GARY Lloyd, choreographer to the stars and hit musicals galore, is to work his magic on the York Stage pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.
Further buoyed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s affirmation that theatre rehearsals can continue during Lockdown 2, artistic director, writer and producer Nik Briggs says: “I’m ecstatic that the incomparable Gary Lloyd is joining us.
“To have a world-renowned choreographer like Gary coming to work with us really is something special. I’m such a fan of his work; the way he tells a story on stage really is something to behold.
“For those people who have seen Thriller Live, either in the West End or as part of its world tour, you will know how high energy and dynamic his dances are. He really does know how to stage a show-stopping number,” says Nik.
Lloyd has made his mark as director/choreographer of such shows as the aforementioned Thriller Live, the Michael Jackson tribute, and 20th Century Boy, the Marc Bolan jukebox musical, bringing both to the Grand Opera House, York, along with his production of Fame, The Musical and more besides.
Aside from musicals and theatre, his credits cover everything from choreographing American Idol, The X Factor, the Eurovision Song Contest and a Victoria Beckham commercial, to working with Sir Paul McCartney, Giorgio Moroder, Robbie Williams, Dame Shirley Bassey, P!nk and Sir Tom Jones.
Based down south, Grimsby-born Gary is no stranger to York. “My father Geoff [York Stage’s set builder Geoff Theaker] and my sister Jo [York Stage regular principal Joanne Theaker] live there,” he says. “Jo’s worked with Nik, on stage and at York Stage School too, and coming to the shows, I’ve seen the company grow and do wonderful things.”
Gary’s own shows are “all on this conveyor belt waiting to come out of hiding,” he says. “My biggest fear is that producers will want them all to re-open at the same time.” Under the never-ending Covid cloud, it would nevertheless be a nice problem to have.
Given the stasis inflicted on so many theatres and touring shows by the pandemic, Nik saw the opportunity to bring Lloyd north for Jack And The Beanstalk. “He approached me about a month ago, saying ‘would you like to come up and do our pantomime if you have nothing else on?’,” says Gary.
“I would normally have been doing panto as choreographer and director for Jonathan Kiley’s pantomimes, but then came the shutdown, which was a big blow. So, for any of us who can grab hold of one, like me doing Nik’s show, it’s a thing of joy at what will otherwise be a really dark time.”
Gary is a pantomime devotee. “I love it for many reasons,” he says. “I love it primarily because, for me, it is the perfect way to end the working year, walking into the rehearsal room to work very quickly on making a show where everyone is at the top of their game, resulting in pure joy for four generations of audiences.
“It’s pure entertainment, put on by people who really know what they’re doing, especially the comedians, putting together lavish shows with such wonderful content. When panto is done well, like QDOS spending all year on their scripts, getting the topical gags in there, it’s such a joy with big rewards.”
Gary attended a couple of socially distanced London shows once theatres reopened: Fanny And Stella at the Garden Theatre and his friend Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years at Southwark Playhouse, where Perspex screens protected audience members, just as they will at Theatre @41.
“Once the lights go down, you forget all of what’s going on outside, or being crammed in between Perspex screens, you forget all that, because the magic of theatre takes over,” says Gary.
“Right now, we need that escape, that entertainment, and that won’t be any different with Nik’s show.
“I’m looking forward to working on a more immersive show, where we’ll really be able to pick on someone in the crowd, which will give panto a new life this year, when there’ll only be a comparative handful of people there [80 maximum], and they’ll have to play their part in creating a good atmosphere at each show.”
Broadening his thoughts, Gary says: “It’s a chance to show the Government that theatres can be a safe environment, and we need to be able to open theatres as soon as possible when we can show it’s safe.
“I don’t want to get political, but you go past pubs bursting with people, whereas theatres are places where people do behave and go there for more sophisticated reasons. Theatre managers and owners are the ones who know how theatre could work in this present environment.”
Working in the arts in Covid-19 2020 with ever-changing Government strictures has been a “daily one step forward, two steps back,” says Gary. “But we’re all in the same boat together. I’ve made it my mission to work with young people coming out of college, training for an industry that they may never be able to work in.
