Watching the West End in the last few of years it has become noticeable that new musicals don’t do so well. Just to name a few that have closed prematurely – Spring Awakening, Hair, The Drowsy Chaperone and most recently Lend Me A Tenor.
It seems British audiences do not like new shows. Unlike on Broadway where shows like Rent, Spring Awakening and Hair run successfully, here they die a very fast death. Shows like Lend Me a Tenor that do fantastically out of town don’t do well at all in town. Over here it seems that the show needs to be a jukebox musical, have a celebrity in it or be based on a movie. Either that or it needs to be a show that has already made it big somewhere else for example Wicked.
One thing I have noticed, though, is the reaction of some Tweeters. When a show like Lend Me a Tenor closes many people blame it on the types of musicals I discussed above, but are they really to blame? As a lover of all West End theatre, I definitely think that shows such as Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You have a place in the West End. Every show has a place. Many people are very quick to pull down shows like Shrek, that feature a number of “well known people” in roles, but I think Shrek would still be successful without those people just because it is Shrek.
It is understandable in the current financial climate that audiences don’t want to see something that they might not like, but personally I think a show that you think you might like is as much of a gamble as seeing something totally new. Who says just because you like Queen you will like We Will Rock You? Who says just because you like Shrek the movie you will like Shrek the musical? Who says because everyone loves Wicked you will like it?
What I think we need, readers, is to educate friends and family in the ways of theatre. Take a friend to see a new show. Take family to see new shows. Talk to people about shows you love. Only theatre fans can save new shows in the West End by talking to everyone about them and making people want to see them. Let’s be original and break free of the cycle of seeing shows that others see all the time. I’m not necessarily talking about completely new shows either. Maybe just something you haven’t seen before. A show that is new to you. See something new – you might like it!
I believe in theatre new and old – do you?