Recently I read a review posted on the MTAS Facebook page about the current tour of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It had sparked some debate with a mixture of views and this got my mind ticking. So what better way to follow my Broadway Vs West end blog, than with a Touring production Vs. West End production?
For those who are not within a short commute to London can all benefit from touring productions of musicals. Mainly these are shows that have been on West End, or shows that are brand new and in prep to break into the West End lights. Productions Big, Wedding Singer the Musical, The Addams Family and Sleepless in Seattle to name a few, are those who are travelling the UK for the first time. It’s these shows that we cannot depict but witness something different and new to the UK. Also, we cannot compare – Unlike the tours which have come from Musicals that have lived and performed on the west end.
For me, it’s great to have 3 amazing theatres nearby that hold many touring productions. This enables me to see shows again, but also to catch those I sadly missed the first time around. With new viewings of tours I like to attend fresh minded and come away happy that I have finally seen it, but I do have my criticisms nevertheless. Take the current tour of Sister Act directed by Craig Revel Horwood (Strictly Come Dancing). He decided to tell the story differently to the West End. He did this by having the actors and actresses perform and play the instruments throughout the show. Although it was indeed different to me, it just didn’t work and a lot of characters were lost behind the instruments stopping them performing to the best of their ability. I commemorate Craig on trying something new, but sometimes it’s just not worth it.
It is sad to hear of shows closing on the West End, especially the ones that we grow to love and see. But rarely do we not get the chance to be in the audience again as many musicals start a Tour. Miss Saigon and Funny girl for example are about to start their tours in 2017. For both Musicals, I was lucky to have enjoyed their run at the Prince Edward Theatre and the Savoy Theatre. I would love to see them again if they are coming to a theatre near me, but sometimes I can be reluctant in purchasing tickets. This is due to some previous tours that I have seen where the directors, or producers change parts that to me sometimes don’t work – Why change something that is already brilliant and did well in the West End?
A few years back I purchased tickets for Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat tour. I decided to see it in Portsmouth when it was starring H and this show is very close to my heart. It was the first ever musical I saw starring Jason Donavan and I was also privileged to have seen Philip Schofield in the role too of Joseph. I loved every second of it, so I wanted to reminisce that time by viewing it again. Much to my surprise I came away a little disappointed and it wasn’t the show I remembered. It seemed more childlike and parts were a little tacky (with the inflatable sheep and then the weird caption signs) it just wasn’t the same. Now that’s not to say the performers were bad and I know to others it may be the best production they have seen and loved. Bill Kenwright’s take on the musical just isn’t for me, and it did put me off seeing any future tours of this production again. I remember the 1992 productions where I didn’t sit down, but stood in awe at what I was seeing. Also, the last off-West End production of Legally Blonde (shown at The Curve in Leicester) where its changes such as the limitation of scenery was good and it worked well. Although for some reason they decided to change the Rap number in ‘What You Want’ to a Bombay theme which to me did not work at all!
I think the thing with tours is that the main focus is to get bums on seats and these changes may be a reason for this. The casting tends to be a focal point too and always it seems that tours focus a lot on the A list casting rather than the talent they have around them. Take the tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for instance. Not many know that Jon Robyns (Left), a West End performer created the role of Caractacus Potts and performed at The New Yorkshire Playhouse Theatre in Leeds. This was before celebrities Lee Mead and Jason Manford (right) took on the roles for the remainder of the tour. I, for one, decided to make the 4 hour journey to see Jon Robyns play the role (as he is a favourite of mine) and I was not disappointed. It seems that the producers/directors don’t think the show will sell unless there is a celebrity involved. I beg to differ but stunt casting has already been approached many times on this blog.
Tours will always create mix reviews, to some it is their only chance to see a top West End show, but also introduce people to the theatre too. Although I can have strong views on some productions, and think twice on those I have seen, it will not stop me in going to my local theatres.
So what have been your views on recent touring productions?
Are you due to see a current Tour? Let me know in the comments below!