Deborah Acheampong (Producer) in conversation with Adrienne Knight (Musical Director), Katie Kirkpatrick, and Eliza Hogermeer (both singers) on Vanguard Productions’ upcoming show ‘A Night of Queer Music’, a dramatic music concert, on the 30th and 31st of May.
What got you interested in musicals and singing?
Katie: I’ve always been involved in productions, doing directing, producing, marketing, but I’ve never done any performing. With this, I wanted to get involved with performance, given my interest in musicals. It’s been super high commitment, but it’s a nice group of people and great vibes.
Eliza: I’m quite new to Oxford, so I though this would be good way for me to get into the Oxford drama scene. I did a musical last term and absolutely loved it, so I’m kind of just trying to dip my toes into different things, such as directing. My first love was musical theatre: I’ve done it since I was a kid. So it’s been great to have the opportunity to take this material and put a queer spin on it.
Deborah: I totally agree with that principle, I always thought that ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ would be so cool if it was two sopranos instead.
Is there a character from musical theatre or theatre in general that you identify with the most?
Adrienne: One character from theatre that I identify with is Posner from The History Boys. He’s constantly pining for somebody he can’t have, and he’s just this awkward little guy.
Eliza: Matilda – I know that’s very Oxford student wannabe. As kid I saw Matilda and was like: I love reading books and I like to sing — it was perfect. Also, at this age, Miss Honey, she’s just so great: I aspire to be her.
Katie: I’m a staunch defender of The Prom (the Broadway original, not the Netflix). I think I identify with the character Alyssa in that, she’s a sort of girlfriend character. She has this song where she’s like, ‘Oh my God, I have to like get straight As do my extra extracurriculars and all that’, and she’s a lesbian the whole time as well. That’s me.
Deborah: I’ve always loved Viola from Twelfth Night. I love the fact that she was so androgynous and how she naturally falls into that as it progresses. She’s so playful and fun, and I always love that. I feel like gender is very much performative, and, growing up, I was always a bit of a tomboy, which has made me come to realise just how fluid gender is. That’s what we’re trying to do with this sort of ‘mini musical’: slotting in a bit of gender-bending here and there.
Adrienne: Musicals are so queer, yet there are so few that are explicitly queer. Thinking of examples, I suppose there’s Hamilton and the homoerotic tension which permeates that in many people’s view. However, it’s very rare that you get similar situations occurring between female characters, or gender nonconforming characters.
Deborah: I think a lot of that also stems from the fact that producers an writers are so often male. Given that people tend to write what they know, it’s no surprise that we end up with so many queer male stories, and that’s lovely, but also, where are the lesbian composers?
Eliza: This project has really allowed us to experiment with the classic songs, and the ideas of romance that they entail. We’ve been able to reframe those in this queer context, and say that we can also be traditional, and that we also have access to this rich musical past.
What does A Night of Queer Music mean to you?
Deborah: With A Night of Queer Music, I guess the hope was that we would be able to break free of those confines which seem inherent to musical theatre, the way we typecast sopranos as heroines and all that.
Adrienne: We’re planning to do ‘You Matter to Me’ from Waitress as a duet between two guys. It is, of course, a sensitive piece, and we wanted to subvert expectations of gendered roles in that sense. We’re also going back to something traditional, with readings from Sappho, but I’ve set them to music, so it’s entirely new in a sense.
Katie: But, crucially we’re not doing the basic ‘Okay the man’s song is gonna be sung by a woman and the women’s song is gonna be sung by a man.’ That’s just outdated, casting roles as different genders is the norm now. However, I think making the song specifically queer makes it different and interesting.
Eliza: Definitely, this show promises to be so many different things: there’s comedy, there’s tragedy, there’s romance. The songs are really catchy and familiar as well, so I’m excited to share and enjoy music with our audience and the cast and crew.
Katie: The closing night is the night before Pride month. So come start your Pride month with us!
A Night of Queer Music will take place at the Holywell Music Room on 30th-31st May, tickets are now on sale.