Image above: Nick Hutson
Chiswick musician Nick Hutson has written a new musical, in collaboration with friends, about a shared passion: theme parks.
Nick has lived in Chiswick all his life and for the last six years has been working as a a music composer for the theme park industry, something which he admits is “a really weird thing”, because when he tells people what he does, they don’t tend to believe it’s a real job.
His latest work is to provide the music on a new ride at Chessington World of Adventures, called CrocDrop, which made its debut when the park reopened on 12 April. Those daring the new ride will plunge 25m into the giant jaws of a crocodile, Sobek, ‘the ancient Egyptian Crocodile God and protector of the Nile, who has been possessed by evil spirits, transforming him into a cruel deity’.
“I still don’t believe it’s a real job!” he said.
Since 2006 Nick has been running a podcast called MusicalTalk, which aims to educate and entertain listeners on the world of musical theatre. The podcast has attracted many well-known and illustrious guests such as Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton and the late Alan Rickman.
Over the lockdown, he and a group of fellow theme park aficionados decided to create a musical centred around a theme park. As a lover of both theme parks and musicals, Nick has been in his element.
The musical is an online collaboration which features over 25 people from the UK theme park industry. Theme Park Fan is available on YouTube and tells the story of Jamie, who wants to be accepted within the theme park community but has to learn valuable lessons before he can achieve his goal. American actor, Neil Patrick-Harris (Dougie Howser MD, How I Met your Mother, A Series of Unfortunate Events) has a cameo role.
“A big piece of fun ridiculousness”
Nick first wrote the comedy song ‘I’m a Theme Park Fan’ back in 2018. During lockdown, he wrote a play built around the song. The production is about about about going to a theme park, namely Blackpool, which he describes as “a big piece of fun ridiculousness.”
He and his theme park enthusiast friends usually go to Blackpool the first weekend in February every year, something which hasn’t been possible in 2021. So instead, he had the idea of bringing together his friends to write a musical about going to Blackpool instead.
The play was released on Blackpool’s opening weekend, specifically at the time when Nick and his friends would have otherwise been “getting trashed in Wetherspoons”, so as to bring everyone together. Roughly 35 people were involved in total in the production of the musical and the lead actor was from Chiswick’s own arts school, ArtsEd.
“It brought everyone together for about two months, singing, set designing, video production, script writing, playing instruments and just remotely doing all this ridiculousness. Some did much more than others, some just had a line.”
The musical is purely audio, “something similar to a BBC Radio 4 drama, but as a musical”. Theme Park Fan has been “surprisingly popular” Nick told me, if you know where to look, with features on BBC TV North West, BBC Lancashire Radio and HeartFM and a feature in the Wetherspoons magazine. They’ve made merchandise to promote it too, even their own scent.
“It smells like salty sea air and damp wood blended in, it doesn’t smell of puke and fish and chips, which is what comes up when you think of Blackpool.”
Images above: Neil Patrick-Harris, a still from Theme Park Fan – set in Blackpool
Actor Neil Patrick-Harris, who recently starred in Channel 4’s It’s a Sin! made a brief cameo in the project.
“I’ve interviewed Neil for my podcast in the past, so I’m able to get in touch with him and he just said yes to the recordings. Because it’s audio and because people are locked in at home, they really have no excuse to say no. It added that extra level of sheen onto the show.
“It’s not surprising that he did do it; he also loves theme parks and musicals so why shouldn’t he have a cameo in a musical that’s all about theme parks?”
If you’d like to watch Theme Park Fan, you can watch it for free on YouTube:
Plans for the future?
A virtual musical would be something unthought of just over a year ago, but COVID has made it an all to common phenomenon those in the theatre industry. As lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted, a stage version of Theme Park Fan might be on the cards in the near future.
“We’re looking at it, but who knows right now? We’re looking at ways of moving it forward but we want to make it more accessible to everyone. Because at the moment the CoEd version was written very much for my circle of friends.”
Nick thinks they have all the right ingredients to make a successful show, with a little tweaking first.
“But you have to think: there’s a story here, which is a great setting for a musical, but how can we make it work for your neighbour? Like Book of Mormon, it’s a very niche subject, but they kind of looked at it, explained everything and it works.
“We are able to laugh at ourselves, as theme park enthusiasts, and that’s what the show does. Plus there’s a lovely message about fame and what people do to become famous.
“The story at the end of the day is about people, which is of course what all good stories are about.”
Raising money for a mental health charity
As well as exciting theme park fans across the country, the project is also raising funds for UK-based mental health charity CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably).
CALM is a leading movement against suicide. It provides support for anyone, regardless of gender, but especially draws attention to the high rate of suicide amongst men. It also offers bereavement support and runs campaigns tackling stereotypes of masculinity, suicide, and mental health.
The performance has raised over £2,000 for the charity which Nick says is “lovely” since “not a lot of people” bring attention to the fact that male suicide constitutes 75% of all UK suicides. Disney composer Alan Menken, who is known for writing scores for Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, is said to have given a significant donation.
To make a donation to the CALM fundraiser you can follow the link below:
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See also: Music events listings for Chiswick 2021
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