Meet Roger Hewett – Band Leader, CORTEO

The internationally-renowned Cirque du Soleil have productions playing across the globe, including Corteo which is currently making its way across Europe before coming to the UK next month. Jacob Bush at the West End Best End site was recently lucky enough to speak to the show’s band leader, Roger Hewett – an accomplished musician who has also worked with Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Alliance Atlantis, Lionsgate, CBS and more.

Q. How did you first get involved with Cirque du Soleil?

As a musician, I had always admired the music of Cirque. I successfully auditioned for the company when I lived in Montreal, but was not available to leave on a long-term contract at that time. Finally, in late 2004, I was approached by the composer who had been hired to write for a new show. He asked if I could assist him with the arranging of the music and the formation of the band. The rest is history!

Q. Can you tell us a bit about what your role as band leader entails?

Being a live show, anything can, and does, happen. It’s largely a collaborative effort between the musicians. The music is structured in such a way that it is flexible. It’s my job to keep a close eye on the onstage action and to shape the music to fit. I do this by communicating with the musicians throughout the performance, in order to hold things together.

Q. You’ve worked with such a wide variety of companies, from Disney to CBS to Lionsgate and Paramount. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Probably handling the orchestrations for some major features, including Double Jeopardy (Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd). Though having been involved with Corteo since 2005, it all seems so long ago now!

Q. Is there anything that you would still like to do in your career in the future that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?

I would dearly love to conduct a musical. I enjoy being in the theatre, and especially adore orchestral direction.

Q. What is the idea behind Corteo and how have audiences been receiving it so far?

Corteo is about a clown dreaming of his passing, and funeral parade. As dark as that may sound, it is about a celebration of life. His friends and family coming together to recall moments of his past. I used to joke we “put the fun in funeral!” This particular show touches so many emotions on a deeply human level, which I believe we can all use these days.

Q. Cirque du Soleil is hugely popular across the globe. What do you think gives these shows such an international appeal?

The colours, the high-level artistry and incredible acrobatics. And great music! Each Cirque show tells a different story. It’s an interesting experience traveling across many countries, as we do, but the ability to appeal to the human side of our lives is the thread that holds us all together.

Q. What can people expect when they come to see Corteo?

There is a dramatic opening that switches very quickly to some beautiful artistry, into some lighthearted humour…all within the first 15 minutes. And it continues from there. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Children also love it! I once heard somebody say “it’s a show that makes you want to go out and hug your neighbour.” I think if the audience allows themselves to be immersed, to let go of their daily lives for a couple of hours, they will have a great experience.

Q. You can also see Roger discussing the show’s score in the video below…