Q&A with Aladdin Stage Manager Matt Watkins
| By Lucy Beirne
Earlier this year we sat down with Matt Watkins who stage-managed Disney's Aladdin for two years and as such had a behind the scenes, up close and personal view night after night. Take a look at what he had to say.
Pictured: Aladdin (Matt Croke) and the Genie (Trevor Dion Nicholas) in the Cave of Wonders.
First things first, how did you become a stage manager?
At 14 years old I was a member of a youth theatre in my hometown. I realised that I didn’t enjoy performing onstage however I loved being part of the theatre environment. The youth theatre leader asked me if I would be interested in trying stage management on the next production. I loved it so much and at that point, I decided that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I did Theatre studies at A-level and then trained in Stage Management at Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
When you get into the theatre, what's the first thing you do?
Catch up with the rest of the stage management team. This can involve conversations ranging from what we have done with our day to more show related subjects. Stage Management by its nature is a team function and I am very lucky to work with a talented and experienced team.
When working on a show, what items can you not live without?
Mobile Phone, E-mail, Calendar/Diary, Notepad and Pencil and Coffee!
It’s pretty easy for most of us to imagine rehearsals for actors and dancers but as a stage manager, how did you find the rehearsal process?
The rehearsal process is my favourite part about being a stage manager. I enjoy being part of the creative process, putting it all together and being at the centre of how that is communicated to the wider production.
What's the most technically difficult part of the show? And I know you probably can't tell us this but... How does that magic carpet work?!
The magic carpet flies by Disney magic! It mainly features in the song A Whole New World. In this sequence the audience see Aladdin & Jasmine fly up into the stars and soar above the stage. There is a huge amount of engineering and automation to make this look so spectacular and it is our job backstage to ensure it all happens smoothly and safely.
What part of the show are you most proud of? And at what point in the show are you the busiest?
The busiest part of the show for stage management is Friend Like Me. It’s a 9-minute production number with lots of magic tricks, moving scenery and special effects. If all goes well it gets an amazing reaction from the audience.
What is the most important thing about your job?
In all honesty, the most important thing about my job is that I enjoy it. We work long and anti-social hours, sometimes with little recognition so you have to really love what you do and understand that it’s about supporting other people and helping them to achieve their best.
Which character in Aladdin do you most relate to? Do you ever sing along in the wings?
After 2 years working on the show I can honestly say that I have never sung along in the wings, I’ll leave that to our talented cast. I would say I relate most to the Genie as in a way he is like a Stage Manager in the way he controls and supports the environment that surrounds Aladdin to help him achieve his goal.
If any of our readers want to be a stage manager, what advice would you give them?
Practical experience, working on shows is the most important thing. Start trying to do the job as soon as you can. By that, I don’t mean go out and get a professional job but get involved with school productions, amateur theatre companies etc. From here you can build your experience and decide whether the job is for you or not.
London Theatre Direct has an amazing 72-hour sale on Aladdin tickets over the weekend, with many tickets currently reduced by £30, on top of a no booking fees offer. This is a staggered offer so the price will change throughout the weekend-- it's imperative that you book soon to take advantage of this magical offer. Here are the details:
Mon - Thu performances November 5th to 29th
• Purchase date Friday Nov 2nd - Price £39.50
• Purchase date Saturday Nov 3rd - Price £45.00
• Purchase date Sunday Nov 4th - Price £49.50