I sat down with some of the cast and crew of this term’s “new, totally unofficial, ginger-inclusive parody musical” to learn more about their star-studded production.

Maddy Power stars as the red-headed pop starKatie Kasperson

On a cold February night, I am welcomed into Magdalene’s Cripps Court by director James Carroll and producer Katie Kasperson to get a look at some never-before-seen material from their new show. Despite a Google Maps blunder landing me somewhere up the street, I manage to follow the melodious sounds of Carroll and Kasperson’s greetings into a small music practice room where director Alex Mentzel and performer Maddy Power are waiting. Shivering from the bitter night, I soon warm up in the glow of Power’s vibrant (and real, I am assured) ginger hair.

“Ed laments the “terracotta jail” of his hair colour”

“I wasn’t going to do any theatre this term and instead focus on some self-care, but when I saw it advertised as a “ginger-inclusive musical”, I knew I had to do it”, she tells me effusively. Mentzel explains that Power plays our titular protagonist, who begins the show as a beaten-down 5-year-old, bullied on the playground as a “carrot-top” and “orangutan”. Carroll, Mentzel, and Power launch into the first song they’ve prepared for me: a parody of Sheeran’s ‘Bad Habits’ where Ed laments the “terracotta jail” of his hair colour. I am almost instantly in stitches. As Power’s clear vocals and beautifully awkward dance moves fill the small practice room, it’s clear that this production isn’t (totally) a joke: there’s some serious talent behind the operation. Power does an excellent job of bringing the hilarious lyrics to life, and I really feel for the little boy reaching out for support from the “two percent with an auburn heart”.

As I recover from my fits of laughter, Carroll and Mentzel tell me a few sneak peeks of the special moments of the production. “We’ll have a drag cameo from a Dragtime regular, and even some appearances from pop royalty”, promises Carroll, perhaps hinting at a certain feather-clad rocketman. “We’ve also got a live band, which will hopefully bring some life and excitement to the performance.” I have visions of Power tearing up the stage to the sounds of Cambridge’s finest synths.

Ed's life is reimagined in this hilarious take on stardomKatie Kasperson

After his childhood bullying, however, things don’t get easier for Ed. Carroll and Mentzel say that he will face enemies: a “rat-pack music mafia” trying to co-opt him for their own creative purposes, and the computer-minded executives at “Streaming HQ”, who see music only in terms of revenue, to name a few. He also faces the same mundane money struggles as non-celebrities like myself. Power performs the next song with Carroll on the keys, a parody of ‘Castle on the Hill’ in which Ed realises that in order to diversify his portfolio and make some extra money, he should start writing songs for female pop stars as well. “My rent is due”, Power sings ruefully, and I’m almost sympathetic to Ed’s pleas that the music industry should “pass the pen back to the blokes”. As I descend once again into peals of laughter, I’m reminded of the tongue-in-cheek comedy songs of Bo Burnham. I’m not sure how Sheeran would feel about that comparison.

“He’s a bit of an everyman. His story is relatable to a lot of people”

After being treated to the hilarious preview performances, I get into the question portion of the evening. I start with the question on everyone’s lips: does Ed know? Carroll and Mentzel laugh. “No, we haven’t reached out to him, but we did see someone tag him in the comments of our trailer video. That made me a bit nervous,” Carroll confesses. I assure them that Ed probably wouldn’t mind. Power, who has done extensive character research on her “ginger idol”, agrees: “Everything he does is a bit of a meme”. When I question what drew them to the Suffolkian singer-songwriter as a muse, Mentzel says, “In some ways, he’s a bit of an everyman. His story is relatable to a lot of people.” Although I don’t have the “rust tresses on my head” that Power laments in her performances, I see what they mean. We’ve all felt the impostor syndrome associated with success or struggled with our creative identity. Celebrities: they’re just like us!


Mountain View

Heroes brings vital and unique voices to the stage

According to the directors, the idea for the musical came to them on Christmas Eve last year. “I wondered if anyone had done a parody musical about Ed Sheeran, so we did some Googling. There were parody songs, but no cohesive story,” Carroll remembers. “We wanted to revive the annual Magdalene Musical that died over Covid, and this seemed like the perfect production.”

Mentzel agrees. “We wanted to give people a fun night out, something light and happy after some dark times. But we haven’t compromised on quality: we’ve got some brilliant choreography, fast-paced comedy, and fantastic music from our live band.” From what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to agree.

Ed: The Musical, starring “four real authentic gingers”, is playing at Cripps Auditorium, Magdalene College, from 3rd – 5th March. “Don’t” miss out on this “Perfect” production: get your tickets here.