Interview with Director Chapin Ayres of the ‘Leap of Faith’ Musical

Leap of Faith Musical

North Shore Theatre Company are bringing the Tony Nominated musical Leap of Faith to The Independent in North Sydney from October 5-14.

The musical tells the story of Jonas Nightingale, a part-time reverend and a full time con artist, who is travelling with his ministry. When his bus breaks down in the middle of a small drought-ridden Kansas town, Jonas plans an impromptu revival to take the entire town for a ride in three short days. Nightingale pitches his tent but the town’s sheriff Marla McGowan is determined to stop the charismatic con man from taking the people’s money. Can love and a miracle save a sinner?

Chapin Ayres
Director Chapin Ayres

Rave It Up recently sat down with Leap of Faith’s director Chapin Ayres to discuss the show.

Hey Chapin. Welcome to Rave It Up. It’s a pleasure. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Before we talk about your new project Leap of Faith, we’d love to get to know you a little bit better and start from the beginning to get a good idea of how you have made it to where you are today.

For those who don’t know, you are also a professional musical theatre performer yourself so we’d love to know, when you were younger, was a career in the arts what you always wanted to do or were there other careers that you wanted to pursuit? 

My mother was the head flautist in the Elizabethan Orchestra which played for the ballets and operas at the Sydney Opera House so I spend much of my childhood watching those productions, however, it was when my father took me at 13 years of age to see ‘Evita’ in Sydney with John O’May that I realised it was musical theatre I wanted to pursue. He was electric in that role and the whole production was just amazing and I was hooked. 

You’ve starred in Fiddler on the Roof with Topol and was a series regular on Home and Away. How was your experience on both of those projects? And what was your favourite to be in?

Each musical I have done has been special for different reasons. My first ever professional musical was the original Australian cast of Blood Brothers and it had such wonderful performers such as Russell Crowe, Chrissie Amphlet, Bob Baines and Peter Cousins that it was like a Masterclass in acting. I remember the Director saying to me, “You don’t need to be at all the rehearsals” and my reply was “I know, but I love watching the rehearsal process and how each actor comes to the same end result in a different way.” Looking back on it now, I think I was fascinated with Directing right there. I went straight from Blood Brothers into Big River which was definitely the most fun I have had in a show. It was such a financial success and everyone in the cast were lovely people and good actors and we toured together so it felt like a huge big family. A very special time in my life. Then Home and Away came along and I was just doing 50 worders, then dailies and then became a regular and loved it. I discovered TV suited my body and mind well – you need the discipline of stage to know your lines and prepare, but not the pressure of stage of only having one chance to get it right. I would (probably should) have stayed there on Home & Away but got into Fiddler On The Roof. I joined later in the tour so didn’t quite have the same bond as Big River or Blood Brothers but loved watching Topol every night and the cast were just great people. I have always loved the show so felt blessed to be a part of it. 

Throughout your time in the industry, have you had any issues with haters? If so, how do you deal with them? Does it ever get you down?

I don’t do social media so have never had that issue. In fact, it was probably the opposite. I understudied Karen Knowles for Big River and when I went on for her, I would come out of Stage Door and people would hand me their program to sign and it was opened at her so I just signed Karen’s name (sorry Karen!). They obviously thought I was her – which was a compliment to me. I would love my voice to have sounded like her! To be honest, I wouldn’t listen to anyone’s opinion I didn’t know unless they were an expert in the area, so haters wouldn’t worry me – I would just ignore. Smile and wave! 

Your new project is directing the musical Leap of Faith, which will be at The Independent, North Sydney from the 5th-14th October. You first saw this show in New York in 2012. What made you fall in love with the story?

I love a story that makes you laugh and cry (hint….Blood Brothers, Big River and Fiddler On The Roof!) and this story was that. I like to connect emotionally with a show and often judge it by the music and the book. This had both – great music by Allen Menken who has done so many great Broadway shows. The music is a wonderful combination of Gospel, Country and Broadway. The book had great scenes with interesting characters. Just the perfect combination for me. I remember watching it at the time and thinking this show would work in Australia and would work in the Community Theatre world. I would love to do it professionally one day. 

How long has it taken you to put the whole show together here in Australia?

3 months from starting the first rehearsal to final performance with 2 rehearsals a week.

Did you watch the 1992 film of the same name starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger again since putting the show together?

I have never seen the film! I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe I will watch it after we have closed.

How come you didn’t put it together as soon as you came back home in 2012?

I wrote to the producers on Broadway but they said the rights were not available yet and referred me back to Hal Leonard here in Australia. Unfortunately when they were released in Australia, we had already selected and locked in our shows for the year so we just had to be patient until we could fit it into our show calendar.

The music for the show is composed by 8-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, who has done music for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Little Shop of Horrors. How has it been working with him? What an honour to have him apart of the project.

I would love to meet him one day but for now, am just happy to be involved with his music. He is incredibly clever with his score, even though the cast often comment how difficult the music is and some of the time signatures are a bit tricky. But to me, that’s what makes it so special. There is a number in the show called On The Bus and whenever I hear our three leading ladies sing that number, it sends chills down my spine. Truly brilliant.

Will you be travelling the show anyone else besides Sydney too?

At this stage no. However, I am open to any offers! I will invite some potential producers to see the show and see what they think. It might need some tweaking which I am open to.

Even though you have already achieved so much Chapin, what else can we expect from you in the future?

I would love to get into professional directing. I love the rehearsal process and I love working with actors and creative people. They feel like my family. It’s a bit late in life for me to go back and do a Director’s course, but I would be happy to shadow any professional Director in the hope of first becoming a Resident Director with the dream of one day Directing myself. I am still auditioning as an actor which is a great passion of mine, but finding as I get older that I am a bit more choosy about the shows I want to do. They have to connect with me emotionally in some way. Like Directing, I want to tell a good story.

What advice would you give to our readers if they would like to follow their dreams of getting into the entertainment industry? 

Take it step by step, find the right people to teach you and listen to them, be disciplined, do the work, turn up on time and enjoy the process! 

As a closing statement and what is probably the most important question: Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 14-year-old self?

Everyone has different gifts and talents. Find yours. Don’t feel threatened by anyone else’s, get your ego out of the way and enjoy.

And before we go, if the listeners would like to contact you or find out what you are up to, where should they go?

Our theatre company is the best place to contact:

Thanks again for having a chat to us today Chapin. Keep in touch!

 – Interviewed by Lauren Yeates

Leap of Faith Performance Dates and Times:

Friday October 5, 2018 – 7:30pm
Saturday October 6, 2018 – 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Wednesday October 10, 2018 – 7:30pm
Friday October 12, 2018 – 7:30pm
Saturday October 13, 2018 – 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sunday October 14, 2018 – 3:00pm

Buy your tickets here.


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