The undisputed King of West End musical puppetry, Simon Lipkin – he of The Lorax, I Can’t Sing: The X Factor Musical and Avenue Q – is in rehearsals for new musical Miss Atomic Bomb. But there’s not a puppet in sight.
The new musical by Adam Long, Gabriel Vick and Alex Jackson-Long is the tale of four friends in need set against a 1950s Vegas to which tourist flock, drawn by the chance to watch atomic bombs being tested.
Co-directed by Long and Olivier Award-winning choreographer Bill Deamer, it stars Lipkin alongside Catherine Tate, Dean John Wilson, Daniel Boys, Florence Andrews and Sasi Strallen.
In this exclusive rehearsal diary, Lipkin tells Official London Theatre exclusively how it’s going and why he’s trying to manipulate his feet:
So we're just under halfway through rehearsals for Miss Atomic Bomb. “How's it going?” I hear you ask. Alright, you probably didn't ask that. But you're reading this now, so I'll tell you.
Firstly, I've never done a proper old school musical. You know, one of those all-singing, all-dancing ones; showgirls and handsome boys and all that jazz. It's a brand new musical that has such a modern sound and feel, but it's all set in 50s Vegas, so it has that real big band jazz feel to it. It's ever so exciting!
But because it's old school and all singing and dancing, that means I have to dance. And not just any old dancing... TAP DANCING!
Bill [Deamer], the director/choreographer, choreographed Top Hat and does Strictly Come Dancing so it's safe to say he knows what he's doing. It’s also safe to say I do not!
I've spent my career attempting to be funny and playing with puppets. So I've decided to treat my feet as puppets and imagine that I've got my hand up them. I'm not going to lie to you, it's not working... yet!
The cast are a lovely bunch! We've got a Who's Who of West End regulars including Catherine Tate. It wouldn't be a new musical in London if it didn't have someone off the telly would it?
Catherine and I did Assassins together last year, so she's no stranger to a musical and she is going to be brilliant in this. We started reading our scenes the other day and already we can't get through them without laughing. Don't worry we'll nip that in the bud before you come and see it!
It's always a funny old experience rehearsing a show. You've got four or five weeks to learn everything and come up with as many ideas as possible, try to get to know 15 or 20 new people who you usually have to get very close to, both on stage and off, create trust, figure out if it's funny, exciting, heartfelt, too short, too long. All of these things make for a whirlwind few weeks. But being halfway through, it's safe to say now that we've got a great bunch and, fingers crossed, a great show.
But who knows? Worst comes to worst, I'll just do a one man tap show.
Actually, let’s just stick to Miss Atomic Bomb!
Miss Atomic Bomb plays at the St James Theatre from 7 March. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.