Simon Hodson graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Musical Theatre in 2014. He has recently played the role of Gringoire on the West End fringe in Musical of the Year.
Q: You’ve recently landed work on the West End Fringe in a brand new musical. Can you tell us a little bit about that project?
A: Musical of the Year is fundamentally a love letter to musical theatre, saluting musicals and the many musical theatre styles of the last sixty years. The story follows Rudy Brown whose ambition is to win the Tony award for best musical with his wife, Lizzie. They choose to write a musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He feels that the best way to win the award is to take ‘inspiration’ from the previous year’s winners. What he creates is very similar to the works he has taken inspiration from and doesn't realise that his original 1955 opera of Notre Dame would have won him the award, but according to him “it's not what people want”. The satirical nature of the musical means there are a whole range of shows that influence the plot, from West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Phantom of the Opera to name a few.
Q: You were present for the workshop stage of the musical too. What kind of insight did that give you into the musical and was it hard work?
A: Being a part of the show for the first run meant that we could bring many aspects of what we wanted to our characters as this was a new musical. We had templates of the original Notre Dame text and other adaptations to draw from but we had a large amount of freedom. I had a little more because the character of Gringoire is not as well known as other characters in the story like Quasimodo for instance and as an actor this was more interesting and exciting.
After being a part of the second run it was intriguing to experience how a show can evolve and change in different ways. The second time there was a bigger budget, a different performance space and performers, choreography and parts of the score were changed. It was things like this that can make an actor see how important some changes are and how different a show can be when performed in a bigger scale.
Q: Did you enjoy performing in London? Why?
A: For me London is where my heart is, I have always adored the city, ever since I first visited and it was always somewhere that I wanted to perform. When I got the job I was overjoyed at the fact this was going to be a reality, I have met some wonderful people who I am now good friends with and have also met people who can and have helped me further my career.
Q: How did the training you undertook on your musical theatre degree prepare you for this?
A: For Musical of the Year it was paramount for everyone to have an understanding of the musicals that the show took inspiration from, it was essential that the dancing and the music reflected this, as we had to portray the style of each one correctly. The show looks at musicals from the last sixty years and through the musical theatre degree I already had most of the knowledge I needed to understand the different contexts of the show.
It was also important for us to understand what journey our characters were going on and the performance techniques I learned most certainly aided in the character research we had to undertake.
Q: What’s next? Do you have any plans? Are there any musicals we should look out for you appearing in?
A: My main goal at the moment is to make the move to London, I commuted for the first run and only lived there for a couple of months for the second and I have realised that I need to be living there to get more work from the connections I have established. I am currently saving up the money to make this happen so I’m looking for interim work.
Q: Do you have any advice for the musical theatre class of 2017 and beyond? How can they make the most of their time at the University of Wolverhampton?
A: Enjoy it. It is a time where you can really foster your abilities and stretch them, it is also a time where you can start to realise what sort of performer you are going to be. There will be times where you don't always get it right with certain parts of your performance and that's fine because you can really experiment with different things and start to find out what works for you. I know that when I ended the course I was a much stronger and different performer compared to when I started.
Q: Finally, what’s your favourite memory of your time at Wolverhampton?
A: One of the particular highlights for me were the productions we put on, I really felt that throughout them I progressed as an actor, not only was I able to perform in a wide variety of shows but I was also getting the knowledge I needed in how to make the performances better. I was also very fond of learning about the history of musical theatre, my knowledge of musical theatre was strengthened in the lectures and I am still able to use this information in the performances I am in.