West End audiences deserve the superior original staging of Les Mis (your views, January 24)
Les Miserables production row
I disagree with Lyn Gardner (‘We can cherish beloved shows, but let’s not resist change’, Comment, January 17, p7).
If we want a new Les Miserables, then why replace the iconic original with a production that is already a decade old and which apes the original? Instead, hire a first-rate creative team and launch a properly imagined revival.
I have seen both productions. The original is clearly superior, and the ‘re-imagined’ one simply copies it and is not as successful.
Audiences in the West End deserve the best for their money, not something cobbled together by a former assistant with little experience of launching a new show.
The touring version is far superior to the original. It’s funnier, sadder and easier to follow.
It’s not a case of either/or. No one is suggesting that Les Mis should be confined to the original production. There are some very good things about the ‘new’ version, and long may it and other iterations play, entertain and inspire.
But the original is still great. It is a quintessential – and now unique – London experience. It is a cornerstone in the history of theatre. And it still works, still speaks to audiences, still entertains and inspires. After three decades in the West End, it continues to fill houses and make money – and its unmerited ousting is almost guaranteed to be permanent.
How strange that we should consider the creatives who direct, design and choreograph somehow less fundamental to a show’s success than those who write the script and music. It’s not about clinging to the old at the expense of the new; it’s about preserving something important.
Doctor Dolittle tour collapse
It’s not a surprise that Doctor Dolittle tour has been cancelled (News, January 17, p2).
I wanted to take my grandchildren to a performance in Oxford, but was put off by the price of the tickets. Had there been a family ticket available, I would have booked it.
I couldn’t afford the advertised prices just after Christmas. Though I checked back a number of times in case there were any offers, as there were so many tickets left, it seems the producers would rather have empty seats.
The old values of the theatre are not all out of date and stuffy: as well as the concept of “the show must go on”, there has always been a focus on effective cooperation and construction, multitasking and keeping touring costs at a sensible level.
Traditionally, theatre has had a unique work ethic, quite different from that of corporate and industrial Britain. It developed its own strengths and the ability to survive against sometimes terrible odds.
Shows still fell over, but the theatrical community stood firm – there was always a camaraderie between those working in the industry that supported and sustained them.
Costs escalate with lavish sets and costumes, as well as rising touring and accommodation expenses. The extra financial burden is not borne by the performers, the venues or the management, but added to the price of tickets.
There is golden rule of theatre: “Never inflict pain on an audience.” This also refers to your potential audience, who will surely bring down a show if they stay away because they can’t afford the tickets.
Hooray for Hamlet
I was delighted to read the recent feature on the history of the Hamlet cartoon (‘Pearls before swine: Hamlet at 30’, December 20, p54).
It is one of the first things I read every week and it never fails to make me smile. I wish Harry Venning would publish a book of them. Long may he continue.
The paper as a whole continues to be a good entertaining read without losing sight of its real aim as a guide for performers and those who have an interest in the performing arts.
Scrapping audition fees
I applaud the recent announcement from the Arden School of Theatre (‘Manchester drama school drops audition fees’, News, January 17, p4). However, there are other expenses that could also be reduced.
Some auditions start at 9am, which means that an overnight stay is necessary for many applicants. As far as train fares are concerned, sometimes it is necessary to buy an open return because the finishing time is not precise. That can be rather expensive.
Some establishments have local auditions around the country – presumably as a screening device before second auditions can take place. That too is helpful, but perhaps it would be better if the screening process could be based on the application and references. Maybe interviews by Skype or other means could take place too. Attending five auditions costs a lot of money.
Well done to the Arden School. Too many of the London schools use the fees as a cash cow when many auditionees haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of ever being admitted.
Quotes of the week
“I feel as free and as creative, as sexual and as eager, as I ever have. And it’s ironic because I’m thinking: ‘How much time do I have left now?’ There are so many things I’m interested in doing. It’s one of those ironies, I suppose, that we sometimes start feeling comfortable in our own skin only late in our lives, but hopefully with enough time to benefit from it.” – Actor Glenn Close (Guardian)
“At a recent meeting we reflected on Bryan Cranston’s decision to play a disabled character and found the choice particularly disappointing as he has worked with disabled performers in the past and has actively encouraged more disabled performers working on screen and stage.” – Equity Deaf and Disabled Members Committee (Twitter)
“This will probably be my last one for a while. I want to concentrate on other things. As much as I love theatre, you don’t have time for anything else.” – Alexandra Burke on life post The Bodyguard (Irish Examiner)
“I didn’t want to use American culture in musicals. I wanted to come back to my culture and Italian opera. I wanted to use the microphones like pop and rock singers. In fact, in the show we prefer rock singers over musical theatre. We didn’t call it a musical at first, we called it a ‘musical spectacle.’ It is like you are at a rock concert. We mix breakdancers and acrobats.” – Composer Richard Cocciante on Notre Dame de Paris (Daily Express)
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