In defence of Simon Cowell
I was surprised by Matthew Hemley's headline, "Keep Cowell Out", having the previous week been to one of the best musical showcases I've ever been to, albeit unexpectedly: The X Factor musical, written by Harry Hill.
It would be inappropriate to write in detail about what I saw in workshop, but having actually seen the workshop, I can tell you that what I saw was easily as funny as early previews of Avenue Q and Book of Mormon that I've seen previously - and I don't say that lightly. Has Matthew seen the workshop? If not, I'd always encourage any journalist avoid shooting anything down until they have actually seen the material.
He writes that "No producer in their right mind should entertain the idea of getting involved - no matter how financially rewarding it might appear" - but I respectfully offer an alternative view...
My clients are not acting for a hobby, they are acting to work, and earn a living. And if something can be financially rewarding then that means it can mean employment for hundreds of people - and in the current financial climate that should never be discouraged in any way.
[pullquote]Having artistic integrity and commercial interests do not have to be mutually exclusive[/pullquote]
Having artistic integrity and commercial interests do not have to be mutually exclusive. I can just as easily been spotted at the Finborough or Southwark routing out interesting work of artistic excellence as I can be at the O2 or Wembley Arena seeing clients perform - what spurs me on is to help my clients achieve absolute artistic excellence - but without employment for those clients, we all go home.
In response to his wider point that Simon Cowell is a negative on our industry in general - this ignores reality.
Cameron Mackintosh and Boublil and Schonberg have all cited Susan Boyle, love her or loathe her, as the reason Les Miserables was propelled back into the zeitgeist and Universal Pictures were persuaded to back Les Miserables as a feature film.
That feature film propels Samantha Barks to international stardom of course - herself first exposed on Andrew Lloyd Webber's BBC talent show, that probably wouldnt have existed were it not for Cowell. I for one am pleased the world now has Niamh Perry, Daniel Boys, Rachel Tucker and Lee Mead.
From Cowell's own shows, Ray Quinn has carved himself a successful career on stage, and is one of the best talents I've seen in musicals in recent years. I hope we're lucky enough to see Alexandra Burke in a West End musical some time soon - of course the US version of Pop Idol that Cowell judged brought the world Jennifer Hudson, which is the single best vindication of the format anyone could ever come up with.
Britain's Got Talent essentially revived Variety as an art form - the previous loss of which had been long lamented in the pages of The Stage (and rightly so). And the show has also helped invigorate dance - Diversity aside, the genius that is Kate Prince augmented Zoo Nation's West End run with a headline performance from George Sampson which I'm sure helped sell some tickets.
Of course it is true that I lament the reduction of original drama and comedy in the schedules in favour of 'non-scripted' reality television - I champion actors first and foremost. But I want theatres and cinemas to be full - and my clients to have jobs. And I also think we should always reserve judgement until we see the work in question.