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Musical cheers for RLS classic

New play based on Stevenson's Kidnapped promises to be a hit for Scotland
By Jenifer Johnston

A musical based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped looks set to become a reality, with hopes that the big-budget show will open in Edinburgh next year.

MacGregor's Trap, described as 'an epic production on the scale of Les Miserables with the tragedy and yearning of Blood Brothers', is in the final stages of searching for a Scottish venue to call home.

An early version of the show played to full houses when it debuted at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1995.

Director Bob Tomson, who has directed Willy Russell's Blood Brothers, said that MacGregor's Trap was Scotland's chance to have a musical of its own.

With the thin exception of Brigadoon there is not one musical that has Scotland as its lifeblood, and MacGregor's Trap remedy that.

The show takes elements of Stevenson's 1886 classic novel Kidnapped, in which a young boy is press-ganged on to a ship during the Napoleonic wars by his Scrooge-like uncle.

Set mainly against the backdrop of Edinburgh's Grassmarket, the three main characters --Jean, the evil MacGregor and Robbie, Jean's true love -- battle through two decades of romance, poverty and war.

Tomson said the show would be a chance for Scottish history and acting talent to shine.

Musicals are odd things because when you get them right with music, casting and mood they are unstoppable entities. They take on a popularity all of their own.

Scottish culture, history and temperament are all touched in this production which I believe has all the elements of a classic show.

Tomson is sure that the atmosphere of Edinburgh in that period would be a perfect backdrop for the show.

'The excitement and hurly-burly of the Grassmarket are captured by MacGregor's Trap,' he said. 'It's an emotional, roller-coaster experience with a life-affirming, powerful ending. I don't see the point in getting involved in shows if they cannot move you, and MacGregor's Trap certainly does that.'

Chesney Hawkes, who had a worldwide hit in 1991 with his single The One And Only, played the part of David in the early version of MacGregor's Trap, when it played at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Currently preparing to release a new single on New Year's Eve, Hawkes said he was sure that the musical would work on a grand scale.

'The new format sounds wonderful. It would definitely work on an epic scale -- it's an epic story, very emotional. It would be a masterpiece now.'

Financial backing for the production is in the final stages of negotiation with producer Bill Kenwright CBE, who has won plaudits for such productions as Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Whistle Down The Wind.

The driving force behind the show is composer and lyricist Brian Spence, an Edinburgh native who has spent 10 years developing MacGregor's Trap.

'This is a labour of love for me,' he said . 'MacGregor's Trap was put together for the Fringe in 1995 for next to nothing but by the end of the run it was sold out every night. It's everyone's dream to take a show to the West End, and then after that on to tour.'

Peter Hepple, consultant editor at industry newspaper The Stage, said that a Scottish musical would have to have to be high quality to gain enduring appeal.

'Musicals by someone unknown will be a challenge to sell as we have come to rely on the stable of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for the majority of commercial successes,' he said. 'The trick is to get songs that people recognise before they see the show -- some people will go to a show just to hear one or two of their favourite songs being performed.

'But if MacGregor's Trap can capture the essence of something like Blood Brothers which has a universal relevance then its chances are pretty good.'

Sunday Herald - 23 December 2001

Morley Enterprises

Page Last Updated: 4th March 2010

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