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"I was 13 when I first produced a musical" Joseph Hodges interviewed by Lauren Gauge on his latest production GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY

Since its inaugural year in 2006, The Camden Fringe has grown organically and now serves mass audiences across the capital as one of August's top attractions, selling 30,000 tickets for over 1000 productions produced across 25 venues in 2017. Now, Joseph Hodges is bringing Broadway to The Camden Fringe with his musical revue, Give My Regards to Broadway currently running at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

Lauren Gauge: How did you get into theatre making and producing and what is about the artform that keeps you captive?

Joseph Hodges: I trained as a performer but started producing when I was 13. There were no opportunities for young people in my area. There was a big operatic society but they didn't take performers until they were 16. I saved up birthday money and went down to my local village hall and said I want to produce The Wizard of Oz for the night. They didn't take me seriously at all, and said they'd have to ring my parents. They asked how much money I had to put it on and when I said 100 pounds, they rang my mum who was a little taken aback but gave her permission and then with a slight bewilderment at what had just happened gave me the space. We did it and it was a massive success. I just cast all my friends and I directed and choreographed. I found out about producing and making money from an early age and grew it from there.

I got offered a scholarship at Italia Conti and trained for 4 years and worked as a little while as a performer before realising it wasn't really my vocation. I am too much of a control freak to be a performer. What I've always wanted to do is producing. I had some money left over from my Am-Dram company and where I grew up, in Margate in Kent, there was a theatre that wanted a new regenerated professional summer season. I grew up performing in the summer seasons in Margate. I commissioned a new show called Down to Margate – a 70s and 80s jukebox musical with tongue-in-cheek seaside town humour.

LG: Give My Regards to Broadway is a 'new musical revue celebrating New York's greatest showtunes from 1902 – 1942', what can audiences expect on the night?

JH: An evening of pure entertainment. You don't have to think too much, it's pure escapism. I love glitz and glamour, nice show tunes and good singers. I put all my favourite elements into one show and this is the outcome: sheer showbiz entertainment. It's a fun filled night out with four phenomenal performers. We've got Rebecca LaChance who is fresh back from Broadway starring in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, and our other three performers Thea Butler, Albert and Ben are all incredible.

LG: Is the musical a series of favourite numbers or have your written a narrative around the showtunes?

JH: There's no written book it's song on song on song. However, there is actually a story but I don't want to spoil because it's very much what you make of it as an audience member.

LG: What's your experience of Broadway, Off-Broadway musicals and how do they differ to the Off West End?

JH: Their Off Broadway is very similar to Broadway. Whereas we've got a different ethos and work ethic, we scrape things together and get things on. But with this show I wanted to combine the best elements of Broadway, beautiful costumes, a stunning but simple set and bring a condensed Broadway to Highgate for a week.

LG: Can you tell us about your journey to date on the production and what your most excited to see realised in performance?

JH: I went to Harry Blumenau the director and Chris Whittaker the choreographer and said I want to do something really fun. Last year I did a revue show of the same kind of era and I loved it, I wanted to take it further. So, we brought Lawrence who did our arranging and Oli who did our lighting on board and took it from there.
The beauty of each and every song how they're all so unique and individual. Finding out through the lyrics the depth of feeling and subtleness of the era. Everything is more explicit now but these songs have a coy reading the lines. Everyone can read something slightly different from them because of that.

LG: What translates the best in terms of commercial success when putting on musicals? Is it revue or is it musicals?

JH: I believe as a producer you have to be passionate to make a success of something.
I did three full musicals last year. One of them was an absolute burning passion. I had been waiting for the rights to it for 3 years and that translated to financial success. It must be something to do with the atmosphere that desire creates. I feels like it's that passion that translates. Obviously, that's not a proven theory. I am sure lots of bigger producers would say that's a load of rubbish!

LG: Well look, it's all on a hunch and all on personal taste, if you look at Sonia Friedman or Andrew Lloyd Webber it's all different but individual, so why not it be passion, that makes just as must sense. When there's a clear goal and a shared vision, the cast feed off it and the audience can sense it too.

Give My Regards to Broadway will feature the choreography of Offies 2018 Winner Chris Whittaker. You've produced, directed and choreographed in your career. When you produce a production is the staging and the choreography something you have a clear vision of and interest in shaping, and if so, is it hard to step off the gas?

JH: Yes, it's almost impossible for me. I have so many arguments in my head but I have to think 'this is someone else's vision and not my own'. I am so aesthetic I have always got an idea in my head of how something looks. With creative minds it's so important to fuel everyone else's creativity and keep them going. This rehearsal process is the first time I've stepped back a lot and allowed everything to happen. On Friday I went to watch a run and had a few notes, and I found it a lot easier because you get a greater sense of perspective on what needs changing. You see the piece work and know how you can make it a complete whole for the audience. Whereas before when I've been on top of directors it works negatively.

LG: Yes, because it's almost more helpful to let everyone do their best and then you can come in and make suggestions of how to make that even better, whilst trusting their abilities in the creation process, rather than stifling them.

JH: Exactly, but it's so hard! I'm so opinionated! But that needs to be supressed slightly. Also, I remind myself every day that these are people that I trust and that I've worked with before, and even the new creatives, I've employed them for a reason. I've seen a piece of their work that I've absolutely loved and wanted to work with them because of it. So, I have to fully trust what they want to do. I guess that's part of my job.

LG: Finally, are you hoping to get this show over to Broadway?

JH: That's a really good question – I'm not sure they'd like this! We've taken a really British take on many of the songs. A lot of the song don't always translate so we have to stage them suit the humour of a British audience. But I would love to, I love Broadway and America. I'm actually half Texan, so I've got my visa ready to go!

There's an offer...

Give My Regards to Broadway is running until 5th August 2018, Upstairs at The Gatehouse as part of The Camden Fringe. For more information, and to book tickets, go to: http://www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com/give-my-regards-to-broadway






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OffWestEnd.com is the London UK theatre information and bookings site that makes it easy to find great plays and performances in some of London's innovative theatres outside the West End. Buy tickets directly from these Off West End London theatres - with no fees and no commission ever being charged by us! OffWestEnd.com - Browse our theatre list below for what's on:
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