In 1989 I sat and watched on a television as the Berlin Wall fell. After growing up in a time of the Cold War this single event seemed to symbolise an end to a period of history dominated by talk of Nuclear War and spies. An emotional event to say the least and probably one of my first memories of a truly historic event. From that moment I was hooked on the idea of creating a musical around the times which culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall on that November night in 1989. Images of people standing on the Wall, a structure of fear for so many years, still etch in the mind.
The First Draft
Over the next two years a rough draft was made with some of the songs which still remain in the work today. "Chant of the Wall" was the first song created for the show, shortly followed by "Freedom" (although it had a different verse) and the main ballad from the show, "Joshua". Although you can still see where it came from the original idea had Hans being in love with Elin, therefore singing "Always through Always" and Gustav singing "Joshua" to his son during an encounter in West Berlin.
After three years more development a full show was finalised. Working, as I had on the original storyboarding, with Imagine Theatre's Steve Boden we set about producing a small concert production, with a cast of 15 and a small 'band' of 8 volunteers on instruments at the Priory Theatre in Kenilworth in front of a small audience of 120. The date was 21st August 1994. The cast included several actors who have moved through the ranks to entertain far and wide including Darren Carnall (Witches of Eastwick, Chicago, Wicked), Matt Wing (Starlight Express - Germany) and Tracey Shield. The production was well received so, in October of '94 was staged again, this time at the College Theatre in Coventry.
A few months later, a colleague and friend of mine from Birmingham Conservatoire, Clare-Louise Appleby, decided she'd book the Adrian Boult Hall in Birmingham for a concert version again. This time though she called and said 'Tim, you'll need a bigger orchestra in this hall' so the next few months were spent frantically orchestrating the show for a 35 piece concert orchestra and 40 piece choir. Using many of the same cast from the original but also incorporating students from the Birmingham Conservatoire on March 17th 1995 the full concert performance took place. It was both invigorating and frightening but received a standing ovation. Dave Willetts (the second Phantom of the Opera, and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables) used one of the songs, "Hold me Love Me" in a concert at the Manchester Opera House, it all seemed to be going well. But then nothing.
And for a while, it lay dormant.
The New Show
In 2000 I joined a cruise ship, 6 months at sea cruising the Caribbean, which from November to May isn't so bad when you're used to English weather. With this in mind I decided that it was time to do a full rewrite on the show. This new version would start from scratch and use ideas but never quite the whole of the original. New songs were drafted including 'Judgement Day', 'The State and I' and 'When the dream is gone', and some were cut as the whole story took a different angle. Hans was now the main character and everything was structured from him. He, now, would sing the main song 'Joshua' after raising the child as his own. He would have a wife, Marietta, and Elin and Gustav's love story would still be key. Friedrich became a much more rounded character, in the original he was a little more of a boo-hiss pantomime baddie. One night at the beginning of May 2001 20 crew-mates gathered in a little cabin just after midnight to hear what I'd been working on for six months. Their verdict was positive, Berlin was reborn.
In 2006 I bit the bullet. The show had to be seen and, with no other financing options, I would have to take the gamble myself. With a budget of around £13,000 we staged the full production of Berlin in the October of 2006 at the College Theatre in Coventry. With a new cast and the full orchestrated 11 instruments Berlin ran for 4 nights to rave reviews. The album, of the original cast recording, was made available in Dress Circle in London and rose the charts to their Number One CD, outselling the likes of Wicked and Avenue Q for one week in March of 2007. So a showcase was prepared for London, for which the shoe entrepreneur Phillip Jones kindly financed. On 12th June 2007 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London we ran a 60 minute showcase of the work in front of various West End Producers. Although we had great positive feedback no-one wished to take it any further. At the end of the day it's an original story, by a new writer, with new music - therefore, in some ways, deemed too big a risk.
The show is here to be produced by all who want to. It has stirring drama, emotive songs, set over an epic background. It is ideal for any company who want something different but in the ilk of the Jesus Christ Superstars and Les Miserables.
In 2016/17 Tim is planning a full studio album of the show which is being recorded by the Tim Spencer Collective.