Next week, The Stage will host an event looking at auditioning for television talent shows, with Donna Soto-Morettini promising to explain what producers of shows such as ITV’s Superstar and BBC1’s The Voice look for.
When he found out about the event, anonymous Twitter personality @westendproducer asked whether it had “really come to this?”.
Well, the answer is yes, because as the description of The Stage’s event explains: “Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the TV Talent show has become a legitimate alternative way to launch a performing career”.
Coincidentally, as we gear up for our own event on this subject matter, I interviewed three former contestants from musical theatre talent shows this week, about why they decided to take part and what their careers have been like since.
Two of these – Daniel Boys, who appeared on Any Dream Will Do, and Helena Blackman, who was a runner up on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? – had trained professionally and worked prior to taking part in the series.
The third, Niamh Perry, who was a contestant on I’d Do Anything, had not been to drama school, and actually took part in the show in the middle of doing her A Levels.
Daniel, who went to Guildford School of Acting, told me why he took part in Any Dream Will Do:
Joseph is a part I’ve always loved and I thought if this is the way you have to audition for the part I am going to apply and see what happens. I tried to treat it like any other audition really.
That said, he told me that the reaction he got from people he knew when he told them his plan was “mixed”.
Lot of people said how brave I was doing it, and some were like ‘You’re so stupid as this could ruin you’. Luckily it didn’t do that and I think it did the opposite. It got me out there and known a bit more by people. And not just the public but by musical theatre producers. Suddenly I was being seen for things that I may not have been seen for before.
Daniel of course went on to appear in Avenue Q and will next year be part of the new tour of High Society.
Helena also trained at Guildford School of Acting. She was working before the auditions for How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? came up, and told me she was also keen to audition because of the role on offer.
But she told me it was a risk for her and that coming out of the first ever musical theatre casting show was particularly challenging:
My agent said ‘Just keep your head down’ as there was all sorts going on in the press and I don’t think the industry were particularly happy about it at the time. Maybe they are not now, but I think they have embraced it a bit more. At that point they really hadn’t. I think because of the show’s success people started to recognise it and so I think the contestants in the other shows may have had an easier time of it.
But appearing on the show hasn’t hurt her, as Helena has enjoyed plenty of work and is currently getting ready to appear in A Winter’s Tale, a new musical at the Landor Theatre.
For Niamh, at 17, the audition was a chance, she says, to get more “experience” for stage school auditions, because at that time she was planning to go to drama school. She says it was “too good an opportunity to give up”.
And she clearly made the right choice, as having appeared on the BBC series and completed her A Levels, she has had a successful career in musicals such as Love Never Dies and Taboo, in which she is currently appearing.
Like Helena and Daniel, she admits it was a risk but adds:
You could say for some of the older contestants on I’d Do Anything it was more or a risk for them as they had already worked before and had a reputation to uphold, whereas no one knew who I was. I’d never take it back. I can’t imagine where I’d be or who I’d be as a person [without it].
You can hear more from Daniel, Helena and Niamh on my slot on BBC Radio 2’s Elaine Paige show this Sunday, from 1pm.
But having heard some of their thoughts, do you think it’s wise for professionals to be taking part in such shows? Let me know.