May 3 2012 by Eleanor Barlow, Flintshire Chronicle
AUDIENCES at Clwyd Theatr Cymru will be given a glimpse of life behind the scenes of the showbiz world of theatre in its latest production.
Darren Bennett, who will play theatrical producer Joe Josephson in the Mold theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, said – after 25 years working in the theatre – he can relate to the dark side of the industry depicted in the show.
The 44-year-old has starred in stage musicals including Singin’ in the Rain, 42nd Street, Cats and West Side Story.
“This play is a story of friendship and how, if you don’t look after friendships, relationships fall apart,” said Darren, whose most recent role was Caractacus Potts in the touring production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
“It shows showbiz in its crudest elements and the true side of how things are behind the sparkle and the glamour of theatre.
“It shows the ruthless clawing to the top that goes on behind the scenes.”
The musical starts in 1970s with a group of down-and-out, bitter and jaded former stars, before travelling back in time to when best friends Frank, Charley and Mary started out in their careers.
The reverse narrative means, despite the dark nature of the storyline, audiences are still left with a happy ending.
“It’s weird because if we had done this in the proper consecutive order the ending would just be so miserable,” added Darren.
The show has meant a lot of hard work for the 11 performers, who are performing a show which originally had a cast of 60.
“After a day of rehearsals you feel absolutely drained,” said Darren.
“It’s very taxing with a lot of complex dialogues and you have got to be so focused.”
Darren believes the complexity of the play could be one of the reasons that it’s one of Sondheim’s lesser known plays..
He added: “When the musical was first out it had very mixed reviews because it was a bit too close to home.
“Americans want a happy ending and a bit of sparkle so this show wasn’t as well received as it should have been.
But Darren said the cut-throat world of theatre portrayed on stage is a world away from life behind the scenes at Clwyd Theatr Cymru.
He said: “It is lovely here. It is so refreshing to come to Wales from London, I’m loving it here.
“I’ve done shows in Rhyl, Cardiff and Swansea before but this is the first time I’ve been to Mold.
“I love Wales, it’s a slower pace of life and people will stop and talk to you, there’s none of the rushing around we have in London.”
Merrily We Roll Along will be at Clwyd Theatr Cymru from today (Thursday) until Saturday, June 2. To book, visit www.clwyd-theatr-cymru.co.uk or call 0845 330 3565.