Steve Anderson is a DSTP legend! He's the guy behind the musical arrangements of Kylie's shows and he writes some of her music too. He put together Take That's monumental Never Forget. He's worked with everyone from RyanDan to Britney Spears to Christophe Willem. With 2010, his diary seems to be bursting with pure stardust. Fresh from his glorious Kylie Minogue USA tour - and its confluent live album - he's arranging a French tour, working with Westlife, arranging a new burlesque show with William Baker & producing new material for the diva Elouise. I thought it was time talk to the guy about such plans and perhaps more....
Hi Steve, last time we chatted you were busily arranging the Kylie Minogue tour for the USA. How did it go?
Hi Bobby - lovely to talk to you again. Kylie’s North America Tour was an absolute joy for all involved, The audiences were amazing and the opportunity to play such a variety of venues was fantastic. It was without doubt one of my proudest moments watching her perform at The Hollywood Bowl to a rapturous reception after waiting over 20 years to perform in North America, I don’t usually go on the whole tour but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
The album has received glowing reviews-especially your arrangements. How does that feel?
Both Kylie and I are so incredibly proud of the live album as it really documents all of the hard work put in by our incredible team. I am always involved in the live DVD mixes but as this was audio only felt very comfortable mixing it myself as I wanted to get the balance between great sound and feeling like you are actually there just right. Plus of course you can hear how much fun she is having on stage, her energy is always incredible but on these shows she hit a new high - she constantly amazes me which is one of the many reasons I have the best job in the world.
How do you decide to revamp a Kylie song for her shows?
It all comes from the initial treatment and setlist that William , Kylie and myself put together months earlier. Often a new version is done because of the style of a section (Geisha from “X” or Akram Khan’s Indian Section from “Homecoming”). For the recent shows the most fun was doing the White Diamond section as it was based on classic Hollywood actresses so we got to record a whole intro with her reciting famous phrases to set the scene - ‘no wire hangers EVER!!’
How does arranging the/a kylie tour compare with the new Polly Rae shows at the Leicester Square Theatre.
Even though its on a massively smaller scale in every way the process is quite similar. We have been working on the setlist for Polly’s show for about 6 months and have kept going back and forth on what to do. Of course the main difference is there is no back catalogue of songs to work with so its much more from scratch. Also of course Kylie is a world famous pop star whereas The All New Hurly Burly show is about establishing Polly as the real queen of UK burlesque building on the incredible reputation she already has and incorporating her fabulous Hurly Burly Girls who have been cast specifically for the show and have their own talents to showcase as well.
Do you ever get a bolt of nerves and if so what do you think is more nerve wracking? Putting together essentially brand new show with Polly or a Kylie tour?
I think the moment you stop getting nervous is the time to give up. With Kylie its never about being nervous about her performance as her default position is fabulous so she will always deliver, its usually more about technical things or how something will be received by the audience. Of course we have found some places will go nuts for something others will just enjoy or sometimes not really get so we just try and make sure there is something for everyone but keep it challenging at the same time. The Polly show is our first venture into burlesque and we are taking a lot of risks so there will definitely be some nerves there but excitement too and trying something new.
Just as your famous for ‘redressng’ Kylie’s epic hits you’re doing something rather similar with Polly Rae and her show (which you can buy tickets here) this feb. How did it this come about?
William called me one day and said he had been asked by Polly’s manager Walt Utz if he would consider directing her new show and that was pretty much it - I was in! We have loved the burlesque art form forever as it has its roots in old school glamour and cabaret but all done in the best possible taste as Kenny Everett would have said! . The real pull for me was that Polly was going to be singing the show with the Hurly Burly Girls backing up this hasn’t happened since the days of Gypsy so I immediately got Terry Ronald involved to do vocal arrangements.
What do you plan to do?
Its a real collaboration between Polly’s classic burlesque world and what we do so there will be some singing numbers but also some great solo’s. For the songs I have put a burlesque twist on some well know pop songs from the likes of Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and The Pet Shop Boys but as always they go along with the visuals. It really is a great fun show and a mix between Moulin Rouge, Crazy Horse and what people have come to expect from William. Its a great fun night out with a naughty twist.
It sounds as if your reinventing burlesque from the bottom to the top! I think you’re your generating a totally new subgenre of burlesque: BURLESQUEPOP!
