Keira Dulake (@keiradulake20) writing on behalf of the Musical Theatre Appreciation Society.
2016 was a big year for Musical Theatre. We saw revivals with big names like Funny Girl with Sheridan Smith, Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close, Phantom of the Opera hit their 30th year, Hamilton picked up 11 Tony awards (not too shabby..) and Les Mis closed on Broadway. We’re not far into 2017 but I can already see that this will be a very exciting year for Musical Theatre, especially the West End. We will be welcoming with warm open arms Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre in November, 42nd Street has just opened at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, The Addams Family are doing a tour (with Carrie Hope Fletcher as Wednesday Addams!) and Cameron Mackintosh has just announced that Mary Poppins will be given a home in the West End. But one theme that already seems to be reoccurring this year is the appearance of revived musicals.
Half a Sixpence opened late last year, revived by Cameron Mackintosh at the Noël Coward Theatre to 5* reviews and people raving about its comeback. I haven’t been to see this yet, but after hearing some reviews from friends and online, from what I understand it is well worth a trip to London for. What I find interesting is that many people around my own age (18) haven’t heard of this before, and being perfectly honest I hadn’t until its opening was announced. I’d spoken to people and generally those from older generations had all at least heard of it and were eager to get tickets to see it again. Half a Sixpence is not the only musical to be making its big long awaited reunion with Theatreland, Carousel is opening soon at the ENO with Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe leading the cast at the London Coliseum for a limited run from 7 April 2017. This has a lot of hype surrounding it and most theatre fans are eager for tickets for this. But the question is why? Are these musicals popular and in demand because they offer somewhat a bittersweet nostalgic feel to those wanting to relive them? Is it because they were genuinely so excellent in their day that some people never wanted them to leave the West End? Or is it because they are pulling in big names such as Jenkins and Boe? It’s difficult to say, but one thing that’s for sure is that most of the time, theses musicals do well for themselves upon their returns.
Mary Poppins has been floating around England for the past year on tour, and it’s had such success that it is becoming permanent in the West End, for how long we don’t know yet. This is an old show, but one that I believe to be timeless. Our parents grew up watching this as their childhood film, and pretty much all generations right up to the children of today are all still watching this classic Disney film. It seems has a universal appeal, and its theatrical revival has been greatly popular. I think the film hold so many fond memories that people are keen to go to see it live as they’re expecting something truly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious… Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s recent tour also had a similar result. I went to see the production last July at the New Wimbledon theatre and it is still on tour currently. It is a revival of not just an old show, but an old film. I think perhaps the stage shows that are adaptations of films have such success because they are ageless and any generation can appreciate them. ‘They’re like a stinky old cheese…just getting riper with age.’
But what about the new shows hitting the West End this year? It’s probably fair to say that Hamilton is the most eagerly anticipated musical of 2017. What I love about new musicals such as shows like Hamilton, In The Heights, School of Rock is that they encourage a totally different demographic of people to come to the theatre. I know plenty of people, who, despite living near to London, very rarely go to see theatre. I understand that it may not be everyone’s first choice, but because of shows like these I genuinely believe that there is something that everyone can enjoy. You could go and see a talented cast of children play rock instruments live in School of Rock, or you could take a 10 minute walk down the road and see a dramatic musical about the Student Revolt in 19th century France. My point is that we are getting new and exciting shows to the West End every year. The question with these is, are they more popular than the old revivals?
Personally, I think there isn’t really definite answer. I think as the year progresses; we will find out! Nowadays it is hard for a lot of shows to stay open in the West End and Broadway due to smaller budgets. Older revived shows do have the upper hand as many of them already have a fan base and they know who they’re aiming to market to, but then again, new shows can rack up a fan base pretty quickly, especially if it is hip hop rap about the American constitutions it seems! Perhaps at the end of the day (you are another day older, but not the point right now..), it literally just depends on the quality of the show. I think it is very hard to judge whether a new show is definitively better than an revival or vice versa, personally I just can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!