Interview - Orlando Seale (Manhattan Parisienne)

Actor Orlando Seale is currently appearing in a work in progress production of Alain Boublil's Manhattan Parisienne at The Other Palace. Following on from its world premier in 59E59 theatres, New York, in December 2015, this piece, featuring songs from the classic French and American songbooks, tells the story of a French actress and an American musician, both of whom have a connection to Paris. 

The importance of music within the piece is paramount, and with that in mind, cast member Orlando Seale, who is currently playing Gerard in the play, took a little bit of time out of his schedule of rehearsals and performances, to talk about his own relationship to music, the experience of working on a work-in-progress, and his affinity for Paris. 

'I think the audience reactions have been really positive' Seale says of the work-in-progress nature of the piece. 'It’s not supposed to be a performance, in a sense, it more just showing 5 or 6 days' worth of rehearsals.' Fascinatingly, because of the ever changing nature of the piece, it's very likely that what audiences who come later in the run see will be very different to what audiences saw at the beginning of it. Seale explains that he does what he can to explore the piece, and revels in the evolution of the show, explaining that 'they’re taking things out, putting new things in, trying different things out, and Bruce [Guthrie] the director has been really clear with the audience about that, so the audience has been very supportive. They’ve been coming in with a spirit of understanding that this is very much a work-in-progress, and it might change radically.'

That approach very much reflects Seale's attitude towards his own musical creations, which he described as 'post punk DIY stuff'. It's refreshing to hear the actor's views on how creating music should be accessible to everyone, with him expressing that 'I like the idea of everyone making music. You don’t have to qualified in some special way to do it. Of course it helps, but it’s nice the idea that everyone can get up and sing a song.'

And Seale's musical beginnings are a result of just that, as he describes how he didn't study a musical instrument in school, but was lucky enough to be invited to join the school band nevertheless. However, his obsessions with creating music didn't start until much later, when he was living in Los Angeles, and his then-girlfriend introduced him to a whole host of amazing music. He recalls driving around L.A in his car, his own personal soundbooth, 'I’d always written poetry and things, and I started wanting to see if I could sing songs. It partly came out of feeling like I wanted to make things of my own, that weren't just dependent on being cast. I became completely obsessed and I couldn’t stop'.

Seale recalls enjoying working on music projects, and finding himself searching for a way to combine his love of music and of theatre, having never done a musical before. Whilst teaching at the Associate Studios performing arts academy he was impressed with the hard work and talent of the musical theatre students, and says that curiosity led to him seeking out more opportunities to perform in music heavy pieces. 

'When this opportunity came up I thought it’d be really fascinating to go and spend a few weeks with people who were unbelievably talented, who were at the top of their game, and see how they did things.' As a show which relies so heavily on the use of music, Manhattan Parisienne, sd you would expect, has assembled a great team for its performances at The Other Palace. Seale is quick to praise the musical talent of everyone involved, stating that he is 'really impressed by the level of musicianship of all of the players and singers who play multiple instruments, and sing, and dance', whilst also marvelling at the skills of the director, choreographer, and band.

Given the name of the piece, asking about Orlando Seale's personal relationship with the titular boroughs, and of course his answers are extremely interesting. 'I’ve not only been to Paris, I lived in Paris, and I loved it so much. I’m a massive Francophile, and I have a lot of French friends, and I was actually at drama school in Paris at The Conservatoire National SupĂ©rieur D’Art Dramatique, so I go back as often as I can. The first time I went to New York was with the RSC years ago when we were on tour, and I absolutely love it. I haven’t spent as much time there, but I’d jump on any opportunity to go back!'

Unfortunately Seale doesn't know what the future holds for Manhattan Parisienne, but suggests that the creative team are taking audience comments on board and are eager to know what works and what doesn't. He is also full of praise for the play in its current iteration, stating 'I think it’s got a lot of charm, and it’s an opportunity to enjoy the American and the French song books, in a really charming way that brings the two together. I love the subtitle that Alain [Boublil] gave it; the songs he wished he’d written. I think that’s really beautiful, and for someone who’s been involved with such enormous hits, that's a really charming and humble thing to say.'