A comedy musical about the Second World War you say? Yes indeed! Set in 1940, Doodle – The Musical! is a loving pastiche of World War II action movies written by American Idol’s Andy Street and Jonathan Kydd with direction by Olivier Award nominee Jonathan Moore. As the show begins performances at Waterloo East Theatre, we caught up with Kydd to get the scoop about his creative process and what to expect from the ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ show.
Doodle is set in the 1940s during the Second World War – a rather sensitive period in history. How did you go about writing a comedy musical instead of going the heavy route?Myself and my writing partner Andy Street like writing comedy. We’ve written three shows together before and they were all comedies. But in this instance, I went to see Book of Mormon and was inspired by its South Park irreverence. And I thought: ‘I have to make my next show irreverent.’ So there are a lot of irreverent comedy songs in Doodle, despite it being a dark period in British history. In fact I think the darkness of the period challenged us to be funny. Having said that, I enjoy writing comedy songs. I met Andy 20 years ago when I was writing comedy songs for the comedian Brian Conley ([who was] recently on Strictly). I wrote him 25 for his series, including one on the Royal Variety show. I write comedy songs for my band The Rudy Vees. We gig and make videos.
Can you tell us more on what the musical is about?
The premise is that Barnes Wallis, famous for inventing the Bouncing Bomb that bounces into dams and destroys them in the Ruhr valley (about which the film The Dam Busters was made), is kidnapped by the Nazis several years before his invention to make them an exploding bouncing submarine, ‘the Bouncing Doodle U Boat’. No one believes this to be true, as Wallis doesn’t have much of a reputation other than bouncing things, so a ‘Z team’ of misfits, including the actor Errol Flynn and a Sherlock Holmes impersonator, is assembled to go out and find out. After they’ve set off, it’s revealed that not only has Wallis been kidnapped, but he’s built the bomb and it’s functional! Can the oddball group get to the bomb and destroy it in time?
What was your inspiration behind the piece?
Every war film from 1945 to 1980 has the same plot: Identify the problem. Get a team together. Solve it. This is the plot of Guns of Navarone, Wild Geese, Dam Busters, Dirty Dozen, Heroes of Telemark, etc. [It’s also inspired by] my father Sam Kydd, who made 240 films, [including] dozens of such films as different members of the armed forces between 1945 and 1960. His character is in the musical!
How did you come about to collaborate with Andy Street? What is your favourite memory of working with him?
We were both involved in London Weekend Television’s The Brian Conley Show in the 90s. Andy was Musical Director and I was an actor in the sketches. One day Brian said he’d run out of songs, so I started writing songs for him that Andy arranged. I was looking for someone to write with five years ago and his name and picture popped up on Facebook. He now lived in LA, but we Skyped and found it easy to write that way, so that’s what we do! My favourite memory is of writing a song called ‘Black and Blue’ with him from our musical The Hard Boiled Egg and the Wasp. Best lyric I’ve ever written.
What is your favourite moment in the show?
The song ‘Fish and I’, which is sung by two comedy policemen. [It’s an] utterly ridiculous homage to Music Hall.
What do you hope the audience will walk away with after watching the show?
I hope they will have found it very funny and they’ll recommend it to their friends.
Doodle – The Musical! is currently playing at Waterloo East Theatre through 28 January.