Lin Manuel Miranda is certainly the hottest thing to hit musical theatre, and as one of the contributing composers to the musical Working which opens at the Southwark Playhouse this June, it is set to be an astounding piece of theatre. The musical itself delves into the lives of an abundance of normal people, who work a variety of normal jobs, featuring a selection of music from many high-profile musical theatre composers.
I spoke to Dean Chisnall, who has had an extensive career in musical theatre both touring the UK and starring in a multitude of West End shows. However, stepping into many different characters’ shoes and performing in an intimate space is something Dean is really connecting to. “I’ve never done something like this before,” he told me. “I am really relishing the prospect of working with the audience literally three feet away in a small space, it’s very exposing for an actor.
“It’s that kind of job that actors crave, we are all there because we want to do it. I say this with the greatest respect, but no one is going to get rich from doing this, it’s the Southwark Playhouse it’s a fantastic production in that sense, but you’re not there because you’re making millions of pounds, you’re there because you are creatively involved and really want to be in it.”
“I certainly think it is a show for everyone to come and see, it isn’t your typical musical theatre all singing all dancing – it is very real, and it is going to be a very honest piece of theatre.”
Working alongside five other highly established actors in the industry, each of them take on several roles in the production, bringing to life the stories of real working people. The script is genuine, it is dialogue taken from interviews that were conducted with people in the American workforce. First performed in Chicago in 1977, it has never been performed in Europe. Dean said: “I think it is a really big deal for actors, knowing you’re going to be creating something that has never been seen by the British public before and to do it at a venue like Southwark is just amazing.
“I’ve got various roles, I think I have more roles than anybody else, because we are all multi-roling. The music is stunning, and we have a couple of pieces by Lin Manuel Miranda in the show and he is so current and so relevant. In The Heights happened which was so great and Hamilton is about to happen which is going to be fantastic.”
Dean plays numerous roles, such as a trucker, a fireman, a student and many more. “It means I really have to get my teeth into all these different accents and parts,” he said. It is a one-act musical which enables the piece to have fluidity. Whilst it’s a fantastic production in regards to seeing high-quality and versatile acting, it is the music that is the huge draw to the piece.
“The piece is so different because it has been written by so many different composers,” Dean said. “I have a song in the show that is called The Mason which is written by a chap called Craig Carnelia who is one of my all-time favourite songwriters,” Dean explained. “Alongside that, you’ve got people like Stephen Schwartz, and we all know and all love his tunes. Then we also have a piece that had never been done in the show before which Lin Manuel wrote.”
Since In The Heights had huge success over in London, and with Hamilton heading to the West End in the Autumn, people are really jumping on Lin Manuel’s innovative and contemporary writing. “It’s really exciting to be doing his music,” Dean said. “He is world-renowned and literally the hottest property in musical theatre at the moment, so to be doing something that he has had a major part in is a huge honour.
“Lin is great because he clearly just loves what he does, he is just a person that is incredibly talented and stands out on his own for that reason. Sometimes people are there because of who they are, or because they have a celebrity status but he is there because he is a genius – simple as that.”
What really connects Dean to the piece is the honesty of it. However, also drawing him in was the director Luke Sheppard. After seeing his direction of In The Heights in Southwark back when it first opened in the UK, he was completely in awe. “I thought it was magical, especially because of the space, because you were literally in it,” Dean said. “I just thought Luke did such an amazing job, the man is genius and is going to be huge.”
With an incredibly strong cast, influential creatives and a performance space renowned for powerful musical theatre, Working is already a recipe for success. There is already a huge buzz around town for this musical, emphasising the audience’s appetite for new musical theatre. “It’s difficult because the people who demand or not demand things is the public, and if people don’t go and see new writing then it won’t be put on. It’s a frustration of mine, certainly in musical theatre,” Dean said. “To do something completely fresh that is completely out there as a piece, and to be doing it in London is just so thrilling.”
“It just puts a whole new take on being an actor for me.”
Dean’s passion for this show is so evident, and he feels it is a musical that will really speak to people. “The audience will recognise certain things from their own lives, from their childhood, adulthood or working life. Whilst rehearsing it, it has really made us think about what we have done with our own life, and what we still can achieve,” Dean said. “There is a point to it, we aren’t just performing these monologues just because we are doing a show, it really really means something.”
Working is on at the Southwark Playhouse from the 2nd of June to the 8th of July and information can be found here.