That Bloody Women's Luke Di Somma takes on dinosaurs, suffragettes and romantic comedies
Ahead of his new show opening at the Christchurch Arts Festival, Christchurch composer Luke Di Somma talks about his new musical, adapting a famous Kiwi movie for the stage and a national tour of his hit suffragette punk rock show.
Monday is going to be a big day for Christchurch composer Luke Di Somma.
The hit musical he co-created, That Bloody Woman, begins a nationwide tour, rehearsals start for his new musical and a third musical about dinosaurs will be performed in Andrew Lloyd Webber's theatre in London.
"I feel pretty lucky. Three things happening at once is pretty full-on," he says.
"August 28 has been this looming date in my diary where everything is going to collide."
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Di Somma is putting the finishing touches to his new musical, a song cycle called The Things Between Us, ahead of its world premiere in Christchurch on September 14. The musical, commissioned by the Christchurch Arts Festival, is a romantic comedy with a twist.
"There is a gender twist to the story that I don't want to give away," he says.
"It's about two characters Dom and Sam who fall in love and deal with some of their stuff. It's about what you sacrifice for someone else and what you don't and the obvious concessions you make when you meet the right person.
"For several years, I have wanted to do something a bit more intimate and small and a relationship coming-of-age story. It is a song cycle. Everything in the show is sung. The show is basically 16 songs. There is a little bit of dialogue."
But it is not a typical rom-com, he says.
"It felt like I couldn't just churn out a regular hetero-normative rom-com.
"I think that part of writing a musical in 2017 is you have to write it in the context of the time.
"I was looking for ways to make it more interesting and surprising. More theatrical too."
He was influenced by Alison Bechdel's hit Broadway musical, Fun Home, a musical adaption of the film Once, and the novel One Day by Dave Nicholls, which tells the story of a relationship over 20 years by describing the events of the same day each year.
It is also a personal work about life at 30. Di Somma recently turned 30 and moved to London to pursue his composing career.
"It's about the decisions you make later in life. Who you want to be and who you want to be with. You get to 30, you have been mucking about for 10 years and you decide what you want to do with your life."
"Turning 30 was a big deal for me. A lot of people tend to buckle down or fly away when they get to this age and that is part of what the show is exploring. Those life decisions and at what point you take risks and what you do when someone comes into the picture, relationshipwise."
During his time in London, he has been working with a lyricist and playwright on a musical about dinosaurs, called Dinostory. The first 45 minutes of the show will be performed at Andrew Lloyd Webber's theatre, The Other Palace, in London as part of a festival on August 28.
"It's really exciting and it's pretty great to have something on in London, even if it is just a workshop. But this is how things start. The only way to get moving is to stage it in front of an audience.
"These new shows are a roll of the dice. You do your best and see what happens."
He will watch the first performance of Dinostory in London on Monday and then board a plane to New Zealand for the start of rehearsals on The Things Between Us and the start of the That Bloody Woman national tour.
"It's a bit crazy, but it's good crazy and I secretly love it. A busy day in musical theatre is a good day."
He wrote That Bloody Woman with Gregory Cooper for the 2015 Christchurch Arts Festival. The punk rock musical about suffragette Kate Sheppard was an instant hit and has since returned for a run at The Court Theatre in Christchurch and at the Auckland Theatre Company. A national tour with the original cast starts in Taranaki on August 29, before taking in Hawera, Hamilton, Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin, Nelson, Napier and Tauranga.
"It's pretty exciting that it is happening just before the election. That has bought a whole new dimension to the show, especially with Jacinda as leader of the Labour Party."
Up next, Di Somma will start composing a modern opera about former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange and a new musical for the Auckland Theatre Company.
"I can't tell you about that yet. That is quite a high profile project and that will be next year's gig.
"It's an adaptation of quite a well-known New Zealand film. I can tell you that much.
"I think this feels like the beginning of a new era where musicals get made in New Zealand and we tell our own stories on stage."
Part of the Christchurch Arts Festival, The Things Between Us will have its world premiere season from September 14 to 17 at YMCA's Papa Hou. For more information, see artsfestival.co.nz