Dear West End Producer: ‘What do you think of Let It Shine scouting for contestants rather than going to drama schools?’

West End Producer West End Producer Photo: Matt Crockett
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My dear, I think most of these shows are a bit of a waste of everyone’s time, to be honest. They have been invented with the main purpose of providing free advertising for the show – their interest in the calibre of contestants takes second place. It is simply a big marketing exercise, and a cheap way of producing a television format.

Shows such as Let It Shine don’t look for performers from drama schools because they like finding ‘raw’, untrained talent – it simply makes for better television. It makes the show look like they’re discovering someone new, and in the process mocks performers who have trained in musical theatre.

This is totally unacceptable. Trained performers have a lot more experience and knowledge of how to perform on stage than those that haven’t. So really it makes no sense for these TV companies not to scour drama schools. Yes, I understand that some untrained people have big talent – but most of them haven’t got the skill and strength to cope with eight shows a week.

To be a good contestant on these shows, the main thing you need is a sob story – the talent is secondary. Do you have a recently deceased nan? Great. Are you dangerously overweight but sing like Cher? Brilliant. Lost your job as a cleaner and now spend your time busking outside Primark? Perfect. That means you are interesting, vulnerable and addictive to watch.

So, it’s only worth entering these shows if you want to be made to look like a victim, or really know how to play the game. Being a contestant on them doesn’t lead to super-stardom – some contestants may get interviewed in Heat or sleep with Denise van Outen, but that’ll just end in a messy divorce in a couple of years. Others may play the lead in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Condom, but most likely it’s the only job they’ll get – and they’ll be forced to spend the next 15 years of their life touring it around Beirut. Hardly a glittering showbiz career, dear.

Also, lots of these shows employ people to scour the country for undiscovered talent. And I know people who have been bribed to take part by being promised a place in the semi-finals. So the whole thing is a set-up anyway. It’s a big fallacy that everyone has turned up of their own accord – many have been asked to take part.

Interestingly, details about the Take That show have just been released, and apparently the five boys who won Let It Shine don’t actually have any spoken lines in the show – as it’s about five girls. So the pain, emotion and energy they spent winning the thing really was a waste of time. Bless them. I hope they do well out of it, but they must be feeling galled.

Anyhow, I must say the one thing I liked about Let It Shine was that the panel were more supportive and enthusiastic to the contestants than the judges on other shows. They seemed to have a genuine desire to help and support – and that was refreshing. So at least it’s a big bravo about that, dear.