Jukebox shows are “flooding” the West End at the expense of new musicals, actor Robert Powell has complained.
Powell, currently starring in Singin’ in the Rain in London, said producers were avoiding staging new musicals because they cost a “huge amount” and were too risky to produce. Instead, he said, they looked to films that could be brought to the theatre, or shows featuring pop acts’ back catalogues.
The performer, who is known for his role as Mark Williams in the BBC’s Holby City but is also a regular theatre performer, told The Stage he would not want to see any more jukebox musicals, claiming they were just “people leaping around to ABBA or Queen songs”.
He said: “Suddenly the West End seems flooded with jukebox theatre. It has its place, but it’s not taking us anywhere or getting us very far in the development of musical theatre.”
He added: “The shows have no narrative – or they have a cod narrative – so it’s difficult for the audience to get involved in an emotional way. They can sit and tap their feet, and that is fine, terrific. But, surely you want the audience to get involved with the characters onstage?”
Powell claimed producers and writers of original musicals had been “hit hard” by show failures. He said that when new productions “crash, they really crash”.
He added: “So people look around and say, ‘What can we do that is semi-original but is tried and tested before?’ That is why we are looking at Top Hat and Singin’ in the Rain.”