Musical high-flier tunes up for West End

RICHARD PARR When pianist Nigel Lilley played for diners at a Norfolk restaurant to help boost his student grant, he always dreamed of conducting an orchestra in the West End.

RICHARD PARR

When pianist Nigel Lilley played for diners at a Norfolk restaurant to help boost his student grant, he always dreamed of conducting an orchestra in the West End.

Now, aged only 26, he is musical director for a touring production of a re-worked production of Victoria Wood's comic musical, Acorn Antiques.

He has just completed a week's run at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, where many of his friends from his days in amateur theatre in west Norfolk came to see the show and meet up with him afterwards.

Nigel, taking a break at his parents' house in Ely, said: "It has been really good to see so many of my old friends from my days with the Watlington Players.

"It was lovely to see people like Kate Carpenter, who encouraged me in the junior Players and also my old head teacher Sue Davies from Watlington Primary School."

Most Read

In his role as musical director, Nigel worked closely with Victoria in October last year, re-writing the composition. Five new songs were also added and new arrangements introduced.

Nigel said: "It was the most creative work I have done in my life and it was interesting working with Victoria because she not only wrote and directed the show, but she wrote the music as well. She was fantastic to work with and is an absolute perfectionist."

Victoria worked with the cast and musicians throughout rehearsals, developing a great rapport with them.

Nigel said: "She was obviously very funny and we all had a good laugh. It was the most hilarious rehearsal I have done, a lot of the gags were discovered during rehearsals."

The show is on tour until July and Nigel is particularly looking forward to its run in Brighton where he has many friends. He said:"This is the first time I have been involved in a weekly tour and it's quite different.

"You just adjust to the theatre and then you are out, so it brings its own challenges, likes finding digs."

Nigel said members of eight-member orchestra had come to know each other well and socialised after the shows.

It is up to Nigel to select the musicians, often taken on through recommendations from his friends in the music world.

Nigel may next have the opportunity to take the musical Sinatra - for which he was assistant musical director during its nine-month London Palladium run - to Tokyo.

He said:"I was assistant director with Les Miserable on tour and Acorn Antiques is my first role as musical director on tour.

"So the natural progression would be to go to the West End as a musical director."