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So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye to The Sound of Musicals

So, this is it. We’re heading to the last episode of Channel 4’s The Sound of Musicals. I make no apologies for writing about it one more time, because – well, let’s face it – no one knows when we’ll have another series like this again. So I’ll make hay while the sun shines.

And what a series it’s been too. For those of us in the industry, it’s been fun to spot familiar faces, hear some truths about the world of musicals, and marvel at Amy Anzel’s unbelievable drive and ability to self promote. For the average viewer, it’s provided a fascinating insight into the world behind the all-singing, all dancing spectacle that is musical theatre – a reminder of the long, expensive and challenging road that must be travelled to put one on.

But, as much as I have loved this series, there are – to my mind – areas that could have been explored more. Each episode has tended to be the same – with a few producers talking about staging a show, and then a few performers being put through their paces.

What about the backstage crew – the wig mistresses, the costume menders, the lighting and sound teams – all those people who make a show what it is? More focus could have been paid to the directors of shows too – what they have to go through, rather than the producers.

[pullquote]I for one will try my best not to scoff next time a show closes early – no matter what I think of it[/pullquote]

That said, the producer role has been fascinating to watch, and in the last episode (to be shown next Tuesday at 9pm) we see Top Hat producer Kenny Wax delivering the heartbreaking news to his cast and crew that the show is coming off. The production, which we learn cost £3 million to bring to the stage, needed £250,000 at the box office to run weekly. It was taking around £200,000. Not enough, clearly. And despite receiving seven Olivier nominations, and winning the best musical prize, Wax had to stand before his company and deliver the sad news. It’s a genuinely heartbreaking moment to watch.

It made me realise that it’s easy for us on the outside of a production (one that we may not necessarily consider to be very good) to be a little smug when it’s announced that it’s closing early. But this series reminds us what closure means to a cast and crew whose livelihoods depend on a production – something it’s all too easy to forget.

When Top Hat’s Kristen Beth Williams says through tears that she will find it hard to sing certain numbers in the last week of the run, because the production has been “such a joy” to do, you really feel for her and her colleagues. I for one will try my best not to scoff next time a show closes early – no matter what I think of it.

So, enjoy the last episode – which also takes us behind the scenes of Thriller Live, and introduces us to some of West End’s campest performers – Andrew Derbyshire and friend Karl (they’re like a double act, you wait and see).

You also get to hear from film producer Harvey Weinstein about his attempts to bring Finding Neverland to the stage, and how producing a musical is the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.

It’s another great episode, and when Nica Burns says at the end of it that “theatre doesn’t get better than London”, you can’t help feeling a tremendous sense of pride.