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Success….or failure?

March 10, 2014

Since I’ve moved to London I’ve started to take a greater interest in the West End, especially new shows that come in and how they do. Obviously a number of factors contribute to whether a show will be a success or failure, however it seems from paying close attention there is a kind of pattern going on. So let’s split this into categories:

Broadway Transfer: The Book of Mormon opened a year ago to rave reviews, and has mainly sold out since then. I have yet to see it however was lucky enough to go backstage; the simple set and costumes but with some quirky props does seem to lead to a success. Everyone I know who has seen has loved it and I can see it running for a long time. I’m sure some of its success is to do with the South Park connection and the fact there was such a hype before it even came over. The second Broadway transfer we received was Once, based off the 2006 film, and yet again received brilliant reviews. I’ve yet to see this either but the actor-musician aspect really intrigues me so it’s definitely on my list. However I can’t see why it’s such a hit when similar musicals from similar basis material have failed.

Royal Shakespeare Company/National Theatre: These are two very large and important subsidised companies in Great Britain that produced a great amount of new material. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest success is Matilda which opened last October; they had the money to allow for a long rehearsal period followed by a trial run at Stratford-upon-Avon so they knew it would be popular before they transferred to the West End. National Theatre is similar: War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time and One Man Two Guv’nors all started out as new productions at the National Theatre, with long production processes and a long run at the National Theatre before transferring. I’m not saying this isn’t a good way of working, but there should be more opportunity or producers should undertake a trial period before transferring to the cut throat world of the West End.

Quiet Successes: By this I mean shows that may have had mixed reviews but seem to keep going and have great ticket sales. The Bodyguard opened in December 2012, and I’m surprised it’s still going strong as it doesn’t seem to have a great target audience and did get some mixed reviews however it’s booking until August 2014 so obviously they are doing something right. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opened last May (I’ve seen it twice so far!) to quite mixed reviews especially about the score and the storyline. I’ve always attended mid-week and had my tickets upgraded every time, even to the front row so thought that maybe it wasn’t selling well. However it’s since announced record-breaking box office takings and has extended its booking until May 2015.

Early Closures: This is the worst section to write as I hate to see a show close before it’s had a proper chance. Two shows are closing on March the 29th, ironically each written by one of the greatest writing teams, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice known for Joseph together and Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King respectively. Stephen Ward, music composed by Lloyd Webber opened in December and announced its closing date today despite booking previously being opened till May. It’s based on the Profumo affair of 1963 and had mixed reviews. Tim Rice’s From Here to Eternity, based off the book, opened in October to mixed reviews, though everyone praised the imaginative and beautiful score. I went to see it myself a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it – My companion and I could see there was something missing but couldn’t quite put our finger on why it is failing. The location, the non-family friendly material and the basis material with no great target audience is probably not helping but it should surely have a chance.

This is a small selection of shows however they’ve all had very different beginnings and very different runs. There is of course the long running shows that look like they will never close such as the Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Jersey Boys, Lion King however there’s nothing to say that one day they may shock us. There’s a number of musicals opening over the next few months including a X Factor musical called I Can’t Sing and a revival of Miss Saigon – I look forward to watching them develop.

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