A Journey In Musical Theatre – Garth Bardsley and Julian Kelly

A concert of music from the theatre presented on 4 June 2016 at St Anne’s church, Kew.

Garth Bardsley

Born in Stockport, Garth studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he was a choral scholar, and at the Royal Northern College of Music. He has worked extensively as an actor, singer, writer and director. He made his operatic debut with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, was a soloist for various opera companies and has starred in the West End productions of Jerry Herman’s The Best of Times, as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera and he created the role of Tony in Paul Webb’s critically acclaimed one-man play, The Lodger. Garth has worked as a leading actor in many of the UK’s major repertory theatres and has extensive experience in musical theatre, especially in the works of Stephen Sondheim. He recently appeared as the Priest in the European premier of Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza.

As a director, he has produced for numerous colleges and festivals including Buxton Opera Festival, Battersea Opera, Lichfield International Festival, East 15, The Royal Academy of Music, Bath Spa University, Crane School of Music, NY (finalist in the National Opera Association Opera Scenes Competition) and University of Chichester. His RNCM production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream won the Manchester Theatre Award for Best Opera 2016. He has also devised, directed and appeared in many revues and toured the UK, accompanied by jazz pianist Sandra Lambert, with his one-man cabaret, Once in a Lifetime.

As a writer, his first book, Stop the World – The Biography of Anthony Newley, was serialised in The Daily Mail, and garnered five star reviews from the national press. Garth has written several plays including a number specifically created for young actors and, as a poet and lyricist, collaborates with the noted British composer Ben Parry. Their numerous choral and solo works are published by Peters Edition and have been performed across the UK and America at such venues as the BBC Proms, Sage Gateshead, Washington DC’s National Cathedral and The Kennedy Center. Ben and Garth are currently writing a song cycle for international bass, Christopher Purves  as well as an original musical stage work, The Highwayman. Garth also writes with American composer Gregory Wanamaker and their symphonic choral work, Adirondack Songs, has recently been recorded on the Naxos label by the choir of Crane School of Music in New York where Garth enjoyed a visiting professorship as Director of Opera. Another biography is underway as well as a book on acting for singers.

Since 2005, Garth has been a senior lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music, specialising in acting, musical theatre, stagecraft and Performance Practice. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Garth writes:

Garth Bardsley and Julian Kelly have been friends for 40 years. They first met as choristers at Manchester Cathedral when they were pupils at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. After school their paths parted as Julian attended the Royal Northern College of Music and began a notable career as a keyboard player and organist working with major orchestras such as the Halle and the BBC Philharmonic. Garth meanwhile went to Cambridge where he was a choral scholar under Dr George Guest. From there he returned to Manchester to study opera at the RNCM but left halfway through his studies to join the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. It would be several years before the two would meet again by which time they both happened to be working in the world of musical theatre. Julian had established himself as one of the UK’s leading musical directors and orchestrators with an impressive list of West End and Broadway shows under his belt – he had also become intimately associated with the works of Stephen Sondheim having orchestrated and directed the majority of his musicals in London and in rep. theatres around the UK. Garth meanwhile was managing to balance a career that involved classical singing in opera and on the concert stage, work as an actor and musical theatre singer, directing both in opera and theatre, and work as a writer and lyricist. Together Julian and Garth have worked on numerous productions, performed cabarets, written a full length musical revue Travel!, and taught musical theatre courses at the RNCM and the University of Chichester. Their interests (and talents) lie beyond the faithful execution of text and score but in a real desire to renew, reimagine and on occasion reinvent the work at hand. Their work with students focuses on context and the broader picture around a work or song and they are specifically interested in the style of interpretation. Since the very first Musical Theatre performance (whenever and whatever that may have been!) this area of theatre has grown massively and has become incredibly diverse from the multi-million dollar Broadway shows to the seat-of-the-pants Fringe revues, the biopics, the musical makeovers of books, plays and movies, the rock shows, the opera-musical epics, the actor-musician productions, the funny to the serious, the sacred to the profane – there really is something for everyone these days.

Julian Kelly

JULIAN KELLY studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and later enjoyed a long association with the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester where he developed a reputation as an advocate of the works of Stephen Sondheim. In addition to conducting engagements at the Royal Festival Hall, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, the Adelaide Festival and Sydney Opera House, notable theatre credits as musical director in the West End, the provinces, on Broadway and throughout the U.S. include Sondheim’s Company, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Pacific Overtures, Follies, Sunday In The Park With George, Into The Woods and A Little Night Music, Jerry Herman’s Mack And Mabel and The Best Of Times, the Kander and Ebb musicals Chicago, Cabaret, The Rink and 70, Girls, 70!, West Side Story, On Your Toes, Carousel, The King And I, Oliver!, Piaf, Calamity Jane, Singin’ In The Rain, Forty-second Street,  and Riverdance on Broadway. Julian returned from New York having conducted and orchestrated the world premiere of the Schonberg and Boublil’s The Pirate Queen to conduct the European premier of Adam Guettel’s The Light In The Piazza. In addition to theatre commitments, Julian is on the Faculty at RCSSD and the University of Chichester where his research interests focus the recreation and orchestration of musical theatre scores.