Adam Carver is a Birmingham-based theatre director who’s leading our upcoming History of Musical Theatre Course. We sat down with him for a chat about all things musical theatre to hear about shows he loves, what people should expect from the course, and why he loves the Brum Arts scene…

First things first, can you tell us a bit about your background in musical theatre?

I’ve been involved in musical theatre in different ways for a long time – I actually started out performing in local community theatre groups before doing my degree in Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. During my first degree and in my masters, I focused on the musical as a legitimate form of political theatre, arguing against the misconception that musical theatre is all just frivolous fun. It’s a legitimate art form that can really have something to say, it makes a really strong political message by literally giving a voice to people and issues that might not be represented in mainstream non-musical theatre – you can see that from Showboat, to Oklahoma, and RENT to Hamilton.

After training as a director and looking specifically at musical theatre, I became an associate artist at The Old Joint Stock Theatre, directing several in-house musical productions, including Bonnie and Clyde and Dogfight. I like to mix practice with research, so I still work as a gigging singer, and also I’m currently working on making a cabaret revue show, as well as being the director for SHOUT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture.

Why did you decide to run this course at the Hippodrome?

The Hippodrome has always been the place in the city where big shows come to, and where people come to have a really big night out at the theatre – it’s often the first time people get to experience being in a big theatre. I’m a Midlander myself, and It’s really great that the Hippodrome brings touring shows from other places, like the West End, which people in the West Midlands might not otherwise have the chance to see.

I think it’s really important that we can offer that as a city, but also that we can offer people the opportunity to learn more and develop their enjoyment of the shows we put on. I want people to be able to take an interest they have and find out more about it in the same space where they enjoy the shows themselves.

What can students gain from the course?

They’ll definitely walk away with a better sense of where the shows they’re watching have come from, some of the techniques and decisions they’re seeing, and the connections between old and new shows. For example, Wicked and Matilda The Musical both reference a lot of other works, whereas Titanic The Musical marks an end of one era in musical theatre and the start of another.

I’ll also be giving an assigned listening every week, so students will be able to get a deep, guided tour of several key songs. Because we’re covering such a range of musicals, I hope that everyone will go away with some new musicals they’d like to listen to, research and even go and see.

What are some musicals that you really love?

First answer has to be Gypsy (Styne, Laurents and Sondheim) because it’s the ultimate diva musical. Parade (Jason Robert Brown) has such stunning music, as does Kiss of the Spider Woman (Kander and Ebb, who wrote Cabaret and Chicago). I’m also a big fan of Evita, although I encourage everyone to only listen to the original Broadway cast recording for Patti LuPone!

What’s one of the best performances you’ve seen at the Hippodrome?

My most powerful memory of a Hippodrome show has to be the performance of Miss Saigon I saw when I was in my early teens. It probably wasn’t age-appropriate, come to think of it, but it was a defining moment for me because I’d never seen anything like it (who doesn’t love a helicopter?).

What’s your top pick for culture in Brum?

Birmingham’s festival scene is incredible; there are so many throughout the year. What I love about our festivals is that they use venues that audiences will be really familiar with, but in new and interesting ways. For example, during SHOUT, we had a cult-film showing at the Electric Cinema, but we worked with a food artist to create these amazing interactive taste-along moments (some of which were pretty spectacular!) throughout the film. During festivals you can go to established venues like the Hippodrome, the REP, and the mac but see something completely unexpected, that turns your expectations on their head. It’s something that’s really specific to Birmingham which other cities don’t offer – I love it!

Visit our website to find out more about our new Six Week Course – A History of Musical Theatre. Plus, find out about some of the great musicals we’ve got coming up at Birmingham Hippodrome by browsing our What’s On pages.