Award winning musical theatre composers Dan and Laura Curtis have rightfully earned an incredible reputation and are two of the brightest talents to come out of the UK in recent years.
Their work has been performed all over the World in prestigious venues like The Royal Albert Hall and London Palladium and they have been fortunate enough to develop new music for some of the World’s most celebrated performers including Lea Salonga, Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo.
THE ACTORS PAD caught up with the musical wizards for the first in a new 10 QUESTIONS WITH series.
Where did your passion for musical theatre come from?
I was brought up by my grandparents and I spent every weekend going through their record and film collections. From a very early age I was introduced to the great Hollywood musicals and that started a fire that has never gone out. Laura was a chorister at Lincoln Cathedral, music has always been a massive focus in her life and her family introduced her to both stage and screen musicals from an early age.
How long does it take from initial idea to finished piece?
We can write and complete a song very quickly and even occasionally have the music and lyrics come at the same time. Some songs though do take a lot of perseverance, especially on the lyrics when it is set to a very specific story or scene. So it really does depend but without question writing a complete body of work or show is a lot harder than just writing a one off piece.
What’s the process?
I normally start and write the basis of the song’s melody and some lyrics which sometimes stick around in the final piece. Laura then takes it over and adds, adapts and arranges the song and we come together to finish both the music and lyrics. It really works for us and we are very good at understanding what we are both trying to reach as an end goal.
What do you think makes a great musical theatre performer?
Without question someone who is extremely passionate about what they do and who wants to keep learning and developing however far along they are in their career. All great artists know that they are never the finished article and will always keep pushing themselves. In the UK we have amazing actors, singers and dancers and by the amount of performers going across to Broadway we are definitely doing something right in the UK at the moment.
Is there a performance by an individual you have seen that you will never forget? Why?
We have been very fortunate to witness some incredible performances but it is very rare that you get to capture one of them on film. Last year we worked with Rachel John who is going into Hamilton in London later in the year. This video is one live take that we used in its entirety on the final recording. The acting performance and emotion that Rachel delivered was heartbreaking.
Questions continued below.
What 3 pieces of advice would you give to current drama students looking for a career in musical theatre?
If you simply refuse to give up and whatever happens continue to fight for your dreams then you will beat off 99% of the competition just by continuing.
Put your fate in your own hands. We all need to great agents but you will get your own work by developing your own skills, networking and looking after yourself and doing all you can do to be seen.
Study the masters of the stage and screen because there are endless learning opportunities and so much footage is so easily accessible now. Never stop learning.
What’s your view on the current state of British musical theatre?
In terms of actors British musical theatre could not be in better hands. The talent out there now if you look for them is sky high and there seems to be new people coming through all the time.
In terms of new musicals though it really does feel that without it being a well loved movie or an American transfer that the age the Great British musical is over. There simply is not any funding for new stage shows and the support is just not there. Even people who say they are advocates for new work only attach themselves to one or two writers who they have struck a bond with personally but there is heaps of incredible writers out there who are equally as valid. It is very worrying!
Do you prefer to work with singers who can act or actors who can sing?
We have been very fortunate to work with some incredible recording artists as well as stage performers and that is something we would like to do more of in the future.
We believe the very best performers have honed the perfect balance between acting and singing. On a recording you can piece lots of different takes to get that one brilliant performance but the stage is obviously far less forgiving. You can never blag a great acting performance. We always remember John-Owen Jones saying that he decided to go on an acting led course in college as he felt that was all important. John is one of the best singers around but he focuses on the acting and the story and we think that is a great example.
What’s your favourite musical of all time? Why?
Of recent years it would have to be ‘Newsies’ as that show is literally on fire. The score is incredible and the dance performances are mind blowing. Such energy on stage and that is what theatre is all about for us. Of all time we would be looking at musicals like ‘The Sound of Music’ and other classic shows as truly they will never ever beaten and still bring us a lot of joy watching them and we cannot wait to introduce our son to them as he gets older.
What have you got coming up?
We are currently writing a stage/screen musical which has been a big project for us. We will be doing some concept recordings in the summer and hope to have more news on that in 2018. We are also working on a number of TV/Film projects in the very early concept stage. In the meantime we have a masterclass coming up at the Umbrella Rooms on 5th August and will be looking at a few more concerts in London over the next year.
More information about the masterclass and concerts are on our website: