Culture Theatre

Interview: Edinburgh University Footlights Show Choir

This article was originally submitted on the 27th March

The Edinburgh Footlights is a student-run musical theatre company founded in 1989. Its Showchoir is a performance group founded in 2011, which performs several events within and outside the University, beyond genre boundaries, shows, or periods. 

The Student sat down with assistant musical director Emily Paterson, producer Mathilde Duché, creative director Amy Stinton, musical director Falk Meier, cast members Fiza Owais and Ruby Loftus, and choreographer Emily Bealer to gain some insights into their most recent production, Welcome to the Cabaret!, which sold out on both the 17th and 18th of March.

The cast of Welcome To The Cabaret! Image by Andrew Perry, Courtesy of The Edinburgh University Footlights.

Why did you choose to do the Showchoir or Cabaret at this time?

Falk Meier: Initially, before we had Amy on the team, it was just me and Mathilde on the team. We got together; we put together a list of songs like a theme that we could work around. In a theatre, you have certain personalities and certain roles, and how are we going to get those people to express their roles? We had a rogue idea of what we were going to do. And then Amy came on the project, and she really helped us refine the story-telling aspect of it. And in the end, we have a really coherent storyline, which is not something that often needs to be said about show choir, but I think that the way that we’ve done it works out really nicely. With the incredible variety of songs, there are inputs from Mathilde, Amy and I; we’ve all chosen songs uniquely. Another great thing about show choir; is we get to choose songs that we really enjoy and have super talented people perform. So it’s just a ton of fun, and that’s the main thing about show choir. It is just a group of people coming together.

Q: Would you say there’s a main message to the show, and, if so, what would that be?

Mathilde Duché: I don’t think there’s a single main message, although I’d say the ending, and Cabaret in general…how it’s introduced [as] ‘leave your troubles outside’…The most important thing for the whole process has been ‘I want people to come and join, enjoy themselves, and it’s been very important to each of us. We do it just so people can have a good time.

Amy Stinton: Also, it’s such an ensemble show. There are solos for like the big finale. Everyone is together. It’s like ‘yeah, come inside and look at us performing together. Especially with COVID. Now everyone’s back together on stage. That couldn’t happen for two years, this amazing thing.

Falk Meier: That’s an amazing thing that’s unique about show choir as well because [in] other shows there are leads, and there are supporting members, but every single person had a lead role in this show, and that was something that is typical of show choirs, and that’s something that we incorporate in our show. I think while we didn’t necessarily focus on the message, it was giving all these performers the opportunity to perform. And then to play these like classics. It’s just a classic. ‘All That Jazz’. They’re just classics. All these band parts. These singing lines.

They’re incredibly enjoyable, and there are good opportunities to play. You don’t always get the opportunity to do so,

What are your favourite numbers and why?

Emily Bealer: My personal favourite is ‘Cell Block Tango’. I had a really, really wonderful time in the creative process of working on that with the six girls who did it. And I think we’re all really proud of how it turned out. It’s just been such a joy to work on.

Amy Stinton: Mine is probably ‘Waving Through A Window’. When I first came up with the concept of the lights, I didn’t know if it was going to work. [There were] people using their like flashlights on their phones. And it was just one of those things—I really wanna see if it works. And then we’ve got Allison, who’s absolutely incredible—just belting her heart out. The first time I watched it with tech, I literally got chills. I was so emotional because it just looked so good, and she was so good. So that one always takes my breath away when I watch it.

Falk Meier: There’s lots of songs in this show that I know very dearly. There are lots of songs as well that I spent a lot of time writing up band parts for. [In the finale] we start with ‘Wilkommen’, we come to ‘All That Jazz’. In between, we’re going through a bunch of different pieces and that was a long process. It was one of the things that made me really enjoy show choir because I could do whatever I wanted…I was really, really happy with how that turned out. I think ‘All That Jazz’ deserves all the respect. And then ‘Another Hundred People’ is one of my favourites. The band parts are amazing for that, and I’m so glad that we did that one. Picture Shows is another one of my favourites.

Amy Stinton: It’s just like fan service for us. We literally just pick things like Hadestown and Pictures Shows. It was just like, ‘I love this musical…then I’ll pick one, and I’ll put it in. And then luckily, it worked.’

Q: How long did the process of picking the songs, arranging the medley, putting them in order, and trying to fit them into the storyline take?

Mathilde Duché: Falk and I had a very rough draft. But the structure, now looking back on it, is still quite similar. But Amy did an amazing job at really refining the songs and making sure that we weren’t getting out of the way with a storyline and keeping it simple and coherent. But I think the whole thing took about a month?

Falk Meier: Rather than creating a coherent storyline, we had character arcs…we were more focused on characters and character arcs like Zoe’s…from being a stage sweep to being on the stage at the end. There are some lovely moments and beats in the show, which is how we built this storyline, [which] we hope people enjoy, and they do seem to.

Q: What personal epiphanies have you gained from the show, and would you carry these forward in life?

Fiza Owais: You are very aware about how much goes on backstage. With the tech lighting and so on, like stage managers and all these other things. But I also think it gives audience members who might not be so much acquainted sometimes with these things, like aware of it happening, but not in the same sort of level or degree. A kind of snapshot insight into the process of theatre in that sense…of course, people know these things happen but sometimes…you don’t see [it so much] on the stage which is what the show does quite clever[ly].

Image of the Edinburgh University Footlights Production Team: (from left to right), Emily Paterson, Amy Stinton, Falk Meier, Mathilde Duché and Emily Bealer. Image by Andrew Perry Courtesy of The Edinburgh University Footlights.