bookings can be made by phoning on 8251 3926, or on-line www.marieclark.asn.au, or email [email protected]
Interview by Brian Godfrey
Click here to read Georgina Smerd’s review of FAME – the musical