For some children brought up in an urban environment, the first tree that they are likely to have any emotional connection with could be one that comes into their home or school, perhaps at Christmas.
LITTLE FIR TREE is a new feel-good family musical, aimed at the same demographic as ‘The Snowman’.
While entertainment is the first priority for this show, there are also lessons to be learned from its story. The situations that Little Tree encounters parallel those of every child, and his adventures show the power of friendship and loyalty – especially the importance of never giving up.
LITTLE FIR TREE also reminds us of the value in preserving our woodland areas for the future well-being of the planet. Little Tree, for example, is not chopped down and disposed of at the end of the story (as in the original) but dug up and replanted as a symbol of growth.
Using the concert premiere of the show as a platform has allowed us to build a series of workshops and events which not only support and celebrate the important elements in the story, but also the importance of trees in our cities.
We believe that we have a chance with this show to deepen the emotional connection children may have with trees. We also hope to inspire the wider values of preserving woodlands for future generations. Our ability to do this is greatly enhanced by the support of The Woodland Trust.
The LITTLE FIR TREE PROJECT creates a bridge between music, theatre and the arts, and the environment. Together with the Musical, the Project opens a door to a magical world of trees which children, especially those in an urban environment, might not even know exists’
What has been so exciting about the LITTLE FIR TREE PROJECT is that it has the potential to engage the whole community so that together we can really make a difference.
THE ISLINGTON COUNCIL has shown great interest, and councillors and officers from various departments have been keen to promote – what is being offered. We were delighted to welcome Councilor Rowena Champion, who is the chair of Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee along to one of our ‘Tree Awareness’ workshops this Autumn so she could to see how the Islington Primary school children responded to hearing all about their neighborhood trees.
We’ve also been given sound advice from James Rice from the Woodland Trust who has helped us get the message across. Here’s what he says:
“Trees are a public asset and belong to all of us, so it's up to all of us us to make sure they're recognised and valued. The Little Fir Tree Project will do just that, teaching the next generation of their value and worth.”
Our ‘Tree Awareness Workshops’ covered topics such as identifying and describing the functions of different parts of trees and what trees actually need to grow and of course the very important point of how trees act to counter pollution. Which, by the way happens to work very well with the Year Three science curriculum.
During the two hour workshops, the youngsters spent an hour in Thornhill Park identifying the different trees, learning how they grow and how they help to clean our air and help us breathe more easily. Then they went on a nature trail through the park, finding things for themselves, before heading inside the RIGPA Centre for a hot chocolate and to hear a preview of the music and from the show and to ask more questions about trees.
When it came to talking about seasonal changes in trees of course that’s when LITTLE FIR TREE came into his own ...after all he is an ‘evergreen’!
We also try to support the disadvantaged schools by offering them free tickets to see the show, when it is on, if their timetable will allow.
By offering a combination of a Theatre concert, an outdoor nature and environmental learning experience and a possibly even a tree planting session if the schools take up the Woodland Trust offer is making the LITTLE FIR TREE PROJECT a memorable experience for everyone involved.
‘A Magical new musical show for all the family’
It was such a delight to bring LITTLE FIR TREE to Kings Place, London in December 2018 as part of their Christmas Celebrations.
The show is a new vibrant family musical based around the Hans Christian Andersen story, re-imagined and composed by Megg Nicol and David Stoll.
Showcased in two concert performances at Kings Place, with Sylvester McCoy (The Hobbit Trilogy, Doctor Who), a full cast and orchestra, this production has been widely praised and acts as a perfect launchpad for our goal of staging a full-scale musical.
LITTLE FIR TREE - the Musical, provided the inspiration for LITTLE FIR TREE - The Project; uniquely linking the Arts and the Environment to highlight the importance of trees in our cities, and to complement the Woodland Trust’s inner-city tree planting strategy.
Initial comments on the show have been very positive including a delightful quote from Michael Simkins in The Times newspaper regarding shows he’d seen over Christmas, writing that he "was enchanted by a children's musical, Little Fir Tree, at Kings Place".
The Gala Premiere was directed by David Ian Neville, and the musical director was Stephen Clarke.
