I’ve been thinking about the current state of the West End, and while I don’t like to compare London theatre to Broadway, we really do seem to be lacking in the musical department. (Arguably, we are far stronger when it comes to plays but, like I say, this isn’t about comparisons…)
We still have a number of lingerers (Thriller Live!) in mid-sized theatres that are preventing new work from having its fair chance at success, and the bigger houses are either forced to run with limited runs and one-off concerts (Dominion and Palladium…) or are clinging on to a long runner (Apollo Victoria and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). And frankly, it’s a bit of a shame, because while plays are coming and going faster than I change my bedding, keeping the playhouses stocked up with a steady stream of fresh new drama, musicals are struggling.
Of the new West End musicals from 2015, only Beautiful, Bend It Like Beckham and Kinky Boots remain, while 2016 isn’t looking much stronger; open runs for Aladdin, Groundhog Day and Motown have been confirmed but even School of Rock has been put back to 2017, and anything else is only popping in for a limited engagement (Guys and Dolls, Sunset Boulevard, Funny Girl and Mrs Henderson Presents).
So, it got me thinking, with plenty more fresh material emerging on Broadway, what can we nab from the great white way?
It may have been confirmed for a London run, but no one seems quite sure, so I’m popping it on the list. It’s had mixed reviews in New York, but generally the consensus has been positive, and we could do with a few more family-friendly musicals with grand designs. People like to see where their money has been spent and from what I’ve seen of this, that’s very much the case here. It would also go great in one of our larger theatres, and would be helped along nicely by everyone’s-favourite-Take-That-member-come-musical-composer, Gary Barlow, having his name above the title.
This is the rap musical inspired by the biography of Alexander Hamilton that has been taking Broadway by storm. Remember the fuss everyone made about trying to get in to see The Book of Mormon? Well Hamilton has taken over that buzz and is now the hottest ticket in town. There are rumblings that this might be heading to London at some point, but nothing has been confirmed. And for anyone writing it off because of its use of rap instead of conventional musical theatre songs, don’t worry, this is more Fresh Prince than Eminem.
To be honest, this doesn’t really look like my cup of tea, and it basically looks like Spamalot without a Python. However, there’s one thing the West End is severely lacking at the minute and it’s all-out musical comedies. Yes, we have a few that are part comedy, part heartwarming message, but if you’re after a good laugh, the only option is currently Book of Mormon. Something Rotten! charts the story of the Bottom brothers as they try and compete with Shakespeare for prestige in the theatrical world.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Another that Broadway went a bit crazy for when it launched, although the popularity has died down somewhat over the past year. This is the musical adaptation of Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal and is another comedy that the West End could do with. Personally, I think it would have less chance of success, and would go the way of The Drowsy Chaperone with limited UK appeal, but if they got the right theatre, it could have a healthy run.
The Color Purple
Give us it back! Having finished a successful run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, The Color Purple quickly announced a transfer over to Broadway, taking the star Cynthia Erivo, and adding extra star power in the form of Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks. Reviews of the production and Erivo have been incredible, and it looks set to win plenty of awards when the Tony’s come around in a few months. Well, frankly, it would only be fair to have a subsequent West End transfer, so sort it out!
What would you like to see come over? Or, better yet, what would you like to see start fresh within the West End? Or do you think we already have enough musicals open? Let me know in the comments below.