Sarah Bodalbhai is a Pianist, Keyboardist, Vocalist, Musical Director, Songwriter and Arranger – she is currently working on Sink the Pink‘s Christmas Sci-fi drag show Escape from Planet Trash at Pleasance Theatre, London.
You are the musical director of Escape from Planet Trash, can you tell us a little bit about the show?
Firstly, I’m delighted to be Musical Director for this exciting production! As for how I would describe it… In a nutshell, Escape From Planet Trash is a queer musical/comedy extravaganza set in outer space! It’s written/directed by and starring the brilliant drag performer Ginger Johnson, who is part of a very talented cast of six. It’s produced by Sink The Pink and the Pleasance Theatre, and runs at the Pleasance from 19th November to 22nd December 2019.
And how will it compare to last year’s How To Catch a Krampus?
I adored working on How To Catch A Krampus – it was dark and quirky, set in Victorian times, with horror and music hall influences. Escape From Planet Trash is obviously completely different in terms of setting, and so requires a different musical landscape (for example this year we are using synths in addition to piano and violin) and influences such as epic pop/rock songs or fun 60s vibes. And yet of course there will be similarities, it being the same cast and creative team and an exciting new evolution of our collaborative processes. I am sure people will find it just as outrageously fun as Krampus was!
Do you work with Sink the Pink at other times or only at Christmas?
I really only work with Sink the Pink at Christmas, though this will be the third year in a row now as I also worked on The Queen’s Head, a super fun 80s-themed immersive experience at Selfridges the year before Krampus. However, I regularly perform with Ginger Johnson outside of the Christmas season. We’ve built up an exciting and fulfilling creative partnership over the years and she was the one to introduce me to Sink the Pink in the first place.
What does the role of musical director on a project like this entail?
We use pre-existing songs (a mixture of pop and musical theatre) but there is a lot of arrangement work involved, particularly vocally, as our versions are often different stylistically from the originals, and I love adding harmonies and giving the cast a challenge! So workshopping, arranging then coaching the cast –this is the third year in a row I’ve worked with most of them now though which is great, as I really know their voices. Then I’m continually liaising creatively both in and outside rehearsals with Ginger and with Alicia Jane Turner, our amazing sound designer, who also performs live in the shows. And in the live shows I play keyboards, do backing vocals, and warm up the cast before the show each evening. That all sounds like quite a lot already, and I’ve probably forgotten something!
You are pretty prolific on the UK cabaret scene, how did you get into working with the likes of David Hoyle, Dusty Limits, Tricity Vogue and Michael Twaits?
I have Myra Dubois to thank for this– she was the first drag queen I ever performed with, and it was through her that I met most of the other people I work with now, including Ginger (we all worked together on a couple of pantomimes at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern back in 2013/14!). Years of building up repertoire with Myra gave me the cabaret bug, I suppose! I’m classically trained but always loved messing around with music…being put on the spot and forced to play on cue by a brilliant drag queen is by far the best way to develop your improvising skills!
Are there any particular highlights?
Krampus was absolutely a highlight so far for me. Other than that, well… the energy of a David Hoyle show is electric, you never quite know what’s going to happen and he’s such a captivating performer. He has some brilliant guests at his shows who it has been a pleasure to play for too, such as Dusty Limits, and recently Justin Vivian Bond! And being in Tricity Vogue’s All Girl Swing Band is great fun. We get to play some wonderful venues such as Wilton’s Music Hall, and this year we went away for a few days to perform at a street festival in the stunning town of Merano in Northern Italy.
And what is next for you in the new year?
Alongside continuing to collaborate with these fabulous, inspiring cabaret performers, I am doing something slightly crazy and releasing an EP, titled Beautiful Ruins, as a singer-songwriter in the New Year! I’m so used to collaborating with other people that it’s going to be strange going it alone but I’ve been working on the songs in the studio for well over a year now and I think it’s time to put them out into the world!