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Arlene Phillips: theatre on TV ‘encourages more live audiences’

Arlene Phillips. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock Arlene Phillips. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock
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Arlene Phillips has urged theatres to film more of their productions for television, claiming it encourages new audiences to make the trip to live productions.

The choreographer’s comments follow the BBC’s decision to broadcast a non-live recording of West End musical Gypsy, starring Imelda Staunton, in December.

Phillips, who worked on the current UK tour of Jackie the Musical, told The Stage there should “absolutely” be more theatre screenings on TV.

Speaking at the Olivier Awards, Phillips said: “I think it’s important. I think everybody [in theatre] is afraid that if everybody sees something [on TV] that’s it, it will kill the live performance.”

But she added: “I believe it encourages people to come and see what they’ve seen on television, and be there, and sit in a seat and see it live.”

Phillips was not alone in her view, with performers in attendance at the Olivier Awards also speaking out in favour of the musical’s TV airing.

Wicked star Emma Hatton praised the BBC’s decision to put the recording on iPlayer for 30 days after the broadcast, suggesting it helped make theatre “more accessible”.

She explained: “It was so great that it was put on to iPlayer. I think that’s such a great thing for theatre to take it on to that level, and make it more accessible, it’s wonderful.”

Her co-star Savannah Stevenson said the broadcast and later iPlayer upload was particularly useful for West End actors, who often cannot see other shows due to their schedules.

“A lot of the time our matinees clash, so we can’t go and see a lot of the shows that we want to,” she said, adding: “So I thought: I can’t go and watch it, but I can watch it [on TV] over Christmas.”

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