Swansea born Anthony Lyn trained as an actor at RWCMD before going on to develop his career as a performer in Musical Theatre, and later as a director for Cameron Mackintosh, and now Disney. He recently directed the Les Misérables segment of the Oscars ceremony 2013, and as part of his work with Disney, he is visiting the UK to oversee the cast change of The Lion King in London. Freshly flown in from New York, Anthony returned to RWCMD to run a masterclass for MA Musical Theatre students. In between sessions, we chatted to him about his time at RWCMD, and asked him for some career advice..
What were you looking forward to working through with the students today?
On a weekly, sometimes daily, basis I sit at auditions for shows, both in London and in the States. I was hoping to provide a very practical and helpful knowledge of what is the correct thing to do and what is the incorrect thing. What NOT to do is very important – it’s very easy to put a panel off: the thirty seconds when you walk in can be the make or break time. Panels can lose attention very quickly unless that person does something to grab them. And there is so much that goes into the presentation and the choice of song. I hope my insights and practical knowledge of what people look for in auditions were helpful.
In auditions people really want to do something they’re comfortable with, but it also has to be something that has an impact and shows them off. I was doing a workshop in New York for the Casting Directors Association and a girl came in to sing. It was lovely and I said ‘well that was all very ‘along the flat’ and you obviously have a lovely voice, but what else do you have that you sing?’ and she said that she had a song from Sister Act but she didn’t feel totally comfortable with it. She did it and I told her that this was the song she should be doing, because it had excitement in it – impact, high and low notes; no-one wants bland. It’s better to be bad than bland. It’s all about telling a story – absolutely.
I had a wonderful, wonderful time today; I was buzzing from the experience all the way back on the train. You should be very proud of the things you achieving at the College and the talented students you have enlisted.
Can you tell me a bit about your time at the College?
I was on the drama course for three years from 1983-86. I always had a very good time here. I made some wonderful friends. I remember there being a very strong ethos here about being very committed and focused on working, and you could see, even as students, the difference between the people who worked hard and were committed and those who were not. There was the realisation that if you wanted to have any success in the industry then that level of commitment was going to be essential.
What do you think of what the College is doing in Musical Theatre?
Having someone like Vivien who knows the industry so well and who is part of the industry herself is very important. It’s incredibly important that you keep current with people coming back to direct shows– like Ken Caswell, Shaun Kerrison, Julian Bigg, who are very current and at the top of their game.
It’s highly likely that anyone graduating from here will be – in a very short space of time – auditioning for those people in the professional world, so it’s great that those people see them right now.
I see the College’s name more and more. To have this level of training in such a great city as Cardiff helps people to realise that they don’t have to go to London now. The facilities here are way ahead of almost all of the London colleges and the standard of teachers coming in are up there and above the colleges in London. RWCMD has an awful lot to offer without the hassle of living in London as a student. That can be next to impossible these days and very expensive. Cardiff is safe; you can walk everywhere and it’s relatively cheap to live in. And it’s only two hours from London, so it’s easy for people to get back and forth.
What top tip would you offer to students and graduates?
I’d advise them to continue training after graduation and to continue becoming involved in everything to do with their art form, no matter what size or scale. There’s a lot of theatre that can be very fulfilling in lots of places – getting into a West End show or being in London shouldn’t be the be all and end all. No matter what you do or where you go it will always lead to connections and the opportunity for doing other things.
In a musical theatre performer I look for a level of interpretation of the song; of acting the song. A comfort and confidence without arrogance.