Thursday, 12 December 2013

Behind the scenes with Rusty, Dusty and Sir Topman Hat (Thomas & Friends Live Show)

Behind the scenes with Rusty, Dusty and Sir Topman Hat from Thomas & Friends Live Show at City Square Mall.

“As an actor, you have to make sure that your thoughts are shared with the kids and that they know what’s happening during the live show”, says John Rowe, Actor and Writer of Thomas & Friends Live On Stage at City Square Mall Singapore.

Thomas & Friends is a famous British children’s series based on steam engines such as Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Emily, James, Edward and friends. Super Mommies & Daddies brings you behind the scenes chat with the cast of its live show in Singapore.

This live show is a thoughtfully presented interactive edutainment show for kids to not only enjoy but also to learn about the concept of waste and recycling.

Who are Rusty & Dusty?

“Dusty is a young excitable happy go lucky girl who works for Sir Topham Hat the Fat Controller. Rusty and Dusty are like the link with the children. We are both about how we are going to differ from each other”, says Elle-May Patterson (Dusty).

“We are a bit out of control. We are enthusiastic and hard working. We string together and see what happens with Thomas, the tank engine. Sir Topham Hat the Fat Controller likes us despite of the things we do wrong. Sometimes, we act silly to entertain the kids. Kids love to see things which they think they do know”, says John Rowe (Rusty) 

What is unique about this live show?

Thomas & Friends is a universal storyline and it’s all about friendship, loyalty and teamwork. This is Singapore’s first eco friendly mall so our story revolved around the topic of cleaning and recycling. It’s a very physical show and we’ve got snow too to give it a Christmas feel in the end.”, John

“Shopping mall entertainment is huge here in Singapore. We do shows in Australia and other parts of the world and I don’t think so they are at the same level.”, Elle-May

How do make a live show interesting for the kids?

When asked, John replied that being over the top physically with over the top gestures is the key to attract kids and make them interact during the show. Such actions invite them to look over the place and respond. 

On the other hand, Elle-May shared from her experience that you have to be a certain personality or a character to talk to because kids like it that way. Also, it has to be real and fun too as as they respond only if they can relate to with that.

Thomas & Friends is perceived to be a boys oriented show so what are your thoughts on that?

“It’s extremely universal and not very differentiated. Girls like it as much as boys do. There are quite a few girls trains too including Emily, Lady, Rosie, etc unlike Ben10, Spiderman, or other such action series for boys”, says Scott Archer (Sir Topham Hat the Fat Controller)

How do you come up with the idea behind any live show?
When asked, John told that depending upon the situation and topic, you have to do a lot of research, watch episodes on TV, read books and absorb all that to come up with a short idea as a writer.

Also, Scott mentioned that for any live show like this one in a mall, there has to be some fun and music and for that you have to come up with a great bunch of songs and interesting storyline.

How different it is from a theatre production?
“In the theatre, you can’t see the reactions of the audience but here in a mall the setup is small and you can get the response instantaneously.”, John

As actors how do you perform after you have been assigned particular roles?
Elle-May smiled and shared that web surfing, watching episodes, focusing on rehearsals and most importantly knowing the accent are equally important.

John stated that character, voice and physicality in a physical show are crucial. Besides, all three of them agreed that all actors have different approaches in bringing out the real characters in them.

How do you manage bloopers (mistakes) on a live show?
“Live show is definitely different from a TV show which is recorded, however, you just have to get absorbed in the show with the characters you are performing”, says John

“It is not necessary that only you as an actor might be making mistakes but it could entirely be technical and beyond your control”, says Elle-May

“We work as a team and we practice together for long to make it comfortable with each other so that we take it over when one is lost. Also, it doesn’t really matter if the spirit of the show stays the same.”, says Scott

Did you ever had any funniest or scariest experience on any live show?
John explained that such experiences are rare and they mostly go unnoticed unless it’s terrible like once they had a fire on the stage. Also, he emphasized on the point that as an actor, you’ve got a story to tell and your job is to tell the story and stay focused irrespective of what is happening around you while you are on stage.

Is there any difference in audience’ reactions and expectation in different countries?
According to John, kids are the same everywhere and they tend to respond the same way but there might be cultural differences such as kids in Australia who are really enthralled and enthusiastic about such shows as compared to Singapore, where they are more reserved and less expressive. 

On the other hand, he gave an example of a cat, which keeps hiding and which internationally works. You also see such characters in old English theatre productions too and generally all kids like that. Even so in Non-English speaking countries kids do respond the same way and if someone has missed the story still they can pick it.

Have you ever seen kids afraid when Thomas comes out in the show?
John replies, “Yes, Internationally sometimes kids do get frightened may be because of its size and also depending upon the personality and age group of the child”
How long do you practice behind the scenes for this show?
“We are usually very well prepared beforehand i.e. intensive rehearsals a week before the show followed by individual practice of lines on the day when we have the show itself”, Scott

Is the character important or the dialogue?
“Kids do remember the dialogues, however, it’s not that important. Characters are critical and you have to work hard on that”, John
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What do you like the most in any kids’ show? What keeps you motivated?
John with a big smile answered that it’s the kids themselves who make them laugh every time they come out of a live show or a workshop or a theatre production and that’s what keeps them motivated the most.
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About the cast
John Rowe (Rusty) - Show Writer
  • John has worked for worldwide entertainment companies like Disney, Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network. He has also worked in major concerts and theatrical performances including Grease the Arena Spectacular, Carols in the Domain, Nick & Nora and Girl Crazy
Scott Archer (Sir Topham Hat the Fat Controller)
  • Scott started as a professional as lead vocalist at Australia's Wonderland at 18
  • His achievements include starring in Evita, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Elle-May Patterson (Dusty)
  • Originally from Australia, Elle graduated with a first class honours in Musical Theatre from LASELLE College of the Arts in Singapore
  • Her achievements include involvements in productions like The Black Balloon and Out in The Open
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YOU CAN STILL CATCH THE SHOW UNTIL 15TH DEC  (Tue - Fri at 2pm & 7pm; Sat & Sun at 1pm4pm & 7pm, Level 1 Atrium, City Square Mall)

More information from:

Credits: City Square Mall

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