“I’ve been doing that on Zoom, as well as teaching a bit of choreography once a week at a studio, always having a chat, because taking care of your mental health is so important.”
Gary was last on a stage in March in London. “Before Lockdown, I was working on Heathers, The Musical; we’d had had three weeks of face-to-face rehearsals on the Thriller Live stage in the West End, but then it all came to a halt,” he says of a production that had been scheduled to run at Leeds Grand Theatre from November 3 to 7.
“Working for producer Bill Kenwright has been a saving grace at this time; he’s been very optimistic about getting back to work, not paying attention to the media circus, but building a very positive attitude.
“The Leeds Grand performances were a definite until they got wind that the second lockdown could happen, so we’re now waiting for the next bit of news. It’s a daily one step forward, two steps back.”
In his Zoom training sessions and choreography teaching, Gary has stressed the importance of keeping up the highest standards. “The industry will come back, and it will come back with a bang, and these kids don’t have any excuses not to keep up with their fitness, their CV, their singing,” he says. “They need to be disciplined as individuals, not just in a class, so that’s the tough love I’ve been giving out.”
Lockdown may have imposed a hiatus on the theatre world, but reflecting on a career crammed with so many shows, Gary says: “I don’t stop…and I’ve been very lucky. I started out training to go into the theatre; that was my passion; my first job was Cats at 18, for two years, and then I show-hopped for ten years.
“I was always the dance captain, I always did extra choreography and then stepped through the door to do the assistant directing for Kim Gavin’s original production for Oh! What A Night. That’s where my choreography and directing started.”
Plenty of television work ensued. “But after a while it all became very samey.The money’s fantastic but you end up doing the same thing over and over, and I found I really missed theatre,” says Gary.
“I was approached to direct The Genius Of Ray Charles, took it to Las Vegas and then the West End, and I’ve since been able to move between two mediums, theatre and musicals, by refusing to let the industry put a label on me…because there was a time when you couldn’t work with a pop artist. But Thriller Live was a perfect vehicle for me: part theatre show, part concert.”
Now, Gary is preparing to work with the York Stage company of Jordan Fox, May Tether, Ian Stroughair, Livvy Evans, Alex Weatherhill, Emily Taylor, Matthew Ives and Danielle Mullan, who begin rehearsals for Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 on November 23.
“Nik’s put together a fantastic cast and I’m really looking forward to working with these guys,” he says. “I know this pantomime is going to be an explosion of joy.”
Nik eagerly awaits Gary’s impact on his company and on audiences too. “The chance to see his work up close at Theatre @41 really is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for York,” he says. “We’re taking our West End-worthy panto to the next level with the addition of Gary to our company.”
York Stage present Jack And The Beanstalk at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, from December 11 2020 to January 3 2021. Box office: online at yorkstagepanto.com.
Show times will be Monday to Saturday, 2pm and 7pm; Sundays, 1pm and 6pm; Christmas Eve, 12 noon and 5pm; New Year’s Eve, 12 noon. Tickets for the 40 performances range from £20 to £27 and are on sale online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only.
WHO IS GARY LLOYD?
Award-winning director/choreographer Gary Lloyd is known for his crossover from music to theatre.
He has worked as creative director with some of the world’s biggest artists on their live performances and arena tours, bringing his wealth of experience in the latest technology and sound, as well as his innate creative vision, to the theatrical stage.
REFLECTIONS, The Holland-Dozier-Holland Story, Stage West, Calgary.
HEATHERS, The Musical, associate director and choreographer, The Other Palace and Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Winner, Best New Musical, WOS Awards 2018; Best Off West End Production, West End Wilma Awards 2018.
JNH 3 Decades of Music for Hollywood, James Newton Howard In Concert, European tour.
ONE NIGHT OF TINA, European tour.
WAR DANCE, workshop, Ventura, Carnival Cruise Lines.
THE KNIGHTS OF MUSIC, UK Tour.
CARRIE, The Musical, Southwark Playhouse. Winner, Best Off West End Production, WOS Awards 2016; Off West End Award nominee, Best Director, Best Choreographer.
GREASE, Silja Line/Belinda King Productions.
OUR HOUSE, The Madness Musical, 2016 GSA Company, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre,
THRILLER LIVE!, Lyric Theatre, West End. 2012/2013 Olivier Audience Award nominee
and 2010 What’s On Stage Nominee, Best New Musical and Best Choreographer). Also UK Tours and World Tour.
20TH CENTURY BOY, The Story of Marc Bolan, UK Tour. Broadway World winner for
Best New Touring Musical and nominee for Best Choreographer and Best Actor in a Musical.
SISTER ACT, 2015 GSA Company, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.
FAME, 25th Anniversary UK Tour.
THE TINA TURNER EXPERIENCE, Gelredome Stadium, Arnhem.
FOOTLOOSE, 2013 GSA Company, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford,
FLASH MOB, Peacock Theatre, London.
20TH CENTURY BOY, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.
HAIR The Musical, Piccadilly Theatre, in support of Help For Heroes; Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam, and European Tour.
20th CENTURY BOY, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, 2011 What’s On Stage nominee for Best Regional Production.
THE GENIUS OF RAY CHARLES, Theatre Royal Haymarket, UK and North American
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Scandinavian Tour.
SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS, Kodak Theatre Los Angeles.
WHAT A FEELING! , 2006 UK Tour.
As Choreographer/Movement Director
CRUEL INTENTIONS, Palais du Varieté, Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Winner, Best Fringe
Production, Broadway World Awards 2019.
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, 50th Anniversary Touring Production.
THE LIFE, English Theatre, Frankfurt, Germany.
FAME THE MUSICAL, Grand Canal Theatre, Dublin, and Ireland Tour.
“ZIP”, Giant Olive Theatre, London.
ASPECTS OF LOVE, UK Tour starring David Essex.
AMADEUS, Sheffield Crucible Theatre.
ANIMAL FARM, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.
MY FAIR LADY, Larnaca Festival and South East Asia Tour.
CITY OF ANGELS, English Theatre, Frankfurt, Germany.
ZORRO The Musical, workshop.
OH! WHAT A NIGHT, associate director/choreographer;
TV, Film & Music
Gary has worked with: Giorgio Moroder; Kelly Clarkson; Leona Lewis; Robbie Williams; Pink; Anastasia; John Barrowman; Peter Andre; Stooshe; Macy Gray; NeYo; Joe McElderry; Victoria Beckham; Jennifer Hudson…
Sir Paul McCartney; Sir Cliff Richard; Dame Shirley Bassey; Sir Tom Jones; Robin Gibb; Ray Quinn; G4; Will Young; Gareth Gates; Emma Bunton; Lemar; Rachel Stevens; Natasha and Daniel Bedingfield; Girls Aloud…
Liberty X; Dani Harmer; All Angels, RyanDan; Blake; Faryl Smith; Ordinary
Boys; Blue; Atomic Kitten; Basement Jaxx; ABC; Soul II Soul and S Club 8.
Gary has acted as creative director and choreographer for these acts on international tours, single and album launches and music videos.
Elizabeth, Michael And Marlon, movement coaching for Joseph Fiennes; American Idol, Seasons 1 to 3; Disney’s My Camp Rock; The X Factor, BBC’s Skate Nation and Jump Nation and The One And Only, all as choreographic expert and mentor.
Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Take Away; Brits 25; The Classical Brit Awards; The Royal Variety Performance; I DREAM; Eurovision Song Contest; Bump N Grind (Trouble TV); Comic Relief; ITV’s Avenue Of The Stars.
Victoria Beckham VB Denim Range; Wispa, For The Love Of Wispa; Daz , I’m Too Sexy; Debenhams, Styling The Nation.
Two Royal Gala Performances at the London Palladium and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Artistic director for the BAFTA Awards.
The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace.
Stage director and choreographer on the 2005 Royal Variety Performance in the
presence of Her Majesty the Queen at the Wales Millennium Centre.
Gary’s first book, My Life With Michael, Ten Years Of Thriller Live, was published by The Book Guild in paperback in October 2019.