The forthcoming musical adaptation of The Wind in the Willows has become the first West End show to raise £1 million using online crowdfunding technology.
Jamie Hendry Productions, which is producing the show, set out to raise £650,000 using an online platform the company created specially for the project, with investment available at £1,000, £2,500 or £5,000.
However, demand was so high that the available sum was extended to £1 million. Remaining capital for the show – which is budgeted at £6.5 million – has been raised through traditional theatre investors.
Hendry said that he had received investment from 400 individuals via the online platform, with more than 90% of those putting money into theatre for the first time. Investors using the scheme were offered standard West End terms of a pro-rata share of 60% of net profits. He added that one of the key factors for securing the investment had been that because the terms had been approved by the Financial Conduct Authority – unlike most commercial theatre productions – he was able to discuss the opportunity in the press.
Hendry told The Stage: “Speaking to quite a few of our investors, they simply did not know it was possible to invest in West End theatre. The large majority found out in the opening weeks through TV, [print] press and radio. It’s fantastic to have so many new people interested in backing commercial theatre.
“By bringing 400 new investors into theatre and having exposed more than 20,000 people to the information – the initial press drove that many to find out more information on our website – and by sharing the information with that number of people, we hope that will be hugely beneficial to the West End in the future by opening new audiences and investment.”
Hendry said he believed the 400 investors would act as ambassadors for the show, driving sales, while the scheme also had the benefit of creating early publicity for the musical, in a similar way to how TV talent shows had driven audiences to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s productions of The Sound of Music and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The capital investment is now secured for the show. Hendry said he was in discussions with theatre owners for a 2015 opening. There will be a workshop of the musical in March. The Wind in the Willows, based on Kenneth Grahame’s book, is written by Julian Fellowes, with music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
The three previously collaborated on the Disney musical Mary Poppins. Hendry said he expected to announce more of the creative team in the coming months.