The Thrustmaster

Choreographer Alistair David in rehearsals for Annie Get Your Gun at the Crucible, Sheffield
Choreographer Alistair David in rehearsals for Annie Get Your Gun at the Crucible, Sheffield

Choreographer Alistair David is the only member of the creative team behind Annie Get Your Gun at the Crucible who has been part of the last four years of Christmas musicals.

That means he is used to working on the theatre’s distinctive thrust stage. “When I first worked in this space it was quite strange for me because I think I had only worked on proscenium arch stages and it does take a bit of getting used to but now it is like second nature working with three sides,” he says.

“Daniel Evans was a real stickler about making sure all those people at the sides don’t feel like they are in the wings. And about using the space as best as you possibly can. Once it clicks in it is quite exciting and a nice space to work with.”

And he believes the Irving Berlin musical was made for it.

“There’s a big opening number, There’s No Business Like Show Business, which was actually written for this show. One of the most famous greatest musical numbers ever written and it’s a love letter to the business and it opens the show and is a recurring theme.

“Then there’s a lovely song in the second act which Annie Oakley fronts, The Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night, another classic. So there’s a lot. My Defences are Down which is a boys’ number.”

Apart from the dancing, one of the challenges is a gun drill. “At the moment we are trying to get our boys to perfect a skill which is acquired over many years in a military sense. The gun drill was used as a promotional tool for the Buffalo Bill Show.”

David was a dancer in musical theatre up until about 10 years ago when he chose to specialise in choreography.

“The road has been hard, lots of ups, lots of downs,” he reflects. “Because unlike a performer where you can turn up and audition and if you’re good enough you will get the job it doesn’t quite work like that. It’s about contacts and making opportunities and chances for yourself. In particular forming relationships with directors and just because I was a successful dancer didn’t mean I was going to be a good choreographer.”

He soon proved himself. In addition to those Crucible Christmas hits, Show Boat, Anything Goes, Oliver! and My Fair Lady his credits include Two Noble Kinsmen for the RSC and UK tours of Ghost and The Addams Family, Kiss Me Kate at the Proms, not to mention directing and choreographing Robbie Williams’ worldwide tour, Swings Both Ways,

“Funnily enough, a show I did with Paul Foster (director of Annie Get Your Fun) was the one that changed everything and gave my career momentum,” he reveals. “And it was with Anna-Jane Casey who’s with us again in a show called Bells Are Ringing at a tiny little London fringe venue, the Union Theatre. Critically it was very successful and got noticed and got people talking,” he continues, neglecting to mention he won Best Choreographer Off West End Award.

“And it went from there although every step is another step. You form an association with a director, like Daniel (Evans) and I will be working with him again at Chichester. That is how it works, forming those kind of relationships.”

Previews of Annie Get Your Gun start tonight (Thursday, December 8) is at the Crucible and it continues until January 21.