The Hope Mill Theatre are championing new musical theatre with their upcoming production of the Toyboy Diaries, a sharp and witty musical comedy based on Wendsy Sailisbury’s bestselling memoir.
The world premiere production is directed by Tania Azevedo who isn’t shy to new musicals; “My experience up to date has been in new musical theatre, so actually the fact it is brand new doesn’t daunt me at all,” she said. After co-producer Katy Lipson saw one of Tania’s shows, Hello Again, she approached her about directing The Toyboy Diaries. “It was a show all about a series of sexual encounters so I think I must have made an impression in some way,” Tania laughed. “When I first read it I was really inspired by the fact it was someone’s real life, I found it so fascinating and empowering.”
It’s the story about a woman named Lily who has been divorced twice, had two kids and gotten to a point in her life where she has raised her kids to adulthood and wants an adventure. “There is a line in the script that says, ‘I have done my procreation, now I want recreation’, so she starts dating younger men in their 20s and 30s that make her feel young again,” Tania explained. “It is a diary, so we literally go through the chapters of her life and the show spans 15 years from her 40s to her 50s so we really see the character grow.”
As a massive feminist, Tania found herself instantly drawn to the show. “I am constantly pushing for a bigger representation of female narrative in any form of entertainment, but especially musical theatre,” she said. “As a female director of musicals, I am absolutely astounded by the lack of strong, female characters that have their own narrative and more of an identity than just a love interest – which is what makes this show so refreshing.”
With most musicals Tania has worked on them in a previous workshop, but with this show the whole creative team are new to the piece. “We are constantly finding out what we are trying to say within the script, which is interesting because it is set in the 90s and early 2000s which actually makes it a period piece these days,” she said. Tania described herself as a musical theatre girl through and through. “There aren’t enough exciting stories in musical theatre which made me actively pursue new musical theatre. So by collaborating with new writers you are able to forge the stories from the get go,” she explained.
When approaching the piece Tania laughed about how she used it as the perfect excuse to delve into a catalogue of Meryl Streep rom coms. “I started having conversations with older women in my life who have reached 40 or 50 and feel like they don’t see themselves represented in stories,” she said. “It was very interesting to have the conversation with women and find out how they feel about how things are portrayed in the media and what they find attractive at their age – it opened up the dialogue and I was able to have really candid conversations.”
Tania took her first trip to the Hope Mill Theatre to see their last musical Little Women and she fell in love with the theatre. “It was absolutely astonishing, there is something about the Hope Mill that is so intimate and welcoming,” she said. “As soon as you come in you feel like you want to stay there, there is no divide between where the actors come out at the end of the show and so it becomes a space where everybody gets to chill together.”
Taking on the challenge of a brand new show in a venue that keeps churning out exceptional pieces of theatre is bound to be nerve-wracking but Tania is taking it in her stride. “I guess the biggest hurdle is finding the line between making it really humorous, yet classy, and not going overboard with it,” she said. “It is very tongue in cheek and the writing is hysterical, but we need to understand how to portray those intimate scenes so they make the audience feel for the character, rather than cringe at the moment.”
Shaped by a soundtrack of beautiful songs, the score is written by Andy Collyer. “It is heavily inspired by Sondheim I’d say, and I am sure Andy wouldn’t disagree as he is Sondheim’s biggest fan,” Tania laughed. “It has a real contemporary musical theatre sound with a slight latin beat that is interwoven beautifully into the lyrics.” Tania expressed how she really believes Andy is one of the most exciting British voices in musical theatre. “There is a real wit and heart to his writing,” she said.
The Toyboy Diaries sounds like it is going to be a recipe for success and appeal to all the fans of Bridget Jones and many more. “It is a very naughty, sexy and tongue in cheek musical,” Tania said. “And it really paints women in a really refreshing light.”
The Toyboy Diaries opens on the 18th of January at the Hope Mill Theatre, tickets and information can be found here.