A Rock Opera
Staged as an outdoor event in Valley Gardens, the major park in Pontefract just outside Leeds, Enchanted was a new rock opera more than a decade in the making.
Composer Dylan Axup's career has largely been with his rock band, Rattlebox, who have been touring the UK for 12 years. Inspired by the film of Jesus Christ Superstar and his long-standing fascination with the Arthurian legends, he wrote songs for a concept album of Enchanted in the mid-90s.
A later version was staged at a local school some years later. Only when he met musician and orchestrator Timothy Allen did work finally accelerate to make Enchanted work as a full-scale rock opera.
For this premiere production, a stage, lights and sound system were all erected in the Valley Gardens for the two night run as part of the long-established Pontefract Liquorice Festival. All the music was pre-recorded in order to be able to afford a lavish sound which the production could never have afforded to create live, and so the “virtual orchestra” gave sumptuous support to the cast of 16 young professional singers and actors. These included Leanne Jones, who would later go on to win multiple awards for "Hairspray" in London.
The story centred on the love triangle created by Guinevere’s love for Lancelot, which grows despite her arranged marriage to King Arthur. Meanwhile the sorceress Morgana, eaten up with rage at Arthur for ignoring her son (and his), Mordred, plans revenge by moving Mordred to his rightful place as King, using the mad Elaine, whom she has held in a tower throughout her life, to get to Lancelot and fulfil her plans. Her plans work but to tragic effect as Lancelot dies in the arms of Guinevere; Mordred dies trying to gain his father’s love; and Arthur surveys his kingdom having lost all he ever wanted.
Axup’s thrilling and eclectic musical score ranges from rock and roll to power ballads; nimbly moving between catchy uptempo numbers and beautifully melodic theatre music.
The two performances sold out the allocation of reserved seating over a week in advance, and half as many again watched the performances from other vantage points in the park. The second performance ended to a standingovation, and many in the audience enthused that they had never seen a musical before or any kind of live event, and had been inspired by it in some way.
With the maxim that good musicals aren’t written but re-written, the writers developed the piece further in the months following the production before finally moving on to other projects.