— Mikey Wooster (@MikeyWooster)
It is very difficult to make any predictions on what kind of musicals will appear in the future, but it is possible to make an educated, if slightly sloshed guess, dear.
At present most shows in the West End are jukebox musicals (Jersey Boys, Sunny Afternoon, Let It Be, Memphis, Beautiful), revivals (Miss Saigon, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd,), or film spin-offs (The Lion King, Matilda, Billy Elliot, The Commitments). Most shows that are in development or opening soon are also film spin-offs (Kinky Boots, Elf the Musical, Groundhog Day, Back to the Future). To produce a brand new musical is becoming less common. Why? Because the financial risk is a lot higher, dear.
Most new musicals in the West End are Broadway transfers – The Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, Memphis, Beautiful. New successful musicals from the UK are harder to find. We have Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sunny Afternoon – but most new musicals close quickly after opening. Stephen Ward, From Here to Eternity, Made in Dagenham and I Can’t Sing all closed early.
Movie spin-offs, jukebox musicals and revivals will continue to open as they already have an existing audience. We will also see more Disney musicals from America – Aladdin will arrive soon and I hear that The Little Mermaid is coming in 2016.
Commercial producers steer clear of new work as it simply doesn’t sell as well – we producers and investors put our money where we are likely to get a return. It’s a sad truth, but one that will not change until audiences do. A producer knows that the paying public is more likely to watch a movie spin-off than a brand new musical. It is heartening to see that musicals at venues such as the Southwark Playhouse and the Union Theatre often sell out, but their audience tends to be more of an industry one. We need to publicise new musical writing to the public.
Just as importantly, if we are to have any chance of developing, the arts council has to support our subsidised venues, because without this these theatres will not have the money to take creative risks. Think of the brilliant work created by Chichester, Leicester Curve, Sheffield, Donmar, National and the RSC. I recall Dennis Kelly saying that no one in the commercial sector would have backed a Roald Dahl musical by him and Tim Minchin, so it was lucky the RSC saw the potential. And if arts cuts continue, subsidised theatres will no longer be able to take those sorts of risks.
I suppose the “dream” prediction is a future of musicals that have started in subsidised venues and then moved into commercial success, dear.
Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer