Take Mozart, probably the most influential and iconic name in classical music, and then take Kim Kardashian, the queen of pop culture who is plastered over the internet and, quite frankly, everywhere in our everyday lives. Then merge them together and you have yourself a musical currently touring the UK. That is what Leo Mercer, one of the two writers of The Marriage Of Kim K thought when he put his head together with Stephen Hyde when they decided to create this production.
“Quite often, a friend mentions something to me, I ask what it is, and they stare at me like I’m literally from another planet,” Leo said to me. “That happened a few years ago with Kim Kardashian – my friend just couldn’t understand how I’d escaped even hearing her name. Kim is the sort of person that some people know lots about, and some know almost nothing about. Mozart’s the same for other people.”
Leo then did his research and became fascinated with Kim Kardashian, he explained: “The themes in their stories are so broad that they fit multiple genres, not just reality-TV or social media. Kim’s second marriage in particular contains plenty of traditional operatic themes – love, betrayal, even death.” Which is where he found links with Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro.
It’s interesting because Sarah Crompton recently wrote an article for WhatsOnStage about how young people aren’t going to the theatre because it isn’t reflecting their life. Titled ‘What Theatre Could Learn From Love Island’ and she writes about how the things that are happening in these reality TV shows are happening in people’s real life, and we should be making that connection. “Our aim is really just to create great works that could only have been created in the 21st century, Leo said. “The fact younger people love the production is just because they’re twenty-first century human beings.”
The world is so hooked on these reality television shows because they are about real life. “Our show is ‘reality theatre’,” Leo said. “They literally met last year in the auditions for the original Marriage of Kim K production. After they got together, we rewrote the show to be about them – because theatre has to be about real life.”
“The Kardashians have an astonishing American saga to their name – but the way they tell their own stories isn’t the only way to tell them.”
“Think Gogglebox: we’re watching a real-life couple, Stephen and Amelia, arguing about what to watch on TV: Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, or Keeping up with the Kardashians,” Leo said. “As the relationships they’re watching deteriorate, so do Stephen and Amelia’s – and they’re almost tempted to follow the downfall of those marriages.”
Mixing the time in which Mozart’s career was at its peak and similarly for the Kardashians, this poses a challenge of what style of music to approach the piece with. Leo explained: “Telling three stories on stage at the same time is one thing, but having three musical styles intertwining is another level. Stephen and I both love expanding our musical knowledge and so we actively tried to incorporate as many different styles and quotes here, but deep down, all the songs are rewrites of Mozart originals.”
Leo and Stephen’s company Leoe & Hyde pride themselves on specialising in creating innovative, entertaining and genre-bending productions of musical theatre and opera that mixes contemporary theatre and dramatic art. Leo explained: “Theatre and music are best when they draw from the world. When I choose stories, it’s about what will offer the best springboard for exploring something fresh in the world. When Stephen writes songs, he channels thousands of other songs. People used to those songs and stories want to see them developed into theatre; people used to theatre want to see the fresh stories.”
Through the witty dialogue and beautiful score is a core message of “Sometimes understanding people is impossible, unless you love them first,” sung by the central leading woman in the show Amelia. Leo expanded: “Human beings have a weird, warped tendency to hate things – but that’s just not necessary. Give everything and everyone a chance – nothing’s unlovable.”
Currently touring the UK, Leo said the reaction has been really remarkable. “Audiences so far have been consistently wowed (the last 25 minutes of the show is genuinely unlike anything else in musical theatre,” he said. “They are blown away that the frivolous marrying of Mozart and Kim can have led to something so original.”
Currently on in Manchester before heading to Birmingham, London and ending at the Edinburgh Fringe, tickets and information can be found here.