How To Spot A Stellar West End Show
| By Charlotte O’Growney
For many, a trip to the theatre is a rare treat. After all, once you’ve shelled out for a ticket, your transport, a programme and of course, an obligatory interval ice-cream, even if you’ve opted for discount theatre tickets, a night out at the theatre is rarely an inexpensive one. Therefore, understandably after months and months of waiting, it can be very disappointing if your experience does not match up to expectations. But is there any way to guarantee that the show you book to see will be perfect for you?
While the short answer to this question is no, there are several things you can do to get more of a feel for a show before you buy your theatre tickets, and one of these things is to look at a show’s past accolades.
It’s no surprise that the 2014 revival of Boublil and Schönberg’s Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre, which has taken the West End by storm, racked up an incredible 9 Whatsonstage awards. The show had previously run for 10 years on the West End and toured the UK too. Audiences were overjoyed to see this fan favourite return and the pandemonium surrounding it is certainly showing no signs of calming down. Similarly, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which opened at The Adwych Theatre last month, was already highly anticipated by musical theatre fans, owing to its 7 Tony Award Nominations, and the critically acclaimed performance of its leading lady, Jessie Mueller. Katie Brayben, who is currently playing the titular character on this side of the pond and recently received an Olivier nomination for her efforts, is absolutely spellbinding too. This is a performance which should not be missed. In fact, even Ms. King herself stopped by to see the show on its opening night!
Of course, the beauty of Beautiful, and other West End jukebox musical successes, is in their pre-established fanbases. While Carole King fans are rushing to The Aldwych, ABBA fans are doubtless celebrating Mamma Mia! approaching its 15th year on the West End. Jukebox musicals are nearly always good fun and it is for this reason that audiences keep returning!
But what about new musicals? Or revivals and transfers of long forgotten or short running shows? Well, one of the time tested ways to reel audiences in to these shows is to stunt cast. And London casting directors certainly know how to do that! Beverley Knight, the soul singer-cum-actress who had previously whipped up a storm as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard, is currently blowing the roof off the Shaftesbury Theatre playing nightclub singer Felicia Farrell in Memphis: The Musical. Meanwhile audiences at Once have been wowed by the heartfelt performance given by Ronan Keating in the lead role of Guy. Yes, every night stars are giving outstanding unmissable performances on the West End, and being in the audience is likely to be an unforgettable experience.
However, while these techniques do often help to sell a show, there is no certain way of making sure it will be successful. Take the infamous Stephen Ward for example. With interesting subject material and striking poster art, this Lloyd Webber offering seemed totally bankable. However, unfortunately, for whatever reason this was not actually the case. More recently Made in Dagenham, a show with so much promise, a Billy Elliot vibe and star of stage and screen Gemma Arterton at the helm, was unable to satisfy the masses, and will close on April 15th.
It seems that there is no sure-fire way to spot a sure-fire stellar show, but one thing is certain, amongst the exciting width and breadth of shows currently playing on the West End there is something for everyone in London’s Theatreland!