Claire Lyth's (Designer) imaginative visuals brought the stage to life and her beautifully crafted projections of a fairytale forest with all its subtle shades of colours created a strikingly atmospheric glow. It was not difficult for the audience to be naturally drawn into the world of the LITTLE FIR TREE. Staging and costumes were kept simple in line with a concert format.
The cast led by Sylvester McCoy included David Burt, Owen Oakeshott, Elena Breschi, Billie Hamer, Simon Anthony, Ryan Hunter and Nancy Hill.
The story revolves around Little Fir Tree as he struggles with the challenges and joys of growing up in the Great Forest, where animals live happily alongside talking trees. A little girl called Lara lives nearby and shares this dream. But unforeseen dangers threaten this idyllic place.
When Little Fir Tree’s best friend, Owl, goes missing, the future looks bleak as the two bully trees, Big and Bigger, take advantage of his absence to plot to destroy the Little Fir Tree’s dream of happiness and turn Lara’s world upside down.
There is a strong environmental message throughout the show that children can relate to. The Little Fir Tree for instance is not chopped down after the festivities but dug up and replanted.
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Above is the programme from the Little Fir Tree Concert at Kings Place with details of cast and everyone involved in the show. Clive Anderson ( President of the Woodland Trust) very kindly said a few words introduction.
You could say that LITTLE FIR TREE is a tiny tree with big ideas. The aim is simple; we have successfully staged the concert showcase and now we would like to get on a full-scale production. We believe that once established the show could run every year as a Festive Evergreen.
Supporting us on this exciting adventure is the Woodland Trust who not only brightened up the Kings Place foyer with their Festive stall but they also gave away party bags that contained a sapling tree for each child as they left the venue.
It is our pleasure to be able work with the Woodland Trust and to contribute to their efforts in broadcasting the message, that trees are important and the more we plant, the healthier our planet!
During October 2018 a series of ten free ‘Tree Awareness’ workshops for local Primary Schools took place in Thornhill Square Park, Islington. Incorporated into the Workshop content were many of the themes from the show.
The next step for us is to share LITTLE FIR TREE - The Musical and LITTLE FIR TREE - The Project with a wider audience.
As LITTLE FIR TREE himself says, ‘I am growing, watch me growing’!
Here's a little taster from the show ' Forest of Dreams' sung by Emma Stevens and produced by Pete Woodroffe (yet to be released).
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As a performer Megg has starred in four West End Musicals; BUDDY, BLOCKHEADS, I’M GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER AND TAKING IT ON THE ROAD plus SPIKE MILLIGAN AND FRIENDS and supporting roles in others.
Megg was in the first cast of the show BUDDY that ran for twelve years in the West End, London and it a was a real energy busting roller coaster of a show. At the audition she was asked if she could play any musical instruments and she told them guitar and violin... however she hadn’t in fact played violin since she was at school. Then on the first day of rehearsals she was told to bring her ‘fiddle’ to discover she was being featured as a fabulous fiddle playing country artist with a country band.
Megg says: ‘A good fiddle player I am not so I was totally freaked to have a solo in the number and at my first attempt to play it the cast roared with laughter’ I had to practice a lot... and in the end I played on the cast album too.....which incidently happened to go Platinum...probably no thanks to me’
BLOCKHEADS was the story of Laural and Hardy and Megg played Stan Laurel’s mistress Mae Daelburg. Life was never easy with Mae.
Megg played Alice twice in I’M GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER AND TAKING IT ON THE ROAD. Once in at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue with Ben Cross and Diane Langton and then at The Edinburgh Festival with Gretchen Cryer the writer and original Broadway star.
SPIKE MILLIGAN AND FRIENDS started as a tour of the country that ended up in the West End with Megg playing second on the bill to Spike.
Megg says: ‘ This experience is actually worthy of a chapter in itself I first met Spike doing a recording session for a musical he was writing with Ed Welsh...and we got on really well, thus leading to the show. I learned a lot from Spike about ‘how to improvise ‘ on stage. He used to announce me by saying ‘ Brought up by the Nuns and brought down by me.....’
And at the Royal Command performance we did of the show he called Prince Charles ..’Trainee King’
Before moving to London from Scotland Megg acted with PITLOCHRY FESTIVAL THEATRE, ROYAL LYCEUM, PERTH REP , DUNDEE REP and she also did various Folk tours as a singer/songwriter working with Scottish Folk bands such as FINN MACUILL and hosting and singing on TV series like STOVIES with Alistair Mac Donald also SOUNDS OF SCOTLAND that featured acts like RUNRIG, THE MACALLMANS or BARBARA DICKSON.
