A new musical making its Milton Keynes debut on Tuesday, comes with an air of authenticity – music-man Carl Leighton-Pope has not only written Carnaby Street.
Back in the sixties, he lived it!
In 1964, Carl was working a five night week at the cloakroom of London’s world-famous Marquee Club, “...and on Saturday morning I went to Lord John and bought my clothes...”
Anyone who can remember those heady days, will remember that Lord John was the clothing emporium for trendy young things.
Carl was in the thick of the action, and unsurprisingly, decided to jump into the music industry full-time.
He’s done more than alright too – among his many successes he discovered Bryan Adams, and 30 years on, the two still have a close working relationship.
But a semi-autobiographical musical is new territory for the industry ace.
“It’s easy to say it’s taken me 16 years to do this, but the truth of the matter is I had a couple of interruptions – Michael Buble was one...” he says, mentioning another name he has nurtured.
“I run a business that needs taking care of and I have other clients, they tour, you get busy...”
But the musical continued to niggle away: “You know what it’s like – when you watch the marathon on TV, then get up, put your shoes on and go out running.
“I would do that – go to the West End, see a musical and think ‘Carnaby Street’ and go back to it again...but the real concentration came when I met director Bob Thompson about five years ago.”
Bob is to theatre what Carl is to music: A bit special.
He had Blood Brothers in the West End, Dreamboats and Petticoats on tour, and injected the necessary skill to make Carl’s script flourish.
“About three years ago when I realised I really did have a show, Bob said ‘you should raise the money’ so we got someone in to cost it all out, and we needed about half a million pounds.
“Bob told me ‘You need some angels’, and I sent an email to 30 of my mates in the music business and said ‘I’ve got this great idea to do a musical, but need to raise half a million quid, send me some money’...and they all did!”
“All these guys I’ve known all my life and grew up with, sent me a load of money and in the end I had five hundred grand...”
“John Giddings is the Rolling Stones and U2s agent, and a dear friend of mine. He sent me a lot of money for my musical and a really nice note which said ‘I don’t know anything about Carnaby Street, or about musicals, but I am sending you this money because I think you will go as far as possible to make it successful – my money is on you.’”
Which says all you need to know about how well Mr Leighton-Pope is regarded by his peers.
From January, things pushed on at a pace – they built the set, cast the show, cleared the songs, ironed out the creases, and in April, the curtain rose for the first time.
It was a huge success, a deliciously bright, entertaining delivery crammed with succulent songs from the sixties – Summertime Blues, I Like It, The In Crowd...
People were on their feet and truly engaged with one man’s story of Carnaby Street during a yesteryear era.
“It’s easy to produce a jukebox musical where you just throw a load of songs into the mix, and try to rescue a bad story with a song,” says Carl, “This has a real story and some drama.”
And while encouraging signs are plentiful with feedback and ticket sales doing exceptionally well, Carl realises there is still plenty of work to be done, and is ready to get stuck in: “Do I really want to be the old guy in the corner? I don’t. I want to be at the table exciting and relevant,” he buzzes.
“When I first met Bryan Adams, nobody knew who he was. When I met Michael Buble, nobody knew who he was, when we signed Dire Straits in 1978, nobody knew who they were, or Simple Minds, or loads of other bands I’ve worked with.
“...but everyone worked hard at it and eventually became famous. So why can’t I achieve the same thing with Carnaby Street?
And if he has learned anything from the artists he works with, it’s how to keep an audience gripped...
“I know about people not wanting to watch a musical, but wanting to be in a musical, and I wrote it that way...” he promises.
Tickets for Carnaby Street start at just £10 and rise to £28.50.
Book your seat for a kaleidoscopic event by calling the box office on 0844 871 7652.