I like that! Its about selecting the right songs though, finding lyrics that aren’t obvious but when you put them in that setting are just perfect. Polly’s interpretation of the songs is fabulous too as you would imagine.
The spirit of Gypsy Rose Lee must be looking down on Polly Rae and you guys with Pride and perhaps a bit of jealousy. Are you aware of…whose shoes your slipping into here?
We are and we have done our research believe me. from reading up all about not only Gypsy but other fantastic burlesque performers to going again to see the incredible Crazy Horse show in Paris which is so unique and inspiring.
What kind of message do you want to impart with the Polly Rae show
Burlesque has a real feel good factor about it so we are hoping that comes across but at the same time it would be silly to just do what has been done before so we are pushing the boundaries a little. Its very much a showcase for what’s to come in the future as the whole team are tied into the show way beyond the West End - there is already a tour lined up in the UK which we plan to carry abroad into America, Australia and Europe and eventually have its own residency in London.
Burlesque in the UK has faced some harsh criticism this year-many saying it doesn’t match the burlesque scene in Berlin, Las Vegas and of course in Paris you’ve got Crazy Horse. Do any of these scenes influences emerge in the All New Hurly Burly Show?
From what we have learned there are a lot of cheap burlesque shows around which gets it a bad reputation. People just picking up some underwear from Primark and buying a burlesque compilation thinking that is good enough. Of course the other end of the spectrum is the Crazy Horse which is about as good as it gets and Dita who always excels but rarely for a whole show, its usually a 15 minute spot. Berlin of old is definitely an influence, not so much now. As far as Vegas from when we were there the show they have is based on pop songs but is very rocky interpretations, saying that it works well there. A lot of burlesque shows seem to be more circus shows rather than song and dance which is what we are trying to specialise in. Also I think its easy to confuse burlesque with the seedy lap dancing clubs - burlesque is all about glamour, class, entertainment, iconography, empowerment and fun which is why the audiences are always so mixed.
With Polly Rae and this show it seems as if your injecting much needed energy into the genre-taking burlesque to 2010 . It’s a bold and creative step. How does that feel?
I am loving it as its all very new to me but in a way feels very natural. I have a whole show to arrange and most of it involves a big band so thats a great challenge. Also I am working again with the legendary Richard Niles for the brass sections who I worked with on “Locomotion” for Kylie which is always a great collaboration. I think this year especially with the Christina Aguilera/Cher movie as well its really going to take hold and we are happy to be a part of that especially as Polly has worked very hard to get where she is. The whole soundtrack to this show is really eclectic mixing classic and contemporary which is my favourite place to be.
Will you be exploring the shadows that lie within the burlesque narrative? Are there any dark moments in the show?
Of course - its a William Baker show! Its all about the dynamics otherwise it would be boring, light and shade is so important in theatre.
I mean…burlesque queens icons of survival, sequins, dreams, soul and delivery. They also have to on a lot of shit too. There’s a famous Gypsy quote where she says “Nobody laughs at me! Because I laugh first.” Will this polly rae show be exploring that side of things?
Definitely - its all about the glamour and what it takes to get there which as we all know is sometimes not all as rosy as people think it can be.
Through music your modernizing burlesque – such a task seems incredibly daunting. How does that feel?
I don’t think we are modernizing burlesque - I think we are taking an art form and trying to do our twist on it.
So what have William Baker and Tony Testa brought to the show?
William is a true visionary artist and along with Kylie the most inspirational creative person I have ever known, plus he is never afraid to take risks and won’t opt for playing it safe which makes him directing a show like this even more enticing. Tony choreographed Kylie North America and is an extraordinary talent. He is co- directing the Polly show with William and is an integral part of the team alongside Ashley Wallen who choreographed “Rent” for us and also Kylie fans will remember him as a dancer from “Intimate And Live”. He is now one the most in demand choreographers and recently worked on the Gap Christmas Campaign and on a huge piece for Oprah Winfrey. We also have Terry Ronald (who also worked on “Rent” and also works with Dannii and Girls Aloud) and Nick Whitehouse designing lights who did “X2008” , Kylie North America and Britney’s “Circus” tour.
Now, Polly rae is being supported by Elouise (pictured above). Two divas for the price of one! How do you think the two will compliment each other?
I think they will compliment each other perfectly as they are very different types of singers. Elouise has the Cilla Black/Shirley Bassey kind of voice whereas Polly is very much Julie London/Peggy Lee so its a real treat for the audience.