Discovery of Burns’ Californian tapes sparks a Lossiemouth musical

‘Brigadoon’ star Gene Kelly

A stage musical based on the poetry of Robert Burns that had to be scrapped on the death of the legendary Gene Kelly is set to be given new life – in Lossiemouth.

The remarkable tale links Hollywood legend Kelly with Michael Jackson, ‘Psycho’ star Anthony Perkins, Scottish entertainer John Barrowman and American producer David Gest, who rose to fame in the UK through his appearance in 2006 on ‘I’m a Celebrity – Get me out of here’.

Gest was a close friend of the late Michael Jackson and both had a love of the works of Robert Burns.  He sought to produce a new musical based on the life and works of Scotland’s favourite son – and in 1993 Jackson immediately fell into line by loaning him both his recording studio and musicians at Encino, California.

Orchestrations of 12 Burns poems were created for the project by Paul Allan Johnson while George Rosie created the planned stage musical that was to be given the title ‘Red Red Rose’.

Barrowman – who was this week named an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list – starred in the musical which was performed for potential backers in Hollywood.

‘Singing in the Rain’ and ‘Brigadoon’ star Kelly was recruited to direct the show with Perkins lined up as co-producer.

However, the death of both Kelly and Perkins called a premature halt to the plan with Gest ultimately forced to shelve the musical – and the original recordings were thought to be lost forever, sparking rumours ever since over their very existence.

Then four months ago the recordings were rediscovered, Gest explaining: “I had been asked by the Burns Museum for ages to find the recordings. I had put it all on hold but then, about four months ago, I found the recordings.”

Gest was discussing the find with his representatives in London and after he played the recordings to them he said “they went crazy”. He added: “They introduced me to Tish Tindall and Diane Aspinall (from the Rock Academy Performing Arts in Lossiemouth) – and that is how it all got put together.”

Now Gest has joined forces with the Rock Academy pair to create an entirely new show around the songs – with the show, ‘One Fond Kiss’, being produced in Scotland. He said: “I want to stage this for Scotland, with Scottish talent.

“Robert Burns was a genius – an ordinary man, but a genius, the people’s poet. This has been a lifelong dream to see a play about Burns’ life finally come to fruition.

“Diane and Tish heard the recordings through my representatives and telephoned me to say we are ready to start the new play right now. How could I refuse two such talented Scottish ladies.”

Tish Tindall, who will take on the role as ‘narrator’ when the new production takes to the stage, said: “This is such an extraordinary production – simple yet so very effective.

“The show is being planned for the early part of next year and we will be holding auditions very soon to find dancers and singers who we will train to perform alongside myself and David Gest.

“I am ecstatic that Gest has agreed to join the cast to recite the ‘Address To A Haggis’ and play the part of ‘Tam ‘O’ Shanter’.

“David is loved by the Scottish people ever since his appearance on ‘I’m A Celebrity’ where he became a household name in the UK. He was also the first person to be on that show to then get three prime-time TV series.

“This play will show another facet of his many talents.”

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