Super talented and very accomplished, Kevin J Oliver has many feathers in his cap. From a career in advertising to producing and directing musicals, he has built a strong name for himself in the arena of theatre, drama and choreography at a surprisingly young age! Kevin's determination to succeed, his playful personality and his ability to think out-of-the-box, has certainly set the stage for his enormous success. We chat with Kevin, over a cup of coffee, about his passion for music, art and so much more.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up...
I was born in a small place called Jamshedpur. When I was nine, we moved to Bangalore, which soon became home. After graduating college at St Joseph's Arts & Science in Bangalore, I worked in advertising, believe it or not. I soon changed career paths and began teaching music and choreographing fashion shows in India.
What made you want to be a director of musicals?
Music has always played such a significant role in my life. My mother was a music teacher and used to sing too. Dad was a tenor. As a result, my siblings and I were great singers. I completed my degree at the Trinity College Of Music in London at the age of 17 and later did a course with the National Institute Of Broadcasting in Toronto. A year later, my mother wanted to take a sabbatical from teaching and visit Toronto for a few months and pleaded with me to take her place at the primary school she used to teach at. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would be in this position. I soon began teaching primary school kids and once my mother returned, the school principal offered me a job as a music teacher for senior students. The rest is history!
So, which musicals have you worked on?
Well, I produced my very first musical at the age of 17. It was an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. This triggered my interest in theatre and led me to produce several musical adaptations like The Maids, What The Butler Saw, The Diary Of Anne Frank, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Shadow Box, Charley's Aunt and Cats amongst so many others.
Can you tell us more about 'The Best Of The Best' competition...
GEMS-Global Education Management Systems produces a competition called 'The Best Of The Best', which is the school's version of the American Idol. It gives young talent a chance to showcase their voice. We carried out a series of auditions till we found the best 10 singers, who then formed a boy group of singers – El Nino's. It was a very proud moment for all of us!
What is your all time favourite musical?
It has to be Shakuntala which was staged in Dubai a few years ago. It is very dear to me as I wrote it myself.
What are you most passionate about?
Music and drama, of course! This might shock most people but my passion doesn't stop there – I love working in the fashion industry and have even tried my hand at styling. I currently have a newfound love for photography as well. It's amazing!
Which musical instruments do you play?
I play the piano and the guitar. I did try learning how to play the violin but that was a failed attempt as I soon lost my patience and gave up.
What does working on a musical involve?
Needless to say, my job as the Group Cultural Coordinator of the GEMS group of schools, keeps me on my toes most of the year. I typically cast from the entire school, which means auditioning over 3,000 students. I teach them songs, work on the choreography, stage the production, block the drama sections, work on the look-boards, arrange costumes, make-up, hairstyling and props and also work on light and sound. And lastly, I put together the entire show as professionally as I possibly can.
What do you do to unwind?
I love going back home and just spending some 'me' time – no music, no television, no noise; just some good old-fashioned peace and quiet. Also, my two favourite cities in the world are London for its theatre and old-world charm and Goa for just being Goa! I try to visit both cities whenever I get the chance.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years and what do you hope to achieve?
Nothing would make me happier than directing my own movie. I would jump at the opportunity to work with some of the world's greatest artists and put together a super team. I would also love to see my original musical Shakuntala hit Broadway. Well, I can dream, can't I?