However she did not want to be totally defined in that genre and eventually she moved to London to try her hand at musicals.
Her first major break through on arriving in London was to land an understudy role in FIRE ANGEL which was a multi –million pound rock opera of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE choreographed by ARLENE PHILIPS and directed by BRAHAM MURRAY. This lasted for exactly six weeks in the West End but in that time Megg’s understudy role turned into a major part when the star dropped out. It was during one of these performances she was spotted and asked to audition for a show that went into rehearsals just after the closesure.
Ironically it was a gig singing in Gaelic as a solo performer at the LONDON PALLADIUM for an amazing Celtic ice ballet with JOHN CURRY ; so the Scottish Folk connection was perfect for that.
At the time she was also in a couple of bands 'FLICKS' and 'GIRL FRIDAY' which was Megg’s attempt at being a punk and as she says...
‘ We had a single out that John Peel loved ‘ TUNING IN’ but basically I looked too wholesome to pull it off ...’
However the wholesome image plus a great interest in pop music and songwriters led to her Presenting and singing on various network TV series of the time ..POP QUEST being one. This was a quiz program that was recorded at Yorkshire TV as live. Megg Presented it with MIKE READ.
After that came GET IT TOGETHER that she presented with ROY NORTH and OLLIE BEAK..one of her favorite owls.
Plus others BEST DISCO IN TOWN, STOVIES, GATHER ROUND, MUSICAL JOURNEY plus guest spots on several others, POP GOSPEL, SONGBOOK, POP THE QUESTION and a few TV specials such as GIRLS FOR GERSHWIN, GRETCHEN CRYER SPECIAL.
In three weeks our show ‘The Drummer Boy of Waterloo’ premieres in Aldeburgh with Jubilee Opera, at the Jubilee Hall and I have to say I am beginning to feel very excited...
Its actually the weekend of November 7th and 8th.
“Having the chance to ‘do’ animation voices is like most things in the business and depends on lots of luck and being in the right place at the right time plus also having the ability to actually do the job.
My chance to do ‘ Voices’ came while I was performing in the West End. A good friend from BUDDY had hooked up with a musician and producer who specialsied in voice–overs and just happened to need an actress who could play ‘crazy’ American kids and Moms in a cartoon series called BAMBOO BEARS.
I was given a ‘try-out’ gig but I was strangely qualified to do the job since I had been born in Canada and lived in the US as a child...so I had a good ear for the accent....”
Interestingly this was just at the start of the Canadian and US animation companies recording their voices in the UK because it was cheaper. ( UK companies often record their voices using American accents too for the world market )
Even the popular UK series 64 ZOO LANE was redubbed in US accents for FOX TV and Megg was one of the two actresses that revoiced it.
Cut to the present day and Megg has now voiced hundreds of animations.
As part of a team of four voice-artists KATE ROBBINS, BOB SAKER and DAN RUSSELL of CHARACTER DEVELOPMENTS... (all songwriters and musicians by the way) Megg voiced MEME’S GANG and the series MEME AND MR. BOBO playing her regular characters OLGA and BIG MIKE plus MEME’S MOM and others as necessary.
Since most cartoon series are done in huge batches the scripts are sight read and the characters are dished out on the spot depending on what’s needed...
“It’s brilliant fun but not for the faint hearted.... I’ve discovered silly things like my ‘dog’ barking skills are more suited to being a terrier rather than a labrodour for instance....and you must feel completely happy swapping from one voice to the other as you will certainly end up at some point ‘talking to yourself “
Her animation series include fifty–two episodes of TITEUF playing EDDY and other characters such as Titeufs Mum and some of the other kids.
NINI’S TREEHOUSE playing OOPAGOGO was a very tricky series to voice’.
The scripts did not sync with what was on screen so I used to have to watch the sequence through..... get the gist of the script and improvise the voices and reactions watching the screen.... No wonder OOPAGOGO was green. So was I by the end of 84 episodes.
It should also be mentioned that Megg did some voices on THE WILLOWS IN WINTER narrated by VANESSA REDGRAVE.