Many members of SOUND are also involved in other projects in the world of vocal music and beyond. This year our very own bass and beatboxer Jack Blume created hit Edinburgh Fringe show Gobsmacked! with Nic Doodson of The Magnets. We asked him to share a few words about it…
For those who haven’t heard about it, what is Gobsmacked!?
Gobsmacked! is a new stage show which does for A Cappella what Stomp did for percussion. It’s a high energy, spectacular theatrical show, filled with smash hit songs from past and present, the best beatboxing you’ve ever seen from our world-champion beatboxer Ball-Zee, stunning vocals from our cast of incredible vocalists, and charming characters.
How did your involvement in the show come about?
I started work on it in August 2014. Nic approached me at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, where I was performing with The Sons of Pitches, about his new idea for a show. He wanted a co-creator to develop the idea with him, and arrange all of the music. From there we spent a few months preparing for a workshop, and then secured investment to develop the show fully and take it to Underbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe.
What makes Gobsmacked unique compared to other shows out there?
There really are no shows out there quite like this at the moment. There are other theatrical A Cappella shows: The Voca People immediately jumps to mind and has been very successful, but Gobsmacked! takes it to another, highly accessible and entertaining level. The cast are young and cool: whether you want to be their best friend, date them, or introduce one to your single grandchild, you’ll definitely connect with them all in some way. The songs are enormous hits, from Queen and James Brown through to Adele, Bruno Mars and Mumford & Sons. The set is spectacular and beautiful, and the movement by our wonderful director Alexandra Spencer-Jones weaves real heart, charm and character through the entire show.
How did you cast the vocalists in the show?
When we started casting, we had over 600 applications from singers across the UK. We auditioned current members of the West End’s Les Miserables cast, singers just back from auditioning on Broadway, and University/Music College graduates looking for their first professional singing jobs. After hearing a lot of people sing, and seeking a very high level of musicianship alongside stage presence and star quality, we settled on 7 wonderful performers.
The current cast actually contains two members of SOUND – Michael Hamway and Ed Scott. We’ve previously also had SOUND’s wonderful Meesha Turner singing Alto. There’s so much fantastic talent in this choir, and I think the level of musicality achieved by the members of SOUND makes it an amazing training ground for professional vocal work.
How was Gobsmacked first received?
Our first outing was at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2015, where it was performed in the iconic Udderbelly venue. It was a great success, receiving numerous 4 and 5 star reviews (‘Brilliant, brilliant entertainment… Not to be missed!’ ★★★★★ – Broadway Baby) and being featured on BBC Breakfast, The One Show and Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show (‘A Festival find. An Extraordinary Show.’ – BBC Radio 2)
What have you learnt through working on the show?
I’ve learnt so much from working on this project, I can’t begin to list it. The whole process continues to be an enormous learning experience. Having had to arrange almost 90 minutes of A Cappella music, every time I write a new arrangement I learn new things, explore new ideas, and build upon what I learnt from each previous one. I’ve had to direct a cast of 7 world-class vocalists, which has absolutely pushed my ears into a realm of perfectionism that they never previously approached. I now hear tiny details of dynamics, phrasing, intonation, and rhythm that I couldn’t before, which means while I’m rarely 100% satisfied with a performance. The whole company strives for the highest level of musicality and live performance.
As for the world outside the rehearsal room, I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible professionals from our set designer Philip Gladwell to our sound engineer Hugh Walker (also of The Swingles), not to mention two fantastic and unique directors (Gareth Walker and Alexandra Spencer-Jones) and the man who dreamt up the entire thing, Nic Doodson.
What’s next for Gobsmacked?
Right now we’re preparing for a 2 week run in Hong Kong, starting on December 29th. I’ll be there over the New Year period and am eager to get our new version of the show in front of audiences. We’ve done an enormous overhaul since Edinburgh, and I can’t wait to see how it goes down. Then the show will be on in London for 5 weeks next summer, followed by another visit to the Edinburgh Fringe, and hopefully further touring straight after that – so keep eyes peeled for details of those runs!