Ending on a Downer

Everyone and his dog knows that ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ hasn’t been doing great business, the climate for new musicals not based on a film is hostile and we haven’t helped matters with the ticket prices… and I don’t think the show was given much support by the people at Cameron Mackintosh’s office – announcing the next show into the Gielgud before we’d opened (‘Ladykillers’ announced 6th June, our first preview was 2nd June) that we’d already been given our notice, coupled with the huge amount of free tickets that were given away it really didn’t look good.

They didn’t just announce the next show, they blitzed it with press releases on the BBC and everything. I think people could be forgiven thinking that Cameron Mackintosh is out to eliminate competition for his own failing new musical, part of me feels a bit like that (memo to any theatre operators: having the next show measuring up the stage during the about-to-open shows plotting session is beyond bad manners). I remember coming through Piccadilly Circus on the day after we opened to find the ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ poster I’d previously passed every day was changed to a ‘Betty Blue Eyes’ poster, coincidence or a more nefarious plot? Whoever does the poster putting up on tube needs to be spoken to, I keep going past posters for ‘The Umbrella’s of Cherbourg’ (closed 21st May) and ‘Sign of the Times’ (closed 2nd April)!

It was no surprise then there was a message during the evening show on Saturday 17th June that there was a company meeting after the show – a very emotional producer and Ian Talbort (director) told us that they had no option but to pull the show, Saturday 6th August would be our last performance. When they gave us our notice on ‘Dirty Dancing’ no one seemed particularly affected by it (I may have smiled and bounced around a bit) but there were people close to or in tears for this and rightly so, it is the only new musical in the West End that it is not based on a film (or a jukebox musical) and it’s a bloody good show. I think theatre critics have forgotten how to react to non-film/jukebox musicals, they’re so used to seeing something clobbered together and held by sticky tape that they don’t know how to deal when presented with a tight musical with great original songs and a beautiful solid-looking set.

The other downside to loosing this musical is that once again I’m out of work, and this time without a redundancy payment. It’s not great for work at the moment, there are plenty of musicals closing and being replaced with plays. I have a few people to call on Monday, but I’m just fortunate to have three weeks remaining at the Opera House.


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