Director of musical Mr Cinders Tim Tubbs talks about staging the show at Scarborough's YMCA Theatre
The curtain is due up on the musical Mr Cinders at the YMCA Theatre, St Thomas Street, Scarborough, next month.
After a pre-London tour of 10 Northern cities, Mr Cinders enjoyed a long West End run in 1929 to ’30, the last of the happy-go-lucky, upbeat 1920s musical comedies
before the Wall Street Crash and Depression.
It returned 50 years later for another long West End run, starring Denis Lawson and Christina Matthews, when Sting’s recording of the show’s hit song Spread A Little Happiness made the charts in 1982.
The director Tim Tubbs talks about staging the Vivian Ellis gem to Sue Wilkinson.
Please tell me about yourself
I’m Tim Tubbs. I was born and grew up in Scalby.
After working at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and as a freelance arts manager for 25 years in London, I returned to Scarborough, continuing to freelance and manage a London dance studio from a lovely office here at Woodend.
Now, as sole carer for my elderly mother, I’m effectively retired, but I keep active locally by giving talks and lectures, drama coaching, singing, performing and producing community shows.
I miss the buzz of the big city, but have never once regretted moving back to Scarborough, which is a great place to live.
Tell me about Mr Cinders
Well, if you can imagine the Cinderella story, with the genders reversed, as a frivolous musical comedy set in the 1920s world of P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster, you’ve got it in a nutshell! So, we’re in 1928, where Jim – Mr Cinders – is the ever-cheerful poor relation of a posh but hard-up family, put upon by his foppish step-brothers Lumley and Guy, and bullied by their adoring mother, Lady Agatha… until he falls for the new housemaid Sarah, and an invitation arrives to a fancy-dress ball in honour of the neighbouring millionaire’s lovely daughter Jill.
It’s all disguises, misunderstandings, jolly japes, flappers, Charlestons and catchy tunes. Anyone for tennis? Oh, rather!
Why did you choose to stage Mr Cinders?
This will be the 23rd musical show I’ve taken part in or directed here in Scarborough.
I’ve wanted to tackle Mr Cinders ever since I saw it five times during its long-run West End revival, back in the early 1980s.
Like my Pal Joey in 2019, it’ll be Scarborough’s first staging of the piece –
although the Pickering society did it a few years ago.
I like choosing less frequently seen shows, and so far have always found an enthusiastic local audience for them.
So many great shows are overlooked and deserve to be enjoyed, rather than always returning to the same old handful of faves. Above all, Mr Cinders is just tremendous fun.
What challenges does it present for the director?
It’s a farcical comedy, with characters dashing on and off, doing silly things, verging here and there on pantomime, so it needs fluency and pace; no hanging about!
That’s often a challenge for amateurs. We have to keep remembering to allow for the laughs.
As producer/director, it’s been a challenge, too, sourcing all the 1920s vintage props the show demands: a motorbike and side-car, a hand lawnmower, a gramophone, a candlestick telephone, roller-skates, tennis racquets and so on.
There are some logistical problems around a small, multi-tasking cast – quick costume changes – especially with the restrictions imposed by Covid, which made things very tricky, not least deferring the show twice and losing key cast members in the process … but we refused to be beaten. The show must go on.
What about the show most appeals to you?
I’m a huge nostalgia buff, so I adore the show’s 1920s setting, songs, costumes and atmosphere.
I’m also a big fan of Vivian Ellis’ music. He’s one of those rather forgotten composers whose songs people recognise as familiar but can never place: our super Spa Orchestra often play his music, including Mr Cinders.
I had the privilege of meeting him when Sadler’s Wells revived his big hit Bless the Bride in 1987.
I love Mr Cinders’ appealing silliness, good nature, madcap comedy, larger-than-life characters,
nostalgic glamour and tuneful optimism.
It’s an old-fashioned, feel-good show, a really enjoyable take on the old Cinderella fairy-tale, and we’ve a great cast and production team to deliver it.
Why should people come to see the show?
When I picked Mr Cinders I did not anticipate Covid, natch; but, as it turns out, it’s the perfect choice for the long-awaited return of live theatre from this awful lockdown.
Mr Cinders has a much-loved story in a fresh setting, catchy tunes, gorgeous costumes, crazy characters and comic situations galore: ditzy flappers, idiotic chaps, pert maids, imperturbable butlers, irate coppers, stolen jewels, disguises, tennis parties and fancy dress balls.
Its hit song Spread A Little Happiness – which made the charts in Sting’s 1982 recording – says it all ... and that’s we have every intention of doing! Enjoy.
The show’s cast: Connor Canvess (Jim), Tilly Jackson (Jill), Katie Buttner (Minerva), Claire Edwards (Phyllis), Steve Witty (Lumley), Andrew Clay (Guy), Robin Newman (Sir George), Sharon Wooley (Lady Agatha), Dave Blaker (Mr Kemp), Linda Polkowski (Donna Lucia), Keagan Lee Jones (Smith the Butler), Chris Curtis (PC Merks), Kirsty Sheader (Cynthia) and Lauren Macdonald (Enid).
It is under the expert cmusical direction of Alex Weatherhill and choreographed by Katie Buttner and Tilly Jackson.
Rehearsals for the show have been held during the pandemic and social-distancing.
Tilly Jackson, who plays Jill, said: “The challenging part of doing the show was learning the music all through lockdown earlier this year.
“Using Zoom, trying to record our parts on our phones, so we could go away and practise! It felt so good when we actually got together in person and sang everything through.”
The show is on at the YMCA Theatre , St Thomas Street, on Thursday September 2, Friday September 3 and Saturday September 4, daily at 7.30pm.
It can also be seen on Saturday September 4 and Sunday September 5, daily at 3pm.
Tickets are available on 01723 506750 or www.ymcascarborough.uk