The FIVER cast album went straight into the iTunes Soundtrack Chart at number one. Alex is co-writer and also one of the performers for the piece which enjoyed a three-week sell-out run at Southwark Playhouse in 2019.
Now the soundtrack album – recorded live at three concert performances in November last year – is enjoying similar success, taking the number-one slot above Hamilton, Six and The Greatest Showman.
The show was nominated for Best Off-West End Musical in the 2019 WhatsOnStage Awards as well as three West End Wilma Awards, in which Luke Bayer won Best Actor for his performance.
FIVER follows the story of a humble £5 note as it passes through the hands and pockets of different people. Often unnoticed, and obviously unaware, the FIVER is witness to significant moments in each character’s life – from an appreciation of their skills as a street performer, the start or end of relationships, to the simple realisation that they can afford a bed for the night.
“We follow this fiver through its life. It starts off with a busker and is then given to a homeless man who buys a lottery ticket and then someone gets it in change and puts it in a birthday card and so on. There are a lot of scenarios that it goes through, and we meet all the people who have it.
“I started writing it about three years ago. We had a workshop in London in December 2018 and then we had the three-week run in July 2019 which sold out, which was overwhelming. We had lots of people coming to see the show multiple times.
“And then we thought we needed a cast recording, but coronavirus happened.
“But we managed to do a concert version which was seen around the world, and it was that that we used on the recording. We did three live shows and we recorded all the vocals and the instruments and then we put together a cast recording from those.”
There will be plenty of people who can’t remember when they last actually used cash, but as Alex, who plays the busker who narrates the story, explains, that’s actually part of the point of the show: “There are so many different characters in the story that everyone can relate to someone, but we are all seeing that cash is being used less and less, and the piece is a comment on how we as people are also connecting less and less. Now we would rather just use our phone to pay rather than actually speak to someone at a till…”
As for what happens next, Alex and the team are doing some final tweaks to the show and then they hope to get it published and hand it over for someone else to perform.
“Now we have done our version we would like to see what another director or another producer does with it.
“I would like to get it published to get it out there. In our version we had five actors, but you could easily do a version with a cast of 15. It would be really interesting to see what other people would do.”
The cast album entitled FIVER (Live Concert Recording) features the 2019 original cast: Alex James Ellison (who co-wrote the show with musical director, Tom Lees), Luke Bayer (Jamie New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), Aoife Clesham (Peter Pan international tour), Dan Buckley and Hiba Elchikhe.