Wednesday 29 Oct 2014
Neil Pearson plays Michael Caddick, husband of Esther Caddick (Sarah Lancashire), and respected and well-loved conductor of their local choir.
When the young, gorgeous Layla (Sarah Alexander) arrives in town, Michael begins to question what he wants from the rest of his life. He ends his marriage, and revamps his choir – with Layla as its star attraction.
"Debbie's scripts use the large cast beautifully," says Neil. "She manages to keep multiple plot lines in the air whilst always driving the central narrative forward. It's a rare skill.
"There are around fifteen regular characters in the show, all of whom the audience get to know and care about. It's always nice to be part of a large cast – it feels more like a theatre show, but with cameras present."
The most distinctive feature of the show is the music which runs through it.
"The music is our unique selling point. Usually when music's involved in a show, the show stops in order for a song to be sung. In our show the music is what the characters do, and it's what the characters feel. It drives their stories forward."
Despite having prior musical experience, Neil was still a little nervous about what the show required of him. "I'm not a stranger to music, although conducting was new to me," he says.
"I did a lot of singing at school in a choir which toured around the country, and obviously the interest was encouraged at drama school. I also studied music academically at A and then S level, and took piano lessons for most of my childhood. All of which means I can read music, which came in useful when it came to the conducting.
"I thought I'd be able to hold my own, but didn't quite know. That's when work becomes exciting: when it pushes you a little outside your comfort zone."
Neil isn't the only cast member with a musical background, and the company's experience proved invaluable in the singing scenes.
"A lot of this cast are fabulous singers. Clive Rowe has sung Sondheim on Broadway, Sarah Lancashire was in Guys And Dolls in the West End, Richard Fleeshman is currently on tour with Elton John, and Jo Woodcock sang solo for the first time in a small scene months into filming, and made such a beautiful noise she brought the set to a standstill. There's a strong musical streak running through most of the cast."
One moment on set convinced Neil that his efforts to be taken seriously as a conductor were beginning to pay dividends.
"I knew I was starting to get somewhere when during one take I made a mistake and brought the altos in too early – and they came in anyway! That told me that they had started to watch me rather than the musical director, that they'd grown to trust that I wasn't just waving my arms around and pretending, that I did know vaguely what I was doing. It was one of the most encouraging mistakes I've ever made."
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