Every summer for the past 15 years I’ve hot tailed it to spend my entire summer in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. A lot has changed since the first Brits landed there when the Mayflower docked in 1602. They only stayed five weeks before sailing on to their final destination at Plymouth Rock, and they really don’t know what they missed. This captivating beautiful small seaside town has been an artists colony, a Portuguese haven, and now it is an enchanting gay mecca that each summer sees the all-year round population of less than 3000 swell to over 60000 people.
In a series we are calling POSTCARDS FROM P.TOWN, I will introduce you to some of the people and things that create the magic that make this such a ‘must see’ destination for gay people from all over the world.
For the past 3 years when you bike down Commercial Street (the main drag of P Town) at dusk, it’s hard not to notice the dulcet tones coming from a String Quartet playing on the sidewalk outside The Art House to advertise their Show. These are the boys who comprise WELL STRUNG: they are four classically trained musicians who put their own spin on a repetoire of pop and classical music: and they sing too. They also are without doubt the best looking guys on the block, which is more than an added bonus. They have very quickly become a big hit with audiences and when they are not performing in P.Town they are on the road touring, and last year they actually made their London Debut at the Leicester Square Theater.
In their first ever-exclusive UK magazine interview these four disarmingly charming men who the New York Daily News said were ‘the hottest thing with a bow since Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games’ sat down with TheGayUK to talk about making music, meeting men and lots more.
First things first guys. How did Well Strung start?
In the summer of 2010 Chris (Christopher Marchant) was here in P.Town appearing in ‘Naked Boys Singing’ and in between shows he was busking shirtless in the streets and playing his violin and attracting quite a large crowd.
Yes, I remember him very well.
And one person who heard him was Mark Cortale, the Artistic Director of The Art House who immediately offered him a Show at the Theater. That initial idea soon went from being a Solo Performance to maybe forming a String Quartet.
And how did the four of you come together?
Daniel Shevlin: (Cello) Chris called me and I was in Denver finishing a National Tour of ‘Rent’ and was wanting to move, so I jumped at the chance.
Edmund Bagnell: (1st Violin) I was based in NY doing mainly musical theater playing Tobias in the first national tour of Sweeney Todd directed by John Doyle, and I wanted a change.
Trevor Wadleigh: (violist) My career had taken a totally different path and at the time I was actually working in Financial Services, so I was very happy indeed to get back to performing again.
We had out first ‘staged reading’ within a few months and then later in May 2012 we made our official debut at Joe’s Pub in N Y, and then we were ready to hit the streets of P Town with our first ever summer season.
How conscious are you of the fact that you all look as hot as hell?
WS: Well as artists you are always concerned with your appearance as well as your performance but we think we have evolved more since then, so now it’s much less about how we look and much more about how we sound.
But your name alone is intentionally provocative!
Well, our instruments are very well tuned. (laugh)
And you were all shirtless in your first poster.
Well, sex sells (but we don’t sell sex) and we will admit it did help us get our first few audiences in before we could depend on ‘word of mouth’.
I remember sitting in the audience that first year and hearing people somewhat in disbelief saying ‘Wow, these boys can really play, and play well.’ But what they related to as well was how you all shared stories of your life in between your playing which really bonded you with this P-Town crowd.
I think we also opened up the whole potential of listening to classical music to a brand new audience too, which we are so thrilled to continue to do.
Who decides the balance of pop vs. classics in your show, and is the choice of the program a collective decision?
We have a whole team that includes Donna Drake our Director, and David Lavinson our arranger, asides from Mark Cortale our Manager, but essentially we all get a say in what we want to play as we think it an important part of us performing is that we too enjoy all the music.
What immediately strikes me talking to you all is that you are very close to each other. Has that closeness ever led to anything romantic between any of you?
And are you all currently single or?
Two of us are single, one is involved in a relationship and one is in the ‘its complicated ‘ stage.
Which is which?
That would be telling. We’ll let you try and work that out for yourself. (laugh)
What’s your favourite thing about being Well Strung?
Being able to combine all the things we love: namely playing our instruments, singing and getting to be actors too. We love the fact that we are a very unique group, in fact so different from the norm, that it’s tough describing it adequately to people meeting us for the first time. And most importantly we have a great deal of fun just being together and performing especially with a new audience and winning over new ‘converts’.
And now in your third Season here in P-Town and putting the ‘sold out‘ signs up nearly every night you perform, it’s clear that visitors and locals alike love you. What do you think about the magic of this very special place that we get to call home each summer?
It’s the Never Never Land for gay men (and women).
(laughing) Beautifully put. What happens next for Well-Strung after the summer ends?
We have a very extensive nationwide tour with our brand new show POPSSICAL which features the music of Beethoven, Ravel, Madonna, U2 and Miley Cyrus that is going to keep us very very busy. (dates & venues on the website) What we love about our work is that we keep discovering new audiences everywhere: young and old, gay and straight. This year we played to kids at Schools and we also performed at the International Mr Leather (IML) Convention in Chicago.
When you say ‘perform’ at that raunchy venue you mean…?
(laughing) Just on our instruments. But they were such a lovely crowd, and we had a blast and learned a lot too (ahem).
And do you ever think about a life after Well Strung?
NO! (Very empathically). We all feel that there is so much more for us to do and achieve professionally together, and as long as we and our audiences are happy, we will keep developing and creating and playing our hearts out.
At TheGayUK the first story we ran on P-Town this summer was entitled ‘Everything Old is New Again’ which was about the remarkable fact that there are a whole plethora of both veteran and ancient stars performing here even though some are in their 80’s and beyond. Can you see yourself being in that group in the far distant future?
(laugh) Only if you promise to hang on to review us then!
Touché! So what did you think of London when you played there for a week at the Leicester Theatre in the Fall?
It was our first time and we LOVED everything about the City. Everybody was so welcoming and friendly, and in fact, we had our first ever groupies there, which made us for once actually feel like rock stars! (laugh) The Brits were very generous and even though we were newcomers, by the end of our run we had ‘sold out’ which was very exciting
And what did you think of British men?
For some reason, we had this concept of them all being the big rugged types like the Host on TV’s ‘Restaurant Impossible’ and more than a little bit different than the average American gay man.
I think you mean Robert Irvine who is different, and STRAIGHT!
(laugh). Well, the Brits we met turned out to be completely different than that, and a very welcome change. Charming, good looking and very fit but not gym-body obsessed like the men in NY, and very hot indeed!
So you like British men?
(laugh) What’s not to like?
And more than ‘like’ even?
That would be telling, but let’s just say that we are putting a great deal of pressure on our Manager to close the deal that will take us back to London very soon. And not just so that we can perform on the stage!!
Watch this space for the exclusive news when the next Well Strung London dates are announced. Meanwhile get an another taster of the Boys with their latest video Mozart meets Kelly Clarkson.