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The case for a Musical Theatre Proms and why Kylie should save her own ‘voice’

Anna-Jane Casey has regularly performed with John Wilson. Photo: Alastair Muir.
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Last weekend, the BBC Proms finished its annual run at the Royal Albert Hall, bringing to a close a summer of classical musical concerts broadcast on BBC Radio 3, with television coverage on BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4. That’s a lot of coverage, and yet I know of some people in the classical musical world who feel it’s still not enough. They also get annoyed that the Proms have, in more recent years, included concerts that are musical-theatre themed – particularly those by John Wilson and his orchestra.

If they really do offend the classical music fans – here’s my suggestion to the BBC: start a BBC Musical Theatre Proms and broadcast them on BBC1, BBC2, BBC4 and BBC Radio 2 (instead of Radio 3). Fans of the genre, like me, would lap the Musical Theatre Proms up, and would welcome coverage of musicals that isn’t consigned to the occasional appearance on Children in Need or the Royal Variety Performance.

[pullquote]Fans would welcome coverage of musicals that isn’t consigned to the occasional appearance on Children in Need[/pullquote]

You can guarantee that there’d be no shortage of audiences for the Musical Theatre Proms and for the TV coverage accompanying the concerts. We wouldn’t moan either if not all the events were shown on TV or if the odd classical crossover found its way in. We promise, too, that the last night of the Musical Theatre Proms would be as rousing if not more so than the classical music event’s last night. We’d bob, cheer, wave, sing along and even throw in some jazz hands for good measure.

At last, a Miranda who’s funny…

There’s no shortage of performers who claim to be YouTube sensations, but this week I think I witnessed a real one. I went to see Miranda Sings at the Leicester Square Theatre, and – aside from being twice the age of the average audience member – was completely taken by what I saw.

Miranda Sings, in case you don’t know, is the creation of Colleen Ballinger, a young singer and actor who decided to turn to YouTube to post videos of her alter ego. The joke is that Miranda cannot sing for toffee, yet thinks she can, and is not short of advice for others on how they can replicate her success. As her own PR states: “Miranda sings completely off-key, is totColleen Ballinger as Miranda Singsally self-absorbed and responds to negative comments on her videos with her catchphrase ‘haters back off’.” In short, she sends up the online phenomenon of bad singers using YouTube as a platform for self promotion.

It was thoroughly entertaining, but it also reminded me just how valuable YouTube and sites like it can be for performers. Ballinger used YouTube to get her creation out there, and now has a live show that people flock to. And the really lovely thing about her show is seeing what kind of audience she attracts. For the most part, they are teenagers or young people in their twenties. And that really surprised me. The picture painted of teenagers is that they are glued to the internet on their computers or other electronic devices. Miranda Sings proves that, yes, they do use the internet – but if they like what they see and what they see comes with a live offering – they will happily leave their computers at home and make a trip out, in this case to the theatre. That’s a brilliant and powerful thing.

Save your own voice, Kylie…

As much as I like Kylie Minogue, I won’t be tuning in to watch her when she joins BBC series The Voice as a judge. That’s because, to my mind, this series brings nothing new to the TV talent show genre, and is as formulaic and tedious as the others. Give it up, BBC, as you should have done some time ago. And give us something decent –  something that won’t rely on Kylie to rescue